Growing up, Amara La Negra was always aware of how little she saw herself represented in the media. She liked the Disney Princesses, but yearned for one with her skin tone and curly hair.
Now, the 28-year-old singer and actress is working to give a new generation of little girls just that with her new children’s book Amarita’s Way. The Love & Hip-Hop: Miami star carefully crafted the story to tackle larger problems in digestible ways for her young readers.
“I always say that representation is key. And it’s not just to talk about the problems that are happening with colorism or racial issues, it’s to actually to do something about it,” Amara tells PEOPLE. “When this opportunity of doing a children’s book came along, I thought that it was perfect because it would give me an opportunity to talk to little girls, for the most part, about their beauty and their melanin.”
Aside from issues of representation, Amara was keen to push a message of acceptance and self-love that little girls may not always see.
“Amarita’s Way talks about self-love, which is extremely important,” she says. “It’s truly what I preach at the end of the day. I always make sure to let them know that you don’t have to change who you are or the way you look to satisfy society’s standards of beauty because you’re beautiful just the way you are.”
Amarita’s Way also has a chapter titled “Mommy & Me,” a personal love letter to her own single mother who raised her and always encouraged her to work for the best.
“I wanted to make it as realistic as possible to my personal story,” Amara explains. “Like myself, there’s a lot of little girls in this world that don’t grow up with a full family, that don’t grow up with brothers and sisters and grandparents or a father figure in their house. So you become very attached to your mother, and that’s my case. That’s why my mother and I have such a deep connection and such a good relationship, and I wanted to be able to show that.”
But most importantly, Amara hopes to give little girls struggling with a lack of visibility the chance to have someone just like them to look up to.
“Representation is key. Just like we have all these amazing princesses from Disney, and we have Dora the Explorer, I feel that we need an Amarita,” she says.
Amarita’s Way is out now.