Photographer Honors 7 Afro-Latina Music Icons For Black History Month

“Afro-Latina excellence is not highlighted enough."
Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, of TLC.
Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, of TLC.
Linda Nieves-Powell

Linda Nieves-Powell wants to give trailblazing Latinas the credit they’ve long deserved.

The New York-based photographer, writer and director began documenting iconic Latinas last fall with a photo project that honored Rita Moreno, Frida Kahlo and more. But for Black History Month, Nieves-Powell decided to focus on seven Afro-Latinas that have left their mark on the music industry.

“Afro-Latina excellence is not highlighted enough,” the Puerto Rican photographer told The Huffington Post. “Latina trailblazers should not be forgotten. They somehow managed to negotiate their success in light of all the obstacles they had to endure in their time. We can learn from that and use that as a source of encouragement and a guide to fulfilling our own dreams.”

The tribute photo series debuted on Feb. 15 and features seven models being transformed into iconic Afro-Latina artists, including Celia Cruz, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, La Lupe.

“I feel that it is very important to continue to highlight our unique beauty, especially today when our President and his administration is working to ostracize people of color,” Nieves-Powell told HuffPost. “There is something compelling about seeing a powerful representation of yourself. It validates you and offers a sense of identity. Because the dominant culture’s standard of beauty often doesn’t celebrate our authenticity and diversity.”

In the photo series, Nieves-Powell also transformed transgender model Marizol Leyva, sister of actress Selenis Leyva (”Orange Is The New Black”), into Salsa singer La India.

“It was very important for me to include [Marizol], as the LBGTQ community has also been under assault by mainstream culture that would prefer that they remain in the shadows,” the photographer said. “Beauty is transcendent. I choose to celebrate authentic beauty in our community.”

The boricua said she hopes her project shows the community that these women achieved greatness on their own terms.

“My message has been consistent throughout my career, and that is that Latinas should create their own idea of what a Latina is,” she said. “They shouldn’t be told who they are by media or even their community.”

Take a look at how Nieves-Powell transformed seven models into seven Afro-Latina music icons, below:

Irene Cara
Linda Nieves-Powell
Irene Cara
Linda Nieves-Powell
Cara, of Puerto Rican and Cuban roots, is best known for performing and co-writing the Oscar-winning song "Flashdance... What a Feeling."
Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes
Linda Nieves-Powell
Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes
Linda Nieves-Powell
Lopes was part of the all-female group TLC.
La India
Linda Nieves-Powell
La India
Linda Nieves-Powell
La India is also known as the Princess of Salsa.
La Lupe
Linda Nieves-Powell
The Cuban singer was known by many as the Queen of Latin Soul.
La Lupe
Linda Nieves-Powell
Esperanza Spalding
Linda Nieves-Powell
Esperanza Spalding
Linda Nieves-Powell
The singer won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011.
Amara La Negra
Linda Nieves-Powell
Amara La Negra
Linda Nieves-Powell
The Miami-born Dominican singer has always embraced her Afro-Latina roots.
Celia Cruz
Linda Nieves-Powell
Celia Cruz
Linda Nieves-Powell
The late Cruz was the unequivocal Queen of Salsa.

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