DEL BARRIO PART 1
Hi Mob! October is here, the warm weather is almost gone, our family in the Caribbean, Florida and Mexico are dealing with some real life issues with these hurricanes and earthquakes, our government is still messy AF, Colin Kaepernick is still setting precedents for activism in the black community, Cardi B has just made history as the second female rapper to make #1 on Billboard with no feature — and the only one to do it this decade. I’m sassier than ever and theGirlMob is still growing (s/o to our contributors, old and new)! Oh, and my new moon rituals are helping me bear all the fruits of my labors aka it’s time to make changes that stick, set those intentions + do a cleansing of the unwanted energies in our lives and within ourselves.
Stay tuned to our Twitter & IG for updates on relief efforts for our Caribbean, Floridian and Mexican family and Full Moon/New Moon ritual resources! And general joy + fun — duh!
Maintenance of the Spirit is a big one for us here at theGirlMob — and one of the ways we keep our balance is by simply sharing genuine and heartfelt dialogue about our feelings, experiences and upbringings with one another. It’s so important for us to talk about these issues as a collective of women of color — we are so adamant about healing ourselves since most western methods of healing do not cater to the Black and Latinx experience.
If you know of reiki healers and traditional therapists that are woc send them our way!
With all this weird, chaotic energy surrounding us and as we continue to fight the way our government is doing us dirty — I’d like to take a quick break from that and reflect on something good and pure — the divine feminine. To me, the divine feminine manifests in women of all walks of life — throughout all cultures, age and economic groups, all genders and sexual orientations and yes, even in men. The divine feminine is an energy, a force that says ‘I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME LOUDLY & WATCH ME CONQUER THE ROOM WITH GRACE’ — I see this in the women in my own life and I couldn’t be prouder.
As we continue to explore our own narratives @ theGirlMob I was inspired by our girl Dee’s photo/Q&A series —which paid homage to her Jamaican roots, and decided to join forces with her and duplicate the series. This time — we’re talking to 7 Latinx/Hispanic women who inspire me on a personal level. Some of these ladies I have been friends with for years, some I have just recently gotten to know — but each of them have something special worth sharing and a story worth telling. I am so pleased and so proud to present their testimonies. Walk with us.
Because Hispanic/Latino heritage month runs from mid September to mid October we’ve decided to keep that schedule going and run this story as a 3 part series. Over the next 3 weeks I’ll be introducing you to 7 ladies of Latinx/Hispanic descent who are making waves in their respective industries and showing the world the incredible diversity that exist among us. I hope that this series inspires you to get to know them, share their stories with other women and support their business and creative endeavors.
It is my great honor to share their experiences and their magic with our audience. We begin:
Glori Ovalle, a multi-faceted Dominican freelance floral stylist + consultant who has made a name for herself in the industry. A ray of sunshine by way of Washington Heights who has brought her talent, vision and flair to spaces like NY Fashion week for Jason Wu in collaboration with Putnam Flowers. music videos for Sound of Ceres and most recently — she provided the heart and soul of someone’s big day, my girl did the floral arrangements for a wedding. Glori is a people person for the people and someone whom I hope will become a permanent phrase in theGirlMob dictionary of litness.
Twitter:@gl0riveli // check out her website for info + new projects - glorimer.com
Ivana Mena, a Dominican songstress whose roots to NYC run from the Bronx to the Upper West Side. She is among one my most treasured friends because she offers what so many cannot — the honest truth of herself. Like the ladies in my last story — Ivana connects me to an inherent part of myself through her lyrics and melodies. We met in 2013 @ an event we were both performing original work at. This event was called ‘13’ and if you know anything about me, it’s how important this number is to me and my spiritual journey.
Twitter: @cinnamena // check out her latest project ‘The Jiggy Tape’
Where does your family come from?
Glori: Both my parents are from D.R. — Santo Domingo to be exact.
Ivana: My Parents are both from the Dominican Republic…My father is from Montecristi and my mom from San Carlos, a barrio in the capital (Santo Domingo), but her family has deep rooted history in Puerto Plata so we rep that as well. I am a born and bred, first generation New Yorker.
What neighborhood did you grow up in? What was it like?
Glori: My father came to NYC from his hometown in Los Mameyes to attend NYU for dentistry. My mom & I didn’t join him in the US until I was 3 years old. We reunited in Washington Heights where we stayed at my abuela’s crib. I went to daycare across the street from the cemetery and started elementary school at a catholic school right on the same block.
Ivana: I think that my deep love for NYC began at an early age because I was fortunate enough to grow up bouncing around different neighborhoods. My parent’s weren’t together while I was growing up so I spent every other weekend in a different neighborhood. When I wasn’t in The Heights or the Bronx with my dad or his parents, I was on the Upper West Side with my maternal-grandmother or on The Upper East Side with my mom. If you ask me, I got the best of each world. In turn, it made me into one of those crazily-obsessed “my city is better than yours”, people. I have memories all over NYC!
What was it like growing up within hip-hop culture while growing up Dominican?
Glori: Music speakers and sound systems at my house were BIG, loud, and official. Lots of CDs. My parents had the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill & the Fugees CDs on deck. My dad had all the latest air max sneakers & shit. Back in like 1999, my mother made me write the lyrics to “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” by the Backstreet Boys since lyrics were not yet online. She loved the song and wanted to know the lyrics even though she couldn’t really speak English … not really hip hop culture but still a funny story.
Ivana: I still remember the very moment I fell in love with hip hop. I was 6 years old, and my (then) BFF’s older sister, Tiffany, was blasting Biggie’s “Big Poppa”. It was a WRAP after that. I wanted more and I didn’t know how to get it because I was a little girl in a single Dominican mother’s home before internet access. I spent the weekends at my dad’s stealing tapes from my older cousins or I’d take my mom’s tape recorder and rip songs off Hot97 from her Walkman until I was old enough to order those monthly 99 cent CD subscriptions. I also remember the pure and genuine JOY I felt when it finally dawned on me that Angie Mar was Martinez, meaning she was Boricua and a woman! I thought to myself —one day that could be me (I wanted to be her soooooo baaaad)!
How did you feel when ‘baby-hairs’ and doorknockers were appropriated by the fashion world?
Glori: I know it sounds crazy but when baby-hairs and hoop earrings became trendy, the feeling of “I told you so” overwhelmed me. It was almost liberating in the sense that yeah, the fashion industry was sleeping on us this whole time — what was condemned as ghetto before is now seen in magazines, on celebrities... everywhere. We been lit... the world is just late as fuck.
Ivana: At first it was frustrating to watch, but then it became comical to me. I touched on this briefly, in a song I wrote about gentrification called “Barrio Nights” — “And babygirl I peeped you. Watching me intent to scheme off all that we do. But there ain’t nothing I can teach you, theres gotta be a sauce within that you can freak to. See I was born in it, sworn in it, Aunt Maybelline can’t paint your mug to last you 4 minutes…” I addressed it exactly as I see it: thank you for your admiration, but you can’t and won’t be able to do it with the ease and finesse that we do it. We aren’t putting on a costume or copying what we see, we are living as we are.
Is your neighborhood changing as gentrification floods NYC? And in what ways?
Ivana: I definitely see a huge and rapid change in my neighborhood. I mean if I see one more 7/11 replacing a bodega or botanica I am going to SCREAM! My qualm with gentrification is not about “stranger danger” or intruders, it’s about the realization that if you are going to join our neighborhoods we ask you to do so with an open-mind and an open-heart. Spanish Harlem is full of so much culture and life. I love seeing new businesses open that are run by the people who have been here for ages, and I'm grateful that they get a run at new clientele, but I HATE hearing the complaints of newbies who want to stop the guys from playing dominoes on the block after hours or judge the kids playing basketball and blasting music in the early morning. I’m not gonna lie….I like that I can walk to Whole Foods now and then, but I’m still trying to get to the bodega for a chopped cheese at 3am if I feel like it too, you know? New York is ever changing and life is about cycles — my only hope is that gentrification doesn’t lead to the erasure of our culture and communities, but instead leads to the unification and growth of it.
What advice do you have for young Latinx who are affected by the White House’s attempt to end DACA/Dreamer’s Act?
Ivana: I’m very proud of the number of young Latinx I see fighting in the front lines, penning articles and making their marks in their choice of movement as retaliation to the White House’s attempt to end DACA. My advice to them is to never stop dreaming. Their dreams and that of their parents is what has gotten them this far. I encourage them to use their voices, to continue fighting the good fight and to remain true to their values and beliefs no matter how bleak things seem to get. Millions of people are fighting alongside them and for them, and in the end — I truly believe there is enough good left in this world to trump the hate.
Glori: Stay informed and keep your head up. Join political clubs like Manhattan Young Dems to engage with politicians in person and make your voice heard for real, not just on the internet. I joined MYD last year when Bernie was campaigning. I felt really good representing for Dominican women in a place where it was majority white men. People were always shocked when they found out I was supporting Bernie especially since that was around the time the “Bernie Bro” agenda was being fed to us. I think we all have this ability to go out and create opportunities like these for ourselves to put on for our culture everywhere! We just have to dig and find them.
What do you do to keep yourself sane during the Orange One’s administration?
Glori: Positive Mental Attitude — and keeping myself informed with actual facts, not just what the media spews out at us. I find solace in the fact that although I inhabit this world, I have the ability to create my own reality based on my perspective, my personal experiences and self awareness.
If you can pick one, what is your favorite part of your culture/experience? Feel free to list more.
Ivana: It’s hard to choose but I think one of my favorite things about my culture is the spirit of the Island itself. The people, the food, the music….every time I land in DR a sense of elation and clarity washes over me. I’m a water sign, so the beach brings me so much joy and peace, and the way our people can find happiness and laughter even when they’re living in poverty always puts life in perspective for me. There’s something about touching down on that island that re-aligns me and makes everything feel….better.
Any stories of being at work + dealing w racism/sexism or plain stereotypes by coworkers? Ex: oh you’re Dominican ?! You must be spicy!
Glori: Yes. I started a new job and wore my hair in my natural curls one day. A female manager at the time asked “cAn yOu dO sOmEtHiNg tO yOuR hAiR?” I was taken aback by the question since I thought I looked polished and had received a lot of positive feedback regarding my hairdo from other colleagues. I was in shock but acted quickly and went to our supervisor to explain what had just happened. I couldn’t believe I was defending myself over something like my own natural hair. Tears and all, I got my shit together and defended myself until eventually the bad manager quit the job. What hurt the most was that this person was herself, a POC, a woman, and a mother to a child— yet, she lacked the compassion or common sense to realize that the way she went about her criticism wasn’t the best. The irony is that she was completely bald and did not have hair of her own, yet she was trying to come for my full head of hair. Girl BYE.
Who is your favorite Latinx person?
Ivana: My favorite Latinx of the moment is Princess Nokia! I had the honor of meeting her a few times via mutual friends since we’re both El Barrio girls, and I have to say she is as genuine, real, raw and effervescent in real life as she is in her work. I’ve been following her since the 'Wavy Spice' days and I’m so inspired by her growth and work ethic. I think she does an excellent job at creating art that not only moves people but also educates them. She’s a star and I am thoroughly enjoying watching her rise.
Glori: Too many to name just one!
Do you channel your Hispanic heritage in your work?
Glori: Of course! My Dominican sass oozes out of every step I take. I channel it everyday when I’m getting dressed for work — I always think “What would mami think of this outfit?”. She always told me to never carry anything in my butt pocket to avoid looking tacky and to always coordinate my accessories to my outfit.
Cardi B sits next to you on the train- what do you tell her?
Glori: Yerrrrrrrrrr. I’m proud of you. Love you sis.
Ivana: I think I’d start with a wild and resounding “YEEEERRRR!” followed by a “BITCH YASSSS! I LIVE FOR YOU! I DIE! I CAN’T EVEN!” Cardi, mama, you are the light of my life and a breath of freshly rolled backwoods, girl thank you for being you….don’t stop.
Name a song played at home while your parents cleaned
Glori: “Comején” by Wilfrido Vargas, “El Ron Es Mi Medicina” by Johnny Ventura, the entire Cristian Castro Azul album.
Spanish trap — yay or nay?
Glori: I prefer that good ol’ reggaeton from the early 2000's
Ivana: YAY! Super yay! Is Bad Bunny Spanish trap? Because I’m totally here for it. I’m also really into A.Chal (Alejandro Chal), who infuses a lot of Spanglish trap into his work. I’m into it, as long as the song knocks, there’s room for everybody in every genre.
Do you feel you have a seat at the table when topics on Black culture come up?
Ivana: I think that I do have a seat at the table on topics around Black culture — I’m the type of girl that will pull up my own seat whether I'm invited or not, haha! I’m not afraid to voice my opinions and contribute to the conversation, and I actually ENJOY debating and building with others about these topics. I think it’s important that we keep an open dialogue about Black culture and community in today’s day and age….and although some people may see me as just Latina, I consider myself Afro-Latina. I am Black. I am an ally. I have lived in this experience and I have shit to say about it and that’s that.
One thing you’d like to see our communities do better at:
Glori: Being less judgmental towards the LGBTQ community. Views on weed because it is not heroin — like Dominicans make it seem. Raising both our boys + our girls to the same standard — striving for less bias when it comes to things like who gets to clean the kitchen or who should be set up to play sports.
Ivana: Supporting one another! Latinos span from a wide range of countries and islands and I think a lot of us are nationalists as opposed to culturalists. I remember having a discussion with friends in college about PR vs DR and all I could think at the time was “we’re still all just a bunch of Spanish speaking brown folk to white supremacists, so what’s your point?” I know not all of us think that way, but there is a huge “my country is better than yours” mentality in the Latino community and I would love to see us come together and rise above that in everything from lifestyle to politics to business to culture.
We stay Mobbin' — who are some of your favorite women of color on social media?
Glori: @ToriNicksWho and @junglepussy
Ivana: In activism and politics, I look to @Cherrell_Brown. She kept me informed and helped me laugh to keep from crying. @Bad_Dominicana is another force to be reckoned with on Twitter. I don’t always agree with her views but I do honor and admire her fearlessness and ability to crack into topics from a true Feminist standpoint. @AuraJones feeds me spiritually! I love her quips and quotes because they merge consciousness with ratchetness in the way that only a hip hop mami can. Honorable mention to my sisters @MelalaMode and @FearlessLeon because they’ve both built their own brands from the bottom up and through their work have taught me so much about self-love. I’m always hanging off my seat waiting to see what they cook up next!
Stay tuned for part 2 + 3 of this series — I hope you enjoyed picking their brains as much as I did. It’s a blessing to be the bridge, I hope you found new girls to support!