Welcome to our first ever Committee Corner feature on our blog! We’re MUY excited to introduce one of our committee members, Sheila Lopez, who joined our amazing team this fall 2019. Sheila assists with coordinating communications and social media management for Frida Friday ATX and is a big supporter of local businesses and PoC entrepreneurs. You can view some of her collaborations with Latinx and plus-size brands on her Instagram or blog, where she reigns as Insta Queen.
Get to know more about Sheila, aka La Divina Latina, below by reading our interview with her. And, check out that amazing flower crown by Las Ofrendas adorned on La Divina.
1. I was such a fan of you before you even joined the committee. I was hoping you’d tell us a little about your passion as a model, how long you’ve been modeling and what inspires you to keep doing what you’re doing.
I was in my mid twenties when I started modeling and had struggled with negative body image since I was little girl. My mom, though I love her, didn’t have the awareness or the knowledge to talk to me about my body or body image issues. And, that negative self-image carried into my adulthood. When I think about what I do now as a model, it’s kind of magical in a way to come out of a cocoon, somewhere suffocating and dark and emerge into this beautiful being. A friend of mine noticed I was posting a lot of selfies online and I started writing about fat body acceptance and self-love. She said, "You should take some professional pictures with my friend. She's a local photographer here in Austin." I thought about it for days and when I finally took that leap of faith, it really spiraled into what I do now. I started to dress differently and take chances with fashion that I would have never dare to do before like wearing a two-piece swimsuit, crop top, and even shorts. I was posting my curated looks on Instagram frequently and that caught the attention of a lot of people. Brands started to reach out to me to collaborate and I felt honored that I could represent a business that I believed in. I started working with different local photographers to submit to any online magazine that would feature plus-size models. That was a challenge because there are so many online and print publications that often overlook and won't feature models of different body shapes and sizes. It's changing, but it was definitely a struggle when I first started to find those publications whose mission and values aligned with mine, that style has no size limit.
What inspires me to keep going is the mujeres who support me and the work I do. When they send me messages of encouragement, those are the types of DMs I love getting. And, I come from a long line of luchadoras. My abuela just turned 90 and her “Échale ganas, mijita” always encouraged me to keep working hard at something no matter the challenges.
2. Can you tell us about any exciting new projects you may have coming up?
I am always working on something, but this year La Divina Latina will be rolling out an IGTV series where I talk about different topics like body positivity, break-up bounce-backs, and more! I’ve found that when I talk about my heartbreaks and struggles in dating as a fat WoC there are people who find that what I share resonates with them. I get asked often about dating and dating while you're fat specifically because of the prejudices that exist when you're in a fat body. It's been a roller coaster of an experience with online dating. I've found a lot of people who fetishize me, which is not okay for me, to men who've body-shamed me. So, I think people who follow me want to know how to navigate this or what I've done that's helped.
And, I’m in the developing stages of a Latina beauty project. It’ll be a photo series of mujeres showcasing the varying beauty of Latinas. I think often we only see one type of Latina beauty that has now become the standard in media and entertainment. That’s troubling because girls are looking to celebrities and seeing a very limited representation of Latina beauty. This is why this photography project is important for me. Many of the women who have signed up to participate are local to Austin, but my goal is to have this as an ongoing project and have Latinas participate from around the world. I think that would be just amazing.
3. Sheila, you’re s passionate about supporting local entrepreneurs and creatives. I wanted to know how you originally got plugged into the maker community in atx- and what drives your passion.
It all started by attending a Frida Friday ATX market. I couldn’t find a space that celebrated the Latinx community. I was looking for my people and from there I met so many artists and creatives. I’m a shy person, which many people find hard to believe because I model. So, I remember TK Tunchez, the founder of Frida Friday ATX, being the first person to notice I was coming around to the events a lot and always greeting me with a friendly hello and asking if I was having a good time. I was meeting artists like Carmen Rangel and other magia-makers like Leti Garza from Munchies by Leti. I kept meeting all these amazing, kind, and creative people. I fell in love with their work and with their message, so it was really easy for me to support their work. I’ve collaborated with many Latinx entrepreneurs and it’s been the most rewarding work for me because many of them are now my friends.
I think it’s important to support WoC and Latinx brands. It’s a very important part of what I do at La Divina Latina when I style my outfits. I love featuring these brands to show others that there are designers that are going under the radar. For me, I lean toward local or PoC designers because I want to support their work and their work is beautiful.
4. We’re getting ready to accept new Frida Friday ATX committee members. Can you share some insight / anything you’d like to say to folks who may be interested in joining?
I’ve been on the committee for less than a year handling communications and social media management for Frida Friday ATX, and it’s been extremely rewarding. There’s always something new happening and that’s what really thrills me about being on this team. There is a vision that is moving forward and looking to expand. How exciting is that?! And, it’s a collaborative environment where you are free to present new ideas and you’re creativity flourishes. Plus, getting to work with a leadership of WoC is like a dream come true.
5. How can people find you? What’s the best way to check out all your magic?
People can find me on Insagram as @ladivina.latina as well as my blog www.ladivinalatina.com. I’m also on Facebook as facebook.com/ladivinalatina. There’s exciting content dropping February 1st so I would say be sure to follow and check out on Instagram and my blog. It’ll definitely be worth it!
Written by Tk Tunchez in collaboration with Sheila Lopez