I recently heard something really scary to me: Latina girls name Kim Kardashian as one of their top role models. Why? Because she looks like them! This raises an important issue—the people we are most likely to emulate are those with whom we have something in common, whether it be looks, gender, nationality, socio-cultural background or any other factor.
We look to others for guidance on how to do everything from resolving conflicts or developing our sense of style, to making money. Peers and role models influence our own goals and aspirations, and the same is true for our children.
If our kids don’t see examples of healthy, empowered, successful people, then their scope of vision of what is possible in their lives is severely limited. So it’s imperative that we surround ourselves and our children with positive, uplifting role models—people who have done amazing things. And it’s even better if those people have something in common with us.
So not only is it important for us to observe others accomplishing great things, but especially those with whom we share race, ethnicity, culture or gender. It’s even more important that as parents, we teach our kids the good sense to know the difference between a poor role model—like Kim Kardashian, in my opinion—and a great one, like Sonia Sotomayor.
That’s why I share stories of Latinas from all over the country through my work at PowerfulLatinas.com. By featuring successful Latinas, and showcasing the courage, strength and wisdom that arises from their experiences, other women may be inspired to follow suit. We make sure the role models we choose at Powerful Latinas come from a variety of backgrounds and are women who have found their success in different ways. Here are just a few examples:
- Marcela Landres • An Ecuadorian-American who grew up in New York, worked her way up to being an editor for Simon & Schuster, and now is an editorial consultant helping Latino writers get published.
- Arisa Batista Cunningham • A native of the Republic of Panama, she came to the U.S. as a university student, and went on to become Vice President of Global Diversity for the Johnson & Johnson Comprehensive Care and Surgical Care Groups.
- Manuela Bump Murillo • Born in Honduras, she came to the U.S. at 18, and became a successful business owner and salesperson. She owns a multi-million dollar real estate portfolio, including the building in which her business is housed.
- Lydia Villa-Komaroff • A Mexican-American who grew up in New Mexico, she earned her PhD in cellular biology and is now CEO of the science company Cytonome.
OUR EMPOWERING DIVERSITY
Latinas hail from a variety of countries. We’ve grown up poor, rich, and middle-class. We are black, brown, white, and other colors. We are gay and straight and transgender. We have a lot of education, some education or no formal training. We have children or choose not to. We enter every single career field. There is no shortage of Latinas who embody success.
There are so many examples out there—we just have to look. We are lucky that we now have magazines, books, and websites that feature inspiring Latinas. Latina Style, Hispanic Business, and this website, Mamiverse, are just a few examples of the resources available to us. And the recent HBO Special, The Latino List, profiled a number of prominent Latinas. Not only do we find potential role models in the media—we can look up to women in our communities, in our churches, and even in our own families.
It’s up to us to make an effort to seek out Latina and Latino authors, scientists, business owners, corporate executives, politicians and community leaders as inspiration not only for our children, but also for ourselves. Thankfully, we can now find books about and by prominent Hispanics and Latinos. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Aim High: Extraordinary Stories of Hispanic and Latina Women by Laura Contreras-Rowe
- The Book of Latina Women: 150 Vidas of Passion, Strength and Success by Sylvia Mendoza
- Latinnovating: Green American Jobs and the Latinos Creating Them by Graciela Tiscareño-Sato
- 500 Years of Chicana Women’s History by Elizabeth Martinez
The power of role models is unquestionable. I hope you will also seek out a variety of inspiring and motivating examples for your children and yourself, that will help you keep on striving for excellence.
What do you look for in role models, and where do you find them?