Growing up, I used to join my Peruvian cholita mom on the sofa to watch telenovelas. These dramatic Spanish-language soap operas introduced me to worlds that looked nothing like my own — big mansions, wealthy families, private schools, and the most beautiful family-owned fincas — but that’s not why these shows fascinated me. Instead, I paid close attention to the way the lighting changed to spotlight the two love interests when they locked eyes for the first time. I noticed the camera move to a close-up shot to film the protagonist as she got ready for a date her parents didn’t approve of. I observed the musical score as she sauntered around the neighborhood. All eyes were on her, and she liked it that way. I wanted to be a main character.
As a Peruvian immigrant with brown skin and Indigenous features, I rarely — if ever — saw myself as a main character. In popular entertainment, these roles are almost always filled by white and light-skinned Latinas and Latin American women who come from wealth or whose Eurocentric-type of beauty steals the heart of an affluent man who will give her riches. That’s not my story. Yet, one weekday when I was 19 years old, I found myself listening to my favorite bolero, “Sabor a Mí,” and imagining a different kind of romance. It was 2 a.m., and I should have been sleeping or studying. But instead, I let the sweet sound of the guitar, the romantic voices of Los Panchos, and a nostalgia from a time I did not have the pleasure of living in transport me directly to 1959. I pictured myself in the Old Hollywood scene. To me, I belonged there. And I enjoyed being the star of this daydream.
"I was already living my own telenovela, and in this production, I am the main character."
From that moment on, I noticed every little thing about life could be put into a movie, o aún mejor, a telenovela: moving from Peru to New Jersey, cutting my hair, going to college, and just going for a stroll around the park. That day, I realized I was already living my own telenovela, and in this production, I am the main character.
Since this revelation, I have been recording myself romanticizing the otherwise mundane parts of my life. On TikTok, I’ve made shorts of me hailing a cab, eating lunch, and submitting finals. In each video, I’m showing up for myself and for other Brown Latinas who haven’t seen themselves as central characters. Growing up, I played a background part, a spectator who was too scared to show myself in front of an audience because of my brown skin, thick hair, hooked nose, and short legs. I entered my main character era not because I want to be seen by others but rather because I want to see myself and be the best version of myself. I want to be kind to myself and know that if I’m scared, I will always hold my own hand through any situation — no matter how wild the plot gets.
I might not be the protagonist that showrunners have in mind when working on television series, but that hasn’t stopped me from living as if I’m the main character of my own life — because I am. Here are five ways I achieve the main character look and lifestyle and how you can, too.
Show your confidence.
@iukvel28 Low key made me feel like the main character of a novela #novelalatina #thepicture #latinasbelike ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys - Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey
One of the first pieces of advice I remember my mami giving me was “todo lo que hagas, hazlo con confianza.” She raised me to be confident in my decisions, my voice, my opinions, and even my fears. For so long, I feared cutting my hair. It was a part of myself that I tied to femininity and beauty for so long. It was a feature people admired about me and suggested I never snip. But, after a while, my long hair stopped feeling like me and, instead, something I kept for others. And that’s not something main characters do. So last year, I chopped it off — confident in my decision, and after seeing myself in the mirror, confident in my new look, too.
Entering your main character era means having trust in yourself and the things you do, whether you are letting your hair grow long or cutting it all off because you can’t find yourself in it anymore. It is crucial to have the confidence to present yourself in a room full of people showing exactly who you are.
Curate your personal soundtrack.
@iukvel28 Viviendo mi fantasía 😔👊🏼#nadieyo #maincharacter #latinotiktok #fantasia #latinaennyc #nyc ♬ Sex and the City (Main Theme) - TV Sounds Unlimited
If you wish to enter your main character era, music will become your best friend to set the mood for the day. Think about it as your own personal soundtrack. For example, it’s a sunny day and you have to get ready to work. You wish you were at some beach in Brazil right now, so you play some bossa nova to start a calm summer morning. As you walk to your job, everyone around you is in a rush, hectic, and stressed, but you don’t let it affect you. Kind of like Carrie Bradshaw in the intro of Sex and the City, keep walking pretty with your head up high and let the world around you disappear as your favorite song goes on.
Discover a fashion aesthetic that speaks to you.
Whether you thrift or shop retail, as the main character, you understand that the clothes you wear don't make you. Instead, you make the clothes. Your wardrobe is a reflection of your character and what you want to communicate with the world each day. It could be wearing colorful clothes on a rainy day or wearing pieces of jewelry made in your home country to stay connected with your roots even if you are miles away. The main character doesn’t follow trends — she is original and true to no one but herself. Next time you go shopping, avoid recreating what other people are wearing. Take your time finding the unique pieces you know will look best on you, which will become staples in your closet for years to come.
Find your people.
No matter what era of life you are currently in, finding your people will make your journey more fun and personal. As the main character, you will find yourself spending time by yourself and prioritizing your mental health, creating nice habits, exploring hobbies and interests, and reflecting. However, it is also important that you share time with your people. You know, that someone you can talk with about anything because they are your judgment-free zone. It could be a significant other, or even better, a best friend who will not shut up about pop culture references you don’t understand. Your people will help you grow and be vulnerable. They guide you to explore more sides of yourself that you wouldn’t have been able to find without them.
Romanticize the little things.
Ever seen those TikTok videos of people putting multiple 0.3 second clips of their lives into one video with a fun song and thought to yourself, “Wow, I wish my life looked like that.” Well, guess what: Your life is already like that. You’re just not documenting it. And, honestly, you don’t have to. Just know that most things about life can be romanticized, moments like sharing a café con leche with your mom at 8:30 a.m., long hours of studying for finals, dancing with a special person, or even crying after receiving good news — that’s all stuff worth seeing through a romantic lens. What makes certain movies so special is how well they capture the ordinary and how those small interactions are transformed into something extraordinary on the big screen. Your life, you at this very moment, is a fantastic scene that someone would try to interpret if it were seen in a movie theater.