This Afro-Latina Started a Magazine in Puerto Rico to Celebrate Black Beauty
And when she did get calls for castings, she rarely saw any other Black faces. Antonetty-Lebrón, whose skin was a deep rich brown, learned at an early age that Afro-Latinos—or afro descendientes—were noticeably absent in nearly every form of Spanish media in Puerto Rico
From TV anchors to beauty queens, the "ideal" Puerto Rican was always fair-skinned with European features—despite the fact that Puerto Rico’s rich history includes African, Taino native, and Spaniard ancestry.
Still, when Afro-Latino images did appear in media or television, they were often in offensive or derogatory roles—and just like in the United States, actors would even dress in blackface for comedy.
The erasure and devaluation of Afro-Latinos in the media was so harsh that Antonetty-Lebrón’s father—a Black Puerto Rican himself—would often search high and low for copies of magazines like Essence and Ebony to bring home from his trips to New York. When he arrived with the gifts, his daughter would flip through the pages with excitement, soaking in the images of women who looked like her. And on TV, she'd turn to MTV, eager to catch a glimpse of Janet Jackson confidently sporting braids. She was so enamored with Jackson's look, in fact, that she even asked her mother to stop the painful and damaging process of hot combing her hair so that she, too, could wear natural styles.
Sacha at age 4.
COURTESY OF SACHA LEBRON
Those early encounters with images of Black beauty are what inspired Antonetty-Lebrón to pursue a career in media and communications. “When I saw that this was possible, I said ‘I want to do a project like this. I want to have a space in the media where we have a representation, and our beauty is seen.’”
After graduating from college with a communications degree in Puerto Rico, Antonetty-Lebrón earned a journalism master's from Florida International University in 2003. Eventually, she worked in public relations before becoming a senior leader in communications and marketing at the Boys & Girls Club of Puerto Rico.
But all the while, Antonetty-Lebrón was quietly working on a dream that would’ve made her younger self proud: In December 2018, she launched Revista étnica (Ethnic Magazine), a 60-plus page glossy print magazine dedicated to celebrating the beauty and social issues of the Afro-Latinx communities in Puerto Rico.
Each edition of Revista étnica features Afro-Latinx models, writers, photographers, and subjects from across the island, including profiles of Afro-Latinas doing extraordinary things—like a young woman who interned at NASA—plus investigative reports and features about everything from music duos to local restaurants and a shopping guide for afrocentric turbans and accessories. The magazine is written and published in Spanish, with copies available in local Walgreens, Walmarts, and coffee shops throughout Puerto Rico.