“Be yourself.” A simple, but often complex piece of advice that everyone has heard at least once in his or her lifetime. But what does that really mean? For Monica Veloz, the beautiful mastermind behind MonicaStyle Muse on YouTube, this means coming to terms with being black and Dominican. In one of her most popular videos on her channel titled, “I Am Too Dark to Be Dominican,” Monica educates her following about the emotional realities of giving into the world’s cultural and racial stereotypes and how she decided to brush off the haters and embrace her heritage.
The bomb fashion and beauty vlogger from Bushwick, Brooklyn became motivated to start her channel when she realized that she wanted to turn on the television and watch more people who looked like her: dark-skinned Dominicans. “I used to look up Afro-Latinas and would never see myself and assumed people would just know that we existed,” Monica tells us. “It’s important to start educating people and to let people know that black people speak Spanish and so many other languages.”
After hitting over 100,000 subscribers on her channel six months ago, it’s safe to say that Monica is helping to put Afro-Latinas on the map. Monica’s channel provides her audience, also known as her “muses,” with fashion inspiration, makeup reviews, hilarious bilingual videos featuring her closest loved ones, and so much more. Her content is often inspired by her friends and her family, who she claims can be crazy but incredibly relatable to anyone surrounded by a circle of people who love the camera.
While discussing her creative process and her incredible team of influencers, Monica says she believes a person’s circle indicates where he or she is going professionally. “Stay around people who are hungry and motivated. It’s important to feed off of energy and constantly motivate each other. A great team keeps you grounded and in check.” Monica tells us that her brother, Juan Veloz, is one of the most important influences throughout her production process. “When I start working on a new video, I write things in a diary and tell my brother. He has a final say in many of the things I do because he has a different eye and a similar vision. He could honestly be ‘JuanStyle Muse!’”
Despite her growing fan base, Monica doesn’t like to think of herself as a public figure, but she realizes that being Instagram and YouTube famous comes with its pros and cons. “It’s tough to stay politically correct because we live in a day and age where you have to be vocal. I want to be a voice for people who can’t speak up and for those who are speaking up and can’t be heard.” She stresses that social media influencers do things that may be seen as controversial, but it is essential for people to remember that these gurus are people of substance with things they stand for. Monica believes that using her platform to represent the underrepresented and educate others is one of the most rewarding parts about her job.
There is so much to learn from Monica’s humbling journey to becoming one with her identity as an Afro-Latina and having the opportunity to put Afro-Latinas on our radar. For anyone who might be struggling to come out of their shell or be comfortable with being their true selves, she advises people to dig deep and understand your history and culture. “Growing up in my culture, you’re not taught to be an Afro-Latina. You’re told you’re Dominican,” Monica expresses. “Society makes you want to choose between being a black woman or a Hispanic woman, but that’s not a decision you have to make.”
What’s next for Monica? A year from now, Monica hopes that her MonicaStyle Muse channel will hit the 500,000 subscribers mark on YouTube. Eventually, she hopes to have her own talk show on a digital platform featuring all kinds of influencers of all genres and have the chance to really engage with her audience. While it’s difficult to tell what’s going to happen in anyone’s future, we do know one thing for sure: Monica’s determined and down to earth energy has brought her a long way in her career thus far and she’s only just getting started.
By Josephine Bathan | Photos by Juan Veloz