When people first look at me, they don’t think I’m Mexican, let alone Latina.
Because I am white-passing, I make it a point to let everyone know that I am, in fact, not white. When people first meet me, our conversations usually go like this: “Can I ask what you are?” and “You must be half, right?” “Oh, you’re Latina! I had no idea.” Even if people are unsure of “what I am,” I let them know real quick by the way I say my last name.
So imagine my dilemma when I was getting married to a white man. I know that sounds bad, but hear me out. I started worrying about whether or not I would change my last name. Instead of freaking out over which flowers my bouquet would have or what food we’d serve, I was stressed about changing my last name.
“Would I get rid of my last name completely or would I hyphenate it,” I thought. Even as I dabbled with the idea of hyphenating my last name with his, it didn’t sit right with me. Thankfully, it didn’t sit right with my partner either.
If I took my husband’s last name, not only would people assume that I’m 100% white, because as I mentioned before, that’s already something I have to deal with, but now people wouldn’t question it. They would hear my name and question nothing. I’d rather people inquire about my identity than not at all.
For me, everything that I knew about my identity and what I was most proud of would disappear as soon as I introduced myself. The thought of not being able to say my last name after marriage was nerve-racking. I couldn’t sleep thinking about it. How would I introduce myself? Would I awkwardly plug that fun fact into my conversation? These were the questions raced through my head at night.
While I was stressing out about my possible name change, my partner is the one who actually suggested I keep my last name. He reminded me that we could do whatever we wanted. We didn’t have to follow an outdated tradition because it was our marriage, after all.
If you haven’t noticed by now, my last name means everything to me. In the same way that people strongly identify with their hair, that’s how I feel when it comes to my last name. It’s who I am and it’s what makes me, me. I’m proud of it.
My last name isn’t that common either, so I’ve always loved how unique it is. My grandfather from my dad’s side always said his last name with pride, and I like to think that he instilled that in me. He grew up in a time when Latinos weren’t allowed to speak Spanish, but the one way he rebelled was by the way he pronounced his name. Because of that, I’ve never pronounced my last name “white-sounding.” By that, I mean that I actually pronounce my name in Spanish, the way my grandfather taught me to say it.
It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to, I’ll never change the way I prounounce it. I could be at the DMV, introducing myself to new coworkers, or confirming my attendance at a bougie event, I don’t care, I’m introducing myself in Spanish. Me vale.
You will never catch me saying my last name in an English way in order for non-Latinos to understand it. If anything, I make it a point to say it con fuerte. I emphasize each letter, drag out each syllable, and say it loudly for the people in the back. Another thing I do is that I always roll the “r” in my last name, and sometimes, I even let it linger. I want it to sink in, so people know that I’m Latina. To some, my skin color might tell a different story, but my last name does not.
Credit: @alyssawritesxo / Instagram
Once I realized that I was in control of keeping my last name and that my husband was on board with my decision, I felt at peace. I didn’t have to worry about losing my identity or the one thing that matters to me the most.
Just because I was getting married didn’t mean I had to change who I was. I didn’t have to lose my last name because of some old tradition or because of what seems like the normal thing to do.
Keeping my last name was the best decision I’ve ever had to make, like ever. This was the one time when I really listened to my intuition, and if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been happy—and that’s not how I would want my marriage to start. On that note, I know that I’m lucky to have a husband who was completely okay with my choice. Although, even if he wasn’t fully on board with me keeping my last name, it wouldn’t have been his decision to make.
Losing a huge part of myself would hurt too much, and deep in my heart, I would not feel like myself. I would get rid of the single most important thing that makes me who I am.
Tossing away my last name would completely strip me of my identity, and it would make me feel like I erased my Mexican ancestry. Like I said before, no one would think twice about my ethnicity, and I’d rather have people confused as to what I might be than to assume I’m nothing at all.
For me, my last name is what ties me to my roots. It’s also a reminder that I’m privileged. I can say my last name in Spanish. Unlike me, my grandfather didn’t always have that luxury. He said our last name with defiance. Because of that history, I’m able to say my name with honor.
Credit: Alyssa Morin
My last name is what reminds me—and everyone else—of my heritage.
Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.
You know what Paquita la del Barrio is to your grandmother or perhaps what Jenni Rivera was to your tía? Well, that’s what Victoria La Mala is for our generation: a singer whose inner power is the only thing more forceful than the strong vocal pipes she uses to remind you that you are that bitch.
Born Victoria Ortiz in Mexico City, the singer-songwriter jumped into the music scene in 2015, bringing a refreshing sound and style to regional Mexican music with all the same girl power of her barrier-breaking female predecessors. Describing herself as the musical offspring of Tupac and Selena, the now Los Angeles-based singer places her soulful vox over traditional banda and ranchera rhythms to deliver treats for your ears and soul. Her songs, like last year’s chart-making “Merezco Mucho Más,” call out male fuckery and empower girls to know their strength, worth and beauty and leave toxic romances behind.
On the block, Victoria, who’s also the first Mexican artist to be signed to Roc Nation Latin, continues to be inspirational. On Monday, the 30-year-old launched her fifth annual #TeamMalaPromGiveaway, a campaign providing low-income teenage girls in Los Angeles with dresses, accessories and makeup and hair tutorials. This year, she will help 50 girls, who must submit their applications before March 29, become the prom princesses she knows they already are.
We chatted with Victoria all about the giveaway, making banda bops for millennials, her anticipated new, and sonically different, music, as well as why she wants to empower women and girls in everything she does, among so much more.
FIERCE: You were born and raised in Mexico but also spent much of your time growing up taking extended trips with relatives in Los Angeles. What genres of music were you listening to here and there, and how do you think this has influenced your pop-urbano-banda style today?
Victoria La Mala: I used to listen to a lot of regional Mexican music in Mexico because of my parents. They love banda and mariachi. I spent a lot of summers in LA, and I had some aunts who listened to hip-hop, ‘90s R&B, and I loved soul. I think all of those styles of music influenced me, and I think you can hear them in me.
FIERCE: Absolutely. While you sing mostly regional Mexican genres, you have a very soulful voice. Talking about your voice, it’s very strong and powerful. No one can deny your vocal talent. When did you realize you could sing and that music was something you wanted to pursue?
Victoria La Mala: I literally cannot remember a time in my life without singing. When I look back on my childhood, I was that one little girl always singing. I loved music. I sang in class and school. But when I was 15, I started getting a little more confidence in myself. I’d be out at parties and people would say, “sing for us.” That’s when I realized this is something I love and have a big passion for. I started singing in a couple bands. I sang at family functions and school functions. So I think when I was around 15 is the time I was like, I love this and I think this is what I want to do.
FIERCE: Why banda? This isn’t exactly a genre that’s expected from young millennial women?
Victoria La Mala: For me, it was always important to represent my culture and tell my story as a woman. Some of the first memories I had listening to live music was banda. My first album in 2013 was full banda. It was just important for me to represent. My dad had passed away a few years before then, and he loved banda. When I moved to the States from Mexico, I wanted to represent from the beginning, and from there I started evolving as an artist as well. I tried different regional sounds and more fusions, because it’s all a part of my story and who I am. I was exposed to more types of music. Being a girl raised in Mexico City, I listened to everything in the streets, Spanish rock, cumbia, so I think it’s important to represent my culture and my story.
FIERCE: I love that and definitely see that. While artists like Paquita la del Barrio and Jenni Rivera made waves for women in traditional Mexican music, these genres continue to be male-dominated. Honestly, most Latin genres do. How has your experience been trying to navigate this industry as a woman, and as one who is very vocal about her opinions on men and proud of her identity.
Victoria La Mala: You know, they always say, “Victoria hates men.” But I don’t, just a couple that have been bad, but some are great. But it’s definitely difficult being a woman, not just in music, in a world that has been male-dominated. The roles of women have slowly been changing: women started working, started going to school and now they’re doing basically anything that we want. But because it hasn’t been many years to do these things, it’s still a struggle. And in music, it’s reflected. Music, I think, reflects what’s happening in society. Now girls are starting to take power in music. Girls want to listen to other girls. They want to feel identified and want our stories told. It’s definitely still difficult. It’s definitely still a struggle, especially on the industry side. There’s this idea that girls dont like girls, girls don’t like to listen to girls. This is also an idea that has been changing, though. I grew up listening to women I love, playing my CDs and singing along to them. I think women nowadays are the same: we want to hear our stories.
FIERCE: I think you’re right. Not only are many of the rising acts in Latin music women, but they are sharing their stories through their music.
Victoria La Mala: Right, exactly. Thank you.
FIERCE: Making a space for yourself where others might be uncomfortable, though, isn’t something you seem to ever shy away from. Another example: you’re the first Mexican artist signed to Roc Nation. How has this been for you?
Victoria La Mala: It has been an amazing experience. I’ve been able to learn so much from people in the industry who have been doing this for years. I’ve met legends, people I looked up to as a little girl, people I still look up to.
FIERCE: Like who?
Victoria La Mala: Like Beyoncé and Rihanna. I got to sing with Paquita la del Barrio. Olga Tañón invited me to sing with her at Premio Lo Nuestro. It’s been an incredible couple of years, learning and growing so much. It’s been really amazing for me. This is part of what I always wanted to do: represent my culture and what I come from as Latinos and Mexicans in a more general-market kind of way. People never really listen to Mexican music, so for them to say, “let me see this Mexican artist signed to Roc Nation,” that’s an amazing experience. As you mentioned before, part of me always feels like I have to fight for what I want. I grew up seeing that. I grew up around strong women that will make a way.
FIERCE: And that’s clear in your music. As I stated earlier, your songs are very bold and empowering. They often validate women’s experiences in relationships and remind them of their own strength, beauty and power. Why?
Victoria La Mala: It’s so important for me because I think music literally is the soundtrack to our lives. We have songs we play when we are feeling so sad and want to cry. We have songs we want to play that cause us to feel strong, like you could do whatever you want to do. I grew up listening to strong women that made me feel powerful, and it’s important for me to give that back to other girls. Sometimes, I play my own songs when I’m going through it, like, “yes, girl!”
FIERCE: Haha! I love that. I can honestly say that “Si Va A Doler Que Duela” was one of the songs that helped get me through my last breakup, so I completely get it.
Victoria La Mala: Thank you. I really appreciate that.
FIERCE: You’re also inspiring outside of your music, though. I know you have a prom dress giveaway each year, where you provide dresses, makeup and accessories to underserved teens so they can attend prom and feel like a princess for an evening. Talk to me about this. Why do this?
Victoria La Mala: To me, this is one of my favorite times of the year. I love being able to connect with young girls. When I was in high school, my dad wasn’t there anymore, and my mom, by herself, had to make sacrifices for my siblings and myself. For my high school graduation, I had to figure out dresses, which was so expensive, and I thought, maybe I should come up with a giveaway for girls doing their prom and can’t afford it. There are so many circumstances as to why they might need help. I started this five years ago. I had people, whoever I knew, give me dresses. I said, “anyone who wants to donate, I will give you a CD.” That’s all I had. People donated dresses, and I think we dressed 10 girls that year. I did it all on my own. I had no clue what I was doing, but it was an amazing experience to see girls have the dress they wanted. I knew I needed to do it again. Here we are now in our fifth year. Last year, we dressed more than 60 girls. This year, I’m hoping that doubles. Now we also have sponsors.
FIERCE: What do you think is your overall goal with this giveaway?
Victoria La Mala: My goal is for girls to enjoy their prom. I want them to feel like all their efforts were worth this moment, that all their hard work does pay off. I just want them to be happy that day. I’m also really hoping every year we can double the amount of dresses we give. I also hope that we can take it out of LA. This is my home and community, so this is where I’ve been doing it, but I hope to take it to other cities and one day everywhere.
FIERCE: Love that! I want to get back into music. You haven’t released a new song in a little while, and there’s a lot of anticipation around Victoria La Mala and demand for new music. What do you have in store for this year that you can tell us about?
Victoria La Mala: Well, last year, I put out only two songs. One did amazing and was on the charts, “Merezco Mucho Más,” and the other I put out during the end of the summer, “Corazón valiente,” which was for immigrants. But after that, I had a couple changes within my team. I took time for me to get in the studio, work on music, write my stuff, get involved in everything, from production and sound to writing new songs. We are almost there. It’s just been a process. I’ve just been waiting and writing and making sure everything sounds and is how I creatively see it. Again, we’re almost there. I think it’s going to be something new and different from what I put out in the past and reflects who I am, a mix of Mexican culture and me living in New York, LA, Mexico City, more of the urban side. So it’ll be something new and something I’ve been wanting to work on for a while, so I’m excited.
FIERCE: You’re 30 years old, at the earlier stages of your career, what do you hope people can say about Victoria La Mala in 10 to 15 years?
I hope people can say that I’ve helped them feel empowered, that my music has been a big part of their life. I dont think a lot about this. I think about things I want to accomplish more than things people say about me. I hope my music can empower them and be a part of their life and touch them the way other artists have inspired me.
Latina queen Jennifer Lopez and retired baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez recently became engaged--meaning that Latinidad has an official King and Queen to worship until the end of days. Needless to say, fans and followers alike have been flooding their respective Instagram pages with messages of congratulations and well-wishes.
For the two years that they’ve been dating, J-Lo and A-Rod have shared their lives with the public through their social media accounts, giving us a glimpse into the loving relationship that Lopez has called her “first ever good relationship”. Their Instagram profiles are sprinkled with pictures of them jet-setting, attending premieres and galas, and taking mixed-family vacations in exotic locales together. In other words, they’re very publicly living their best lives together.
However, a wrench was thrown into their happily-ever-after Sunday night when former MLB player Jose Canseco publicly accused A-Rod of cheating on Jennifer Lopez with his ex-wife, Jessica Canseco. In light of all this drama, we’ve compiled the definitive timeline of Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez’s relationship, all they way from friends to fiances. Take a look!
Before the Puerto-Rican triple threat and the Dominican All-Star were Hollywood’s reigning It Couple, they were mere acquaintances. The pair first met in 2005 at a Yankees vs. Mets Baseball game. At the time, Rodriguez was married to his first wife, Cynthia Scurtis, while Lopez was still married to Marc Anthony.
Lopez and Rodriguez reconnected twelve years later when they ran into each other at a restaurant. According to Lopez, they briefly said hello, but it was her who couldn’t resist continuing the conversations. “After [lunch] I went outside,” she said. “And for some reason I felt like tapping him on the shoulder”. He then asked her out to dinner via text.
By March 2017, neither J-Lo nor A-Rod were trying to hide the fact that they were dating. During the month, they were spotted vacationing together in The Bahamas. ARod’s sister also posted a selfie of herself with JLo, captioning it #miscuñis, which means things were moving along pretty nicely.
March 31st, 2017
When co-hosting “The View” at the end of March, Rodriguez had only great things to say about his new lady love: “She’s an amazing girl. We’re having a great time”. He also went on to say that J-Lo was “one of the smartest human beings I’ve ever met”. And he didn’t stop there! He showered on the compliments by calling her “an incredible mother” who “loves family”.
By April, it was J-Lo’s turn to gush about her boo-thing on the talk-show circuit. While being grilled about her new boyfriend by Ellen (naturally), Lopez called Rodriguez “a great guy,” this 100% confirming their relationship.
Never one to do things half-heartedly, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez made their public debut as a couple at arguably the most prestigious event in the world: the Met Gala, of course. This occasion also marked J-Lo’s debut on A-Rod’s Instagram–and the first of many.
By June 2017, it was obvious to the world that this couple was the real deal. Not only was Rodriguez gushing to the press that Jennifer was the ideal role model for his daughters, the pair was also taking glamorous European trips together and posting their adventures to their millions of followers on Instagram.
We all know that one of the most crucial steps of a relationship is when your signficant other accompanies you to a work event. Lopez and Rodriguez crossed this milestone when A-Rod accompanied her to the premiere of “World of Dance”–a show she stars in and produces. It’s for reasons like this that A-Rod calls her “one of the most brilliant business minds that [he’s] ever met”!
J-Lo and A-Rod took their relationship a step further when they spent Thanksgiving together in Rodriguez’s home. On Instagram, they shared with their followers that this was one of the many times they combined families for the holiday–further proof that they were very confident with where their relationship was.
Along with the power couple’s magazine cover debut on the December issue of “Vanity Fair”, the duo also debuted their new (and catchy) portmanteau: J-Rod (we’re pretty sure they had it trademarked before they went public).
Lopez and Rodriguez showed their Latinx pride by visiting Puerto Rico in January after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
In the March issue of Harper’s Bazaar, JLo got candid about her relationship with A-Rod and addressed the possibility of a wedding on the horizon. “I do believe in marriage,” she said. “And I would love to grow old with somebody in a committed relationship. But I’m not forcing anything right now. It’s good, it’s healthy; we communicate well…We have a similar makeup.” All signs point to yes!
May 7, 2018
JLo and A-Rod attended their second Met Gala as a couple in matching couture Balmain outfits, cementing their status as style icons.
Lopez and Rodriguez spent her 49th birthday in one of their go-to vacation spots: The Bahamas. A-Rod took to Instagram to share a cute pic of their blended family on vacation along with a heartfelt tribute to his lady love. ” For someone who has been about giving everything she has 365 days a year—to our children, our families, the world,” he said. “I hope today, we can give you all the happiness you deserve. I love you mucho”.
A-Rod’s reaction to JLo’s epic VMA’s performance last August became a viral sensation, as his pride over his girlfriend’s triple-threat skills were all too apparent. Twitter was full of women wanting a man who looks at them like ARod looks at JLo.
A-Rod continued to support his girlfriend by attending events that were obviously important to her. In October, Rodriguez accompanied Lopez to Elle’s famous “Women in Hollywood” event. That night, he posted a supportive message to JLo on his Instagram: “With two young daughters and a woman I admire by my side, I know how important it is that we raise women up and teach our girls that there is no limit to what they can do.”
According to their Instagram accounts, J-Rod spent New Years eve in Malibu, again with their blended family. Rodriguez’s caption read: “As the sun sets on 2018, from our family to yours … #HappyNewYear everyone!”.
Lopez took her athlete-beau to the ultimate glamour event: The Oscars. The two shined in evening wear and Rodriguez was solidly by her side while she strutted the red carpet and presented awards.
On March 9th, J-Rod announced that they were engaged with mutual Instagram posts sharing the news. The Instagram posts showed off the 15-carat emerald-cut diamond engagement ring, which is reported to be worth up to a cool $5 million.
March 10th, 2019
On Sunday night, former Major League Baseball player Jose Canseco accused A-Rod of cheating on J.Lo with his ex-wife, Jennifer Canseco. Before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s important to realize that Canseco has a history of making some pretty out-there statements (i.e. asking his Twitter followers to “spend the day with me and my alien Buddies”and insisting that he’s acquainted with “Bigfoot and a real alien”). In other words: there’s reason to doubt his word.
As of now, both JLo and ARod have remained silent in response to these explosive allegations, so there’s no way of knowing the veracity of the claims. Until then, all we can do is speculate and hope for the best!