There’s a new Love & Hip Hop fable being written on social media. Hot on the Bloody heels of Dominican rapper Cardi B, whose career got a boost from the VH1 show, another Dominican artist is raising awareness about Afro-Latino identity. Amara La Negra is the breakout star of Love & Hip Hop Miami, which premiered on Jan. 1 to much controversy.
In its first episode, La Negra — born Dana Danelys De Los Santos — defended her identity to producer Young Hollywood, who questioned her decision to be unapologetically Afro-Latina. “All because of my looks or because I am dark-skinned,” she said. “But, that doesn’t make me less Latina.” The producer replied asking, “Afro-Latina. Elaborate. Is that because you’re African or is that because you have an Afro?” He later went on to say the music industry prefers Latina singers who fit the typical mold, but La Negra was not having it. “Not all Latinas look like JLo or Sofia Vergara or Shakira,” she said. “So, where are the women that look like myself?”
Turns out, Amara La Negra has been smashing stereotypes around Afro-Latina artists for years. Her breakout single “Quitate La Ropa” was released in 2012, but the Dominican singer has performed on various stages since she was a kid. With a newly signed multi-album record deal, she’s making 2018 her year.
Here are five reasons we are obsessed with Amara:
1. She’s an unapologetic Afro-Latina
Although Amara made headlines this week when she defended her Afro-Latina identity on Love & Hip Hop Miami, this isn’t her first time doing so. Last year, the Miami-based singer appeared on an episode of NPR’s Latino USA, in which she narrated her experiences with racism in the industry. “They’d say to me ‘Oh, for being a black girl, you are really pretty,'” she recalled. La Negra told host Maria Hinojosa that after she read Malcolm X in high school, she opted to put her identity front and center by wearing her hair in a natural Afro.
2. She’s blowing up
On top of Love & Hip Hop, the reggaeton and pop singer was signed to BMG Recordings. “It is a feeling of a different level of hunger, because I have prayed for this so much that it feels unreal! I am humbly honored to have a team that continues to believe in me,” she said in a statement. Amara will release her new single in the coming months, according to Billboard, and work with producers Rock City, who are behind hits by Miley Cyrus and Rihanna.
3. Her lyrics are empowering
Amara’s lyrics are focused on sexuality and female empowerment. Singles such as “Pa’ Tu Cama Ni Loca” and “Se Que Soy” show a woman can be proud of her sexuality and have agency over who gets to access it. “I am a risk-taker. I am focused. I am a fighter,” she told El Nuevo Herald. “I want to bring this flavor to music.”
4. She’s a social media superstar
If Amara looks familiar, it’s probably because the singer is incredibly popular on Instagram. She’s garnered over 500,000 followers. Her grid is full of pictures of her beautiful Afro, childhood videos and a behind-the-scenes look at the struggles of her career.
5. She’s got the training
Amara La Negra graced the TV of Latino families every Saturday for six years. The singer was first on the small screen as a cast member of Sábado Gigante. She told Latino USA that she started auditioning early on and landed the gig at the famed show at 4. “I was that only black girl in that whole dance studio and it made me feel really weird,” she said. “I was always the one dancing in the back.”
Love & Hip Hop Miami airs on Mondays at 9 p.m. on VH1.