A Conversation With Afro-Latina House Mother Samil on the Importance of Dialogue and Safe Spaces for the LGBTQ+ Community

A Conversation With Afro-Latina House Mother Samil on the Importance of Dialogue and Safe Spaces for the LGBTQ+ Community BELatina Latinx
Image courtesy of Samil.

Pride month is in full effect. This means more and more brands are jumping on board to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. 

Whether you agree or disagree with this celebration, anything promoting inclusivity will always be a win for communities that have historically been excluded and marginalized. 

I remember gushing over anything queer 15 years ago because it was so scarce. And let me tell you something — I rather see the rainbows being rubbed in my face, even if it’s for one month than feel as though my existence is not worthy of being celebrated.

I promise you, this is doing wonders for the younger generation.

When spaces are more than vital for the LGBTQ+ community 

The best part of brands exposing the beauty of the LGBTQ+ is how many are giving space to LGBTQ+ voices. 

Taco Bell, for instance, has created a YouTube series titled “Drive-Thru Dialogue,” where underrepresented voices can have real conversations that matter to them. 

In this series, Taco Bell has made it a point to show up organically in the Queer space, which focuses on the importance of safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community. Thus, furthering queer youth to Live Más through the pride of their identity — and without fear of being who they are. 

The “Drive-Thru Dialogue” YouTube series allows viewers to meet prominent figures of the LGBTQ+ community. 

For example, Afro-Latina House Mother Samil — who also happens to be a House member of the legendary LaBeija House — makes an appearance with her daughter, Aja The Kween

Why does it matter that she’s a House mother and a member of LaBeija? 

Well, house ‘mothers’ and ‘fathers’ derived from the ballroom scene, a formidable social movement and creative collective explicitly created for LGBTQ+ people of color. 

Houses were designated for chosen families with anointed ‘mothers’ and ‘fathers’ who are meant to guide and support the LGBTQ+ youth or ‘children.’ 

This was a direct rebellion against the discrimination and rejection from a heteronormative society that, more often than not, has been riddled with homophobia. This movement is still thriving — and continues to save so many. And House Mother Samil – known for walking in the ‘body’ category – is now doing her part. 

BELatina News had the honor of speaking with this brilliant House Mother, where she revealed more about “Drive-Thru Dialogues,” how these spaces are essential to the Latine LGBTQ+ community, and more.

Check out what she had to say below. 

Tell us a little bit more about yourself. 

I come from a Dominican household. I was born in the Dominican Republic and came [to the United States] when I was five years old. 

How were you able to create your House?

My work with the house came from community service. I used to work for a nonprofit. So, all that connected me to the underground world of ballroom, which is no longer so underground – it’s mainstream. We’re getting a lot of exposure. And I’m proud of that. I’m happy because I’m able to share my story. I come from a close-minded family, but I’ve been able to break barriers. 

What are some of the barriers that you’ve broken?

I feel like our generation of parents are very close-minded, and that comes from their parents’ generation. 

As you know, for Latinos and the Latinx community, our parents raised us to have certain goals when it came to marriage, kids, having a family at a certain age, a job, how to look a certain way, and more. It’s like, by the age of 18, you have to get a job. Then, you have to leave the house. By the age of 22, you have to be married and have kids. 

I’m 34 now. I’m not married. I don’t have any kids. So this is something that I broke a pattern within my own family, and I’m leading. 

I feel like my goals need to come first before having someone else by my side if that makes sense. And I’m showing my house members and the world who I truly am. 

How has your upbringing in a Latino household influenced your chosen family?

​​I’m able to share that I am an immigrant and come from a family of immigrants. So, I’m in an open space where I can express myself and empower myself – that’s where I lead my children and guide them into representing themselves as a whole. And that’s pretty much what I do with my service as a role model and as a [House] mother. That’s why I am happy to have this chosen family. I like to have my kids empowered and have the confidence so they can represent themselves as a whole. 

What would you tell other Latinx from the LGBTQ+ community if they struggle to connect with their families? 

Communication is key even though you might not receive the love back. It might be hard to accept from a parent that you’re coming as queer or gay or bisexual. 

I know It’s hard for a Latino parent to accept that at times. But at the end of the day, you have to be comfortable with yourself because you are living through yourself, not through your parents.

@tacobell

This ep of #DriveThruDialogues is equal parts voguing, laughing and real talk. 💗 #MothersDay #SamilLaBeija#AjaTheKween #HouseOfLaBeija

♬ original sound – tacobell

What was your experience with Taco Bell’s Drive-Thru Dialogue?

I had so much fun with my daughter Aja. During the Drive-Thru Dialogue, we talked about how this sub-community welcomes everyone without any judgment. There is no division in there. We are able to come as a whole family. You can change someone’s life without even knowing it.

So, Taco Bell gave us that opportunity to speak out and represent who we really are. And it’s provided a space for mothers and their chosen families. 

And what do you hope the impact of these conversations will be?

These conversations open many more doors for us to express ourselves – not only for our generation but also for the younger and older generations, especially for the Latino community, because we’ve [historically] received a lot of backlash. I feel like now that we have this outlet, we’re able to represent who we really are, and we’re able to speak about our daily lives – and even the underground world.

What do you foresee the future challenges to be for the LGBTQ+ community? 

I wouldn’t say we have challenges. I think now we’re able to teach. We’re able to show what we weren’t able to show before. ‘Hiding in the closet’ is the term they’ve used for a very long time. So, now there is no more hiding. Now there is: I can speak on my own. And to the future children who either don’t feel comfortable at home or don’t feel like they’re loved because of what they’re going through: we’re here for that. Thankfully, there are so many more outlets that we can connect them to. 

What’s something that brings you pride about your children?

I’m glad that my house kids do come with jobs. They’re professionals, and we get to empower that, and they get to live how they want without being judged or having to go through what others went through because they paved the way for us to not be in that uncomfortable space. For example, I have a son who works at a bank and vogues – and you can watch him through his TikToks. This is great because you couldn’t see those types of videos back in the day; it was something you would be judged for. So, now we have that, and it’s amazing. 

And now, any upcoming projects aside from this amazing experience with the Taco Bell Drive-Thru Dialogues?

Yes! I am a part of a short film that will be airing in June, and that’s exciting because it’s a letter to my older self. It’s like, ‘wow.’ I would have never thought I’d be writing this type of letter to myself, especially when I thought that I was just going to be a medical assistant my whole life or in the clinical field my whole life. 

Any advice for the BELatina News audience you’d like to share?

Have an open mind. Don’t belittle yourself.  As I mentioned before, in the Latino/x community, we are raised to be a certain way, serve the male as our husband, and have kids – but you can stop that. You can do whatever you want because you have that power. And if you have a family behind you and the support, that’s even better for you because you’ll be empowered and have the strength to build your own confidence.