Before Yoli Lara became Playboy’s newest Playmate for June 2019, she was faced with Hurricane Maria.
The model who is originally from Toa Baja, on the outskirts of San Juan, Puerto Rico, immediately left behind her home in Los Angeles and her career to be by her family’s side in 2017, when the devastating natural disaster hit the island with catastrophic results. She remained there as the island attempted to recover, as well as worked with Waves for Water, a nonprofit organization that installed handmade water filters throughout Puerto Rico.
Willing to pick up where she left off, Lara came back to Los Angeles in 2018. And two weeks after that, Playboy called. She would go on to return to Puerto Rico once more for an opportunity of a lifetime.
Lara spoke to Fox News about baring nearly all for the magazine, why she thinks the title of Playmate is inspiring, and how Hurricane Maria impacted her home.
Fox News: What was it like seeing your photos in Playboy for the first time?
Yoli Lara: You know, I was so excited from the moment Playboy contacted me to be in the issue. I thought it was a great opportunity to showcase what the women of today look like, especially Latin women. And then to see the pictures and how beautiful they came out. The photographer really did an amazing job of showcasing the woman’s body. It was just great. And Playboy is integrating more female photographers. I think that’s awesome. There’s no other way to see a woman’s body than through a woman’s eyes. I was blessed with that opportunity.
Fox News: Were you nervous about taking such daring photos?
Lara: It was actually my first time posing nude, which was very interesting at first. I didn’t know what to expect.
Fox News: What does the Playmate title mean to you?
Lara: It’s definitely an honor. Not a lot of people can say they’re a Playmate. Me growing up and watching the Playboy legacy unfold throughout the years really gave me the opportunity to seek out inspiration in women. Women around the world should feel that they’re beautiful. They should understand that with all of your so-called imperfections and flaws, you’re still beautiful, you’re still unique. You can be a woman in this world and rock it. For me, being a Playmate is being an advocate for other women to really showcase the beautiful uniqueness of their own selves.
Fox News: How was it bringing your photos to life in Puerto Rico?
Lara: I mean, I’m from Puerto Rico. It’s my beautiful island. I was so over the moon and excited when I got the news of shooting the pictorial in Puerto Rico. I think it was really fun to have the whole Playboy team on the island. They got to meet the people, eat the food that we eat all the time and just have the whole cultural experience. That’s one of the things I love about my island. They open up their arms to people whenever they come in from all around the world and make them feel like home. All I wanted to do was make sure Playboy got the authenticity of the island. That brings me joy. And I believe they had a great time *laughs*.
Fox News: How does the family feel about the photos?
Lara: I was blessed with being raised by two wonderful women — my mom and my grandma. I think they are the most amazing women in the world. They worked full-time jobs and raised me. They have seen the pictures and they are just over the moon, proud of me that I have a platform to speak out about issues affecting us as women. I just have an endless amount of love.
Fox News: Is it true you faced a lot of rejecting in the modeling world before Playboy came calling?
Lara: Sadly, the modeling industry of today doesn’t see women with big hips, big busts. You don’t see everyday women. And that’s a problem. I’m a woman with a tiny waist, but big hips. I was told I had the face, I’m tall enough, but my hips were too big. So it wasn’t going to work for me. I’m very strong, but it definitely took a toll on me. There were some dark days where I didn’t feel my best because people were rejecting me in my own line of work. I believe women should wear whatever they want and feel beautiful about themselves. Because they are amazing creatures.
Fox News: You moved back to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria despite living in Los Angeles. Why?
Lara: After I decided that I was going to move back to Puerto Rico, I was feeling really helpless because the hurricane happened. Unfortunately, my family got hit really hard with the hurricane and all the floods that came with it. All I could think about was going home, helping out as much as I could in any possible way.
All I could think about was going home and just being with my family. I know that jeopardized my career because I was already established, signed and working in Los Angeles. But I took a chance to help my people to make them feel like we had each other’s back no matter what. When I did decide to make the jump and move back home, I felt like I was doing the right thing. I knew it was going to affect my career, but I also knew in my heart that’s what I was meant to do.
Fox News: How devastated was the island?
Lara: It was completely destroyed. There was no access to clean water. There was no electricity. The houses from the floods were completed emptied out because they were destroyed by the water. Furniture was gone, cars were damaged. Everything was just destroyed. It wasn’t until 4-5 months after the hurricane that people started having accessible water and electricity. It was a very terrible time. Water is a power source for our island. When you don’t have water, you can’t live. I sold everything just to get back on the island. And thank God I did. My family was OK. In my heart, I had everything and more. [But] I came back in 2018.
Fox News: What needs to be done in Puerto Rico today?
Lara: I do believe it’s going to take years for the rebuilding of the whole island. There’s no question about it. There’s been a lot of problems with the rebuilding due to politics. I know the island is eager to get back on its feet, look forward to a better future. It’s really hard to break free. But I do believe anything is possible. If we stick together, if we work hard, we can achieve a better Puerto Rico for our children.