Dare to Ask: This look says 'proud to be Latina'
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why do a lot of Hispanic women pluck their eyebrows and then draw them on
with an eyebrow pencil? And why do they draw a hard lip outline and paste their
hair flat with gel? These appear harsh to me, but they must appear sexy to you
and Hispanic men?
Ellen, 48, white, Broomfield, Colo.
You answered your own question. Because that is what they think looks good.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Shelly, 49, white, New Alexandria, Pa.
I am a Hispanic female, however I do not pluck all my eyebrows and then draw
them in with a pencil. That is a choice that different females make, Hispanic or
not. I do on occasion draw a hard lip outline simply because I like how I look.
I always "paste" my hair flat with gel, though, whenever I wear it up in a
ponytail because I like to look neat and presentable and not like I just woke up
. . . and didn't want to brush my hair. Believe it or not, it is hard work,
especially since I have a lot of hair and it is way past my waist.
Sandy, 20, Santa Cruz, Calif.
Say hola to the chola.
Chola girls, that is. They are primarily Latina teens (not all of them now,
folks, just a small portion) in larger urban areas who have adopted a certain
style, said Lorena Chinchilla, editor of Lindisima.com, a Web site for Latinas
in the U.S. that focuses on fashion and beauty.
And what is that style?
Hmmm. To quote lyrics from Lean like a Chola, West Coast radio personality
Carmen's parody of the 2007 Chicano rap single Lean Like a Cholo:
never mess with a chick, with lip liner no lipstick
wanna look good I'll tell you how
first gotta paint on your eyebrows
spray your hair with Aqua Net
get a tattoo to rep your set
What we have here is a look that came of age in the '90s, preferred by
"chola" girls who hung out with "cholos" (not always gang-bangers, but
working-class, tough Latinos nonetheless), according to Chinchilla. It's a way
they distinguish themselves, she said.
"It started out being associated with street gangs, but now it's more
acceptable. You don't have to belong to a gang. It's just a way to stand out, to
say 'I'm proud of being Latina.' "
As a matter of fact, it is more acceptable and mainstream. It was a look
favored by pop singer Gwen Stefani (of Italian, Irish and Scottish descent, no
less), complete with distinguishing high ponytail, hair gel, dark eyebrows,
heavy lip-liner, etc.
While the makeup and clothing style - sometimes a tight top and bare midriff,
with low-rise jeans, big earrings, Catholic-saint necklaces, expensive sneakers
- can be harsh to some, it's not about how others feel about it, Chinchilla
"Part of it is that cholas are just trying to belong to a group, so they are
not necessarily saying [with their look] 'Don't mess with me' - although some of
them do mean it."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to phillip. firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his
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