Latina Trend-setters Nicole Mejía, Annie Vazquez and Anna Gabriella Muñoz Talk Facing Online Bullies and Fighting for Freedom of Expression
What do sexual harassment and female empowerment look like in the digital world? That was one of the topics discussed during a PEOPLE CHICA panel presented at People en Español’s Poderosas Live! event on March 17 in Miami. PEOPLE CHICA’s executive editor Shirley Velásquez spoke to three popular Latina bloggers — makeup diva Anna Gabriella Muñoz (@annalovesu), fitness guru Nicole Mejía (@getfitandthick) and fashion and travel writer Annie Vazquez (@thefashionpoet) — about how they created their successful social media brands and how they fight off bullying and harassment online.
Mejía shared that two weeks ago, while doing a live stream on exercise techniques, she got “disgusting, disrespectful” responses from male followers. “I went through the comments and I blew a cap. I just lost it.” So she did an Instagram story reacting to the comments, which turned out to be very popular with her female audience. In it, she tells the guys: “You’re not going to get attention from a woman by degrading her like that.”
Mejía added that she felt a responsibility to defend herself. “What kind of example does that set if I don’t stand up for myself?” she said. “I used to post very sexy pictures,” she says. “I always just thought because I put myself out there like that, this is just something I have to deal with.” However, the online fitness coach says a woman has the right to celebrate her sensuality on social media without getting harassed. “We need to stand up for ourselves in person, at the workplace, in our families, in social media,” she added. “Part of being an empowered woman is to embrace your sexuality,” she emphasized, claiming that the motive behind posting a sexy photo shouldn’t be to get more “likes,” but to express how you genuinely feel in a certain moment.
Annie Vazquez spoke about her process for dealing with the less savory aspects of her business, @thefashionpoet, which includes developing the metaphorical thick skin. “I’ve been criticized for any little thing I’ve done, so I’ve done posts and I talk about it. I let it bounce off me, but I refuse to stay quiet about it.” She says by showing body confidence she hopes to inspire other girls to not let comments about them on social media affect their self-esteem. “I think you really need to be authentic and open and be yourself,” she said. “I was nervous to put myself out there because I’m not a thin girl. I have curves and I have big thighs and I have cellulite and I have a big butt, but I celebrate it.”
And when makeup maven Anna Gabriella Muñoz gets bullied online, she makes it a point to remember that she is loved. “Social media is such a shallow place,” she explains. “You need to have a good base, and my base was my family.” Having a constant source of support is important and sharing is key: “Whenever anything happens, I tell them immediately. We would have a group chat. I screenshot it and I send it to them. And they’re like: ‘Seriously?’ We all laugh about it.” She says it’s that support system that builds self-esteem. “I know whatever happens, they’ll be there. I’ve been able to grow my business because of my family and how I was raised.”