Why We Created Emperifollá

I was sitting in my couch last summer, scrolling endlessly through my Twitter feed, when one headline caught my eye. It read, “The Joy of Always Being Emperifollá.” The byline was credited to Laia García.

She wrote, “A few years ago I remember looking around at all the women in my extended family, drinking their Medalla beers in casual jean shorts and halter tops and tall espadrille wedges, looking over at my grandmother in her short fiery red hair, a gold mesh top that showed a beautiful bra underneath, her nails done in a matching gold nail polish, and thinking how obvious it was that all these women had made me.”

García, who is also a Puerto Rican writer living in New York, wrote genuinely about our experiences as Latinx, who embrace the profound symbolism and strength of putting ourselves together every day, each layer providing a shell of resistance against oppression, discrimination, colonization, and sexism.

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Like García, I also wanted to share my experiences growing up with a mamita who never went to bed without a dubi and tías who’d rather not be in the picture if they have no lipstick on. The word stuck with me from that day.

I don’t recall the first time someone told me I was emperifollá. But I do know I was bred that way by my mother. Blonde by choice and green-eyed with an olive tone on her skin, mamita was never one to override beauty for the sake of expediency in the mornings. I can still hear the “clack” sound of her heels on her way to work and smell her signature Calvin Klein “Obsession” perfume.

Naturally, she passed on those practices to me from an early age. She made a matching diadema for every dress I wore and often took me to the mall jeweler to get some accessories. She always cared for the classic pieces that would last me a lifetime, but never eye-rolled when I wanted to wear bell bottoms or hot pink crocs.

As much as mamita crafted my style from a young age, it never came from a place of social obligation. Instead, mamita taught me to use style and beauty as a tool to fight the world– one taconeo at a time.

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Of course, I’m not the only one. Maridelis, Bianca, Stephanie, and Andrea are all product of the emperifollá mindset instilled by generations before us. Like me, they also wanted to celebrate it. Here’s why:

“Photography became the vehicle that made the most sense when answering my lifelong question of why we wear what we do. That came attached with many more questions on my Latina identity and being Puerto Rican. I always had it in my heart that I wanted to work on a visual survey around these topics, but only ever talked to my mom about it. After some time, I met Frances and noticed the writing she did was very much in line with the questions I was asking myself. Then, very unlike me at the time (I was an extremely shy college sophomore), I reached out to her to tell her about the thoughts I’d been having. Years later, she reached out to me to pitch Emperifollá. I joined Emperifollá because of the lack of space we have in contemporary media to tell stories that revolve around Latinx fashion and beauty.”

– Maridelis Morales Rosado, visuals editor

“I’ve been wanting to do something to fill this blank space the industry has when it comes to content about fashion and beauty content for the modern latina for a long time now. So when Frances reached out to me I said a hard ‘YES!’ because I knew how talented and unique each one of the other team members, who are also my friends, are. Personally, the word emperifollá goes beyond dolling up. It’s about discovering your best self through the things you really like in terms of what you wear or how you take care of yourself.”

– Andrea Devoto, social media editor

“Ever since I moved to NYC, I knew I wanted to write and tell stories about how fashion and beauty intersects with my Latinidad. As a freelancer though, it was hard to not feel like token or find outlets that were willing to let me tell said stories without falling into the stereotypes the industry has given Latinx. However, whenever I wrote about my experiences as a Latinx or read about other Latinxs experience, I would always have this adrenaline rush of inspiration and motivation  that would last substantially but would gradually fade out. So, when Frances reached out and explained what she wanted to create with Emperifollá, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a part of it.”

– Bianca Nieves, deputy editor

“I’d been trying to pitch stories that I felt needed to be told, but didn’t have a place for them. Bianca introduced me to the team as their potential video support, and well, pair that up with a desire to explore Latinx identity and the diaspora in the ways we carry home with us through fashion, beauty and culture and how they serve as tools to decolonize and ultimately fight back, and trying to close the gaping hole in media when it comes to the multiplicity of Latinx experience, as well as how our presence is either demonized, sexualized or tokenized– and here we are.”

– Stephanie Stoddard Cortés, producer

Our mission is simply to speak Latinx style through fashion, beauty, and the cultures that make up our heritage. After 7 months of working on Emperifollá, I still can’t recall where I learned this word, but we are now spreading its power– one story at a time.

Frances Solá-Santiago

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