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Princess Nokia: for infusing rap with punk rock, feminism and 'Afrolatinidad'

To mark International Women's Day, Univision honors 15 incredible Latinas who are innovating in fields from sports to science.

“I'm that black-a-rican bruja straight out from the Yoruba
And my people come from Africa diaspora, Cuba
And you mix that Arawak, that original people
I'm that Black Native American, I vanquish all evil”

Princess Nokia has no time for anyone else’s standards. The Nuyorican rapper’s music—as influenced by punk rock as it is by hip hop—unapologetically embraces her African and indigenous heritage, her body, her “ghetto” roots, her queerness, her feminism. Princess Nokia, whose real name is Destiny Frasqueri, seems to say with every word and every movement that you can do whatever you want, even if you’re Afro-Latina, even if the cops are against you, even if you don’t have any money.

We could speak about her difficult childhood in New York, about her insistence that women stand at the front at her shows or about her love for Puerto Rico, but her lyrics say it all. In Brujas she reclaims the African and indigenous spirituality of her Caribbean ancestors, long derided as witchcraft by the European societies that colonized the Americas, and proudly refers to herself and her girlfriends as “ghetto witches.” In Tomboy she brags about the body she’s grown to love (“ with my little titties and my phat belly”) and how to go beyond just accepting yourself to really knowing you’re the best thing that’s ever walked this earth.

But Princess Nokia lives those ideas far beyond her music. Her Smart Girl Club, an arts collective that hosts a radio show and puts on workshops and poetry performances, gives her a vehicle to talk about the issues she cares about: identity, gentrification in New York, spirituality, and what she calls urban feminism—"a tangible form of feminism that is accessible to ghetto urban women who do not have access to the institutionalized forms of feminism that are largely represented in higher education.”

Last year, a video went viral of a man shouting racist slurs at black passengers on a New York subway. When other riders tried to force him out of the train, he tried to barrel his way back on—until someone off camera threw a paper bowl of soup at him. The soup-thrower turned out to be Princess Nokia. “Putting yourself in potential danger is scary ASF, esp as a young women,” she tweeted about the incident. “But I be damned if i let some drunk bigot call a group of young teenage boys racist names and allow him to get away with it.”

Emma Gonzalez
For calling B.S. on the NRA
Marlen Esparza
For revolutionizing women's boxing
Germaine Franco
For bringing Mexican music to the big screen
Rita Moreno
For redefining what it means to be 86
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas
For bringing marginalized farmworker's voices into the #MeToo conversation
Diana Trujillo
For getting us closer to Mars
Princess Nokia
For infusing rap with punk rock, feminism and 'Afrolatinidad'
Candi CdeBaca
For fighting gentrification in a changing Denver
Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski
For breaking barriers in the exploration of space and time
Cristina Martínez
For daring to talk about undocumented restaurant workers
Geisha Williams
For leading California into a green energy future
Elizabeth Guzman
For taking her immigrant story to the Virginia legislature
Reyna Montoya
For encouraging undocumented youth to dream and heal
Maria Hinojosa
For putting Latino stories front and center
Gabby Rivera
For being the first queer Latina to write for Marvel Comics

Coordination: Jessica Weiss, Olivia Liendo and Allie Jaynes.

Illustrations: Grace Berríos and Jackie Albano.

Web design and development: Juan Jesús Gómez.

Editorial: Nathalie Alvaray, Tamoa Calzadilla, Juliana Jiménez, Douglas Gómez and Rogerio Manzano.

Photo Editing: David Maris.

This story was produced in collaboration with Univision Contigo, Univision's social responsibility team.

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