Fashionista’s Love Affair with Modern Activism
“When I see something that I feel isn’t right, I say something about it,” says Cara Santana – fashion icon, actress and political activist – who is devoted to both making herself heard and starting conversations to bring awareness to social-justice issues.
It's early September, and Santana has just returned from the Venice Film Festival. Always gracious, she gushes about her favorite designer Giorgio Armani, who dressed her in Venice. “I wore two gowns, and it was such a dream come true. Mr. Armani is an exceptional designer. When I think of red carpet or evening wear, I would have to say Giorgio Armani,” shares Santana, whose everyday wardrobe is filled with clothes from streetwear designers such as Alexander Wang, Proenza Schouler, Derek Lam, and Phillip Lim. We casually transition to chatting about her daily beauty routine, which is just as low maintenance as she is (“I am a less-is-more type of person”). Her favorite beauty products include Smith's Rosebud Salve by the Rosebud Perfume Company (“It’s a one-stop shop for my cuticles, hands and lips”), Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer, Glossier’s Boy Brow, and Miss Dior Eau de Parfum by Dior.
With almost a million followers on Instagram that all started from her fashion blog, I ask Santana how she began to share her political views and become a prominent human-rights activist on social media. “Growing up on the border of El Paso, Texas and having the parents that I have,” she shares, smiling. “My father worked in juvenile detention for 35 years, and my mother is an attorney who was very involved in social causes. I was raised feeling very comfortable being able to express myself and my views.” Then, I mention the backlash that she occasionally receives for sharing her opinion. “Of course, I’ll post something and lose followers or see a big drop in engagement. I get a lot of criticism because people don’t want to hear a young girl in entertainment speak about politics or social justice or civil rights. They think that I don’t know what I’m talking about,” she further elaborates. “I run my social media with the idea in mind that it is a way to communicate with people who are interested in me and who I am. I love fashion and beauty and travel, but I don’t think style and substance are mutually exclusive.” Santana continues to start conversations about all of her many interests in hopes of encouraging others to speak out and providing them another unique frame of looking at contemporary world problems as we dive into a conversation about equality for women in Hollywood, especially in light of #MeToo. “I have so much respect and admiration for the strength and fortitude for the women who came forward and spoke about their experiences,” she says, making sure that she speaks highly not just of the famous women who are able to voice their opinions, but also of all of the nameless women who continually work behind the scenes to provide for the families and are unable to voice their concerns out of fear of repercussions. “It’s not just our industry. Women are continually subjected to social inequalities, sexual misconduct, and pay inequality,” she pauses for a moment to consider, then says, “It is so important for us to blow the whistle and bring awareness that this is not only happening in our industry, but any industry where we have duality of men and women.” Santana stresses the need to have allies from both genders in order to create an environment where victims feel comfortable coming forward. “This isn’t a men-versus-women thing. This is strictly about protecting our women and educating our men,” she acknowledges, adding that there have been numerous positive changes in the entertainment industry, but in order to see a permanent difference, we must keep the conversation going.
“There are facts that are being held up as true but aren’t factual at all, and it starts with bringing awareness to these.”
As for the ongoing immigration crisis and what we all can do to help children reunite with their families, Santana urges us all to be more conscious, stressing the importance of reaching out to your local senator with your concerns, especially if they tend to vote Conservative. We should take it upon ourselves to learn more about this crisis as she affirms, “There is so much misinformation out right now about the immigration crisis and who we are really taking into our country and who we are deporting. There are facts that are being held up as true but aren’t factual at all, and it starts with bringing awareness to these.” She then instantaneously brings up other ways that everyone can help. “There are so many great organizations that are working to aid families that have been separated and refugees that are living in the United States,” says Santana who has visited multiple refugee shelters. “They are filled with people from all over the world who are either waiting for amnesty to be granted or to be deported home. They are living on donations. They need food, they need clothing, they need water. They are trying to help people who are trying to get citizenship, and they don’t have the resources or money because they are coming from circumstances that are so dangerous and coming from countries that are so poor,” she describes. According to her, awareness is key in solving any major human-rights crisis, and it all begins in our immediate environment, at home, school, work, and community. “Even if you don’t have any money to donate but people in your network do, you can post it on your Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. You can get the word out,” she says.
When it comes to her acting career, too, she carefully chooses roles because of the team she would be working with and the message that each project delivers to its audience. Over the summer, for instance, she shot the lead role in Be the Light with Malcolm Goodwin. The film follows her character Celina’s return to her hometown to take care of her estranged father when she finds out that he is dying from cancer. “I’m really excited for people to see this project. It’s a film about redemption and about family. It’s very socially topical and aware, and I’m really proud to be a part of it,” she says of the film. Santana will also star in The Detective, which tells the true story of an LAPD officer who was raping and murdering young women in the East Hollywood area until a young woman caught on to his atrocious actions (“It was a great film to be a part of. It was a thriller”). She also expresses her enjoyment of working with actress Chelsea Ricketts as she always credits those who have been a part of her team.
Writer: Sophia Ware
Photographer: Seung Lee (www.kokumastudio.com)
Photographer Assistant: Mason Kim
Stylist: Maeve Reilly
Stylist Assistant: Alexandra Grandquist
Hair: Justine Marjan
Hair Assistant: Hayley Heckmann
Makeup: Dillon Peña (for TheOnly.Agency - using Benefit Cosmetics)
Videographer: Andy Kim
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to Amber Thayer (@amberthayer - www.amberthayer.com) & The
Henry (@thehenryrestaurant - www.thehenryrestaurant.com)