Do you know that feeling when you meet someone from the internet, in the flesh, for the very first time?
You know what I mean.
It’s exciting, definitely, but requires a level of trust and vulnerability that leaves us instantly exposed. We only see fragments of people on the internet. The sides of themselves they choose to present, the ones they are proud of, or most want to believe in. Digital threads of conversation, of words and photographs that paint a picture of a stranger in your mind, create something more akin to a figment of your imagination than anything else, really. Until you meet that is. Then, they exist in three dimensions, and this perfectly crafted image of this perfectly foreign stranger either solidifies or unravels. You fall in love, or you don’t.
Meet Guadalupe Ambrosio, the creative, fat, fly, femme whose name sounds like a decadent Mexican dessert created exclusively at an immigrant-owned bakery in the Bronx. Lupe, aka “Lupetty” (because she is not here for your bullshit) and I, first crossed digital paths on instagram due to a mutual love of fashion, and all things thrifted. The icing on the Ambrosio cake however? This bad-ass babe is a long-time activist and current co-director at the non-profit, NYSYLC, or The New York State Youth Leadership Council; the first undocumented youth-led organization in NYC.
We linked up with Lupe (irl), one spontaneous and unseasonably windy afternoon in Little Haiti while our girl was smack in the middle of her Miami vacation; and let me tell you, the brown sisterhood bond was too strong.
Swaddled in thrift store fly, lipstick poppin’, and standing at a statuesque 5’10 in huarachas, Lupe is an undeniable presence. A fashion lover and creative at heart, Lupe uses makeup and personal style as a means of taking ownership of her hypervisibility in certain spaces. Her naturally playful and coquettish energy made her an absolute dream to photograph. So it was no surprise when we learned that at 16, with aspirations of plus-sized modeling, Lupe entered a model search for the chance to win an all expense paid trip to model with an agency in Paris, and this bitch WON, THAT, SHIT.
But being a confident fat, brown, woman is in and of itself, an act of resistance, and for Lupe, leaving the United States for what most would call a once in a lifetime opportunity, was not a risk she could take. You see, Guadalupe is an a undocumented immigrant. Born in Mexico, Guadalupe’s family came to the United States and settled in the Bronx, when she was just three years old. At sixteen she made the heart-wrenching decision to walk away from her dream due to the very real possibility that if she pursued modeling, she would have to leave her family and face being barred from re-entering the United States.
This sacrifice however set her on a path that would expose her to the politics of being undocumented in America, and would eventually lead to her volunteer work and career as an activist/organizer with NYSYLC. As we shot the shit at Legion Memorial Park, a quiet and unassuming corner of the city overlooking Biscayne Bay, I got to see the digital Lupe jump off-screen into the real world.
Guadalupe is a fiercely confident and intelligent young woman, molded by years of championing her community in spaces that are violent and aggressive toward black and brown bodies. She is an advocate for self-love, and the right of every human to have agency over their lives and choices, but don’t take her kindness for weakness. Lobbying and advocacy for minority communities in political spaces involves constantly exposing yourself to demoralizing, highly stressful interactions where your worth as a human being is non-existent, and you are told that you do not matter by the very politicians who represent you.
For advocates like Lupe however, exposure to the realities of our broken political system become learning experiences with which to better organize and educate the communities they serve. Because fuck me? Na, FUCK YOU. As a non-citizen queer woman Lupe is passionate about educating and thus empowering other women so that they may take ownership of their own narratives and become leaders in their own right. She is your number one cheerleader, will gas you the fuck up, and look like a tasty snack while doing it. At NYSYLC Lupe is involved in educating undocumented women on reproductive health, domestic violence, emotional labor, sexual assault etc. and teaching them how to protect themselves and one another within a system that will exploit and abuse them.
Needless to say, spending the afternoon with digital friend turned flesh and blood human was proof that la hermandad can exist with someone you’ve never even met. Lupe’s ambition and tenacity inspires me on a profound level, because Lupe is all of us. When we convince ourselves that we cannot, but we do it anyway. When we expose our truths, and our vulnerabilities open doors we never dreamed of. When we as women, stop looking at ambition as a dirty word and exist tenaciously in spaces not designed for us. When we lift each other up and reach summits we never would have been able to scale on our own.
By investing in our communities, sharing information, and teaching young people how to believe in their abilities as leaders, communities of color are able to create opportunities for ourselves where none exist. Guadalupe Ambrosio is a proud, unapologetic and unafraid, undocumented immigrant. A DACA recipient and young professional working toward a college degree, who doesn’t subscribe to the good versus bad immigrant narrative because we are ALL worthy, and whose existence in this country is challenged just the same. She is but one hypervisible body, advocating for the thousands who struggle silently, who fear deportation, who are exploited and taken advantage of by a government that regards them as subhuman. Education however, is our best tool, and by allowing people of color to lead their own fight, we will ultimately knock the system on its ass.
Want to know how you can help? Ask yourself one simple question, where does my money go? This holiday season, be sure to support your local non-profit organizations and help fund the fight. Follow @NYSYLC on social media and visit https://www.nysylc.org/donate/ to make a donation today. Until next time, believe that ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things, put your money where your mouth is, and keep your double-x fly.