Dominicans Do Pinup Too, 50s Style Art Depicts Racial Diversity and Beauty

The classic 1950s pinup girl redefined sexy in the United States decades ago, but it’s still a relatively new concept in the Dominican Republic.

“A pin-up studio isn't a new thing in the States but it’s a new way of portraying people here,” said Alina Vargas, 32, photographer and founder of Ladybug Pinup studio, the first ever studio dedicated to pinup photography on the island.

Vargas admired pinups, but felt they lacked diversity. So she imagined “a new kind of pinup girl, a Dominican one, with her curly, coily, kinky hair and dark skin,” she said in a phone interview from the Dominican Republic.

“A question popped into my head: ‘why should a pinup girl only exist on paper or a magazine?’"

Focusing on the diversity of Dominican women, Vargas started “Pinup De Pura Cepa” or "Purebred Pinup," a photography project.

In her studio, 12 women adorn the brightly colored canvasses, wearing long and short skirts, the classic high-waist shorts from the era, and bathing suits. All the women are dressed conservatively, but still sexy.

More importantly, all the women are different – some sport short, tightly curled brown hair, others have long raven-colored hair, all women with a Latina flavor.

After a successful opening of the “Pinup De Pura Cepa” exposition in Santo Domingo, Vargas eventually took her work to New York City's hotspot APT78.

"The exhibit is a true representation of the shapes, sizes and hues of Latinas," said Tony Peralta, who curated the exhibit. "This is something that the mainstream media, American and Latino fail to represent properly."

Karen Cardosa, 32, was happy to be able to identify with the variety of women in the photos, and is now considering posing for one.

“I am accustomed to seeing women with fair skin and straight hair,” said Cardosa, sporting a light brown curly do that made her hazel-green eyes pop. “Seeing women with olive and dark complexions and afro-textured hair was something I could relate to.”

The women in the photographs are all also shown working. Whether it’s gleefully dancing, diligently placing rollers in another girl’s hair, grinding coffee beans or grating yucca, the women are showing their talent beyond just looking good for the camera.

“These women are doing humble jobs. The women who grate the yucca are not the owners of the home, they are the housekeepers,” said Vargas. “I wanted to bring dignity to humble jobs and the daily labors of women, I want them to know these jobs are great.”

Vargas wanted to stay close to the Dominican heritage of the women. For Rashan Hoke, it is the mixing of the Latina flair with a classic American style that brought him in.

“This gives versatility to Latinas,” said Hoke, 42. “This gives me the sense that while Latinas have been far removed, now we look at Latinas as part of America, they are here to stay, you can either embrace it or keep it moving.”  

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