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Shawnick Rodriguez was sitting at her desk one day in late 2019, filling the unavoidable afternoon lull by scrolling through Instagram. She suddenly realized none of the accounts she followed showed Latina artists and creators from Philadelphia or South Jersey.
“I knew we have so much to offer,” she recalled thinking, “so why isn’t there something creative for us, by us.” A Puerto Rican artist herself, Rodriguez knew how important a space like this could be for artists, creators, and and small business owners.
Rodriguez sees the page as a support system, which is why she calls her followers “primas” — meaning cousins. The relationship she’s built with her following, now over 3,600 people, is much deeper than random, faceless names. She thinks of them as family.
“We could say ‘amigas’ all day, but it’s more personal because it’s specific to Philly and Jersey girls,” Rodriguez said. “We grew up here, we know everything out here — so why are we gonna call each other friends, when it’s more than that.”
Over the past two years, the account has been highlighting estheticians, makeup artists, muralists, plant lovers, fashion bloggers, you name it. The page has featured Telemundo 62’s Isabel Sanchez, fitness trainer and content creator Jacqui Moranto, muralist duo the Taina Sisters, and many more.
Rodriguez also makes and puts up inspirational social posts as encouraging messages to her followers.
Plus-sized fashion blogger Ivette, who goes by the handle Curves with Coffee, met Rodriguez through social media and they became friends IRL. When Rodriguez wanted to start Phillyaited Latinas, she bounced ideas off of Ivette, a fellow Puerto Rican, like what to call their followers and who to feature.
Ivette, who was born and raised in Philly and does not publicly use more than one name, loves the community the account has been able to create. Before COVID, she said, Phillyaited Latinas would host networking events where people made long-lasting connections and friendships.
Though the pandemic affected how often events are happening, Ivette appreciates and supports the Phillyaited Latinas community, because it’s who she is — and it’s why the account exists.
“I see you, I believe in you, you have something and I love the way your eyes light up when you talk about your dream,” Ivette said, recounting the emotions she feels scrolling through the account. “How can I help you achieve that, how can I be supportive for what it is that you’re actually doing?”
Camden native Kayla Lomax is another Puerto Rican creator who follows the account. It was “cool” to see that a page like this existed, she said, not only because it showcased Latina creatives in the area but also because it offered inspiration.
“Sometimes when you do create content, you hit these random bumps where you might feel uninspired or, like you’re not doing enough,” Lomax said. “So it’s just nice to have pages like that, that are just gentle reminders of why we even do things like this anyway.”
Lomax said the representation is important to combat the often negative perception of Latinas in the media.
“We’re not just spicy,” she said. “We’re also loving, we’re caring, we’re creative, we’re fun, we’re different.”
Rodriguez, the account creator, is also originally from Camden, but she now calls herself a Philadelphian, and feels like a part of the city’s Latino community. She runs Phillyaited Latinas alongside her brand Art by SIR, where she paints murals, makes jewelry, and creates visual imagery centered around the Puerto Rican experience.
Rodriguez said she didn’t create the Phillyaited Latinas to promote her own work, but as a way to uplift others.
“When I created this page, it was specifically for me to highlight other women that I believe have it in them,” Rodriguez said. “They have something very special to offer us, so why not give them the platform to do it?”