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Photo: Vogue Mexico
Photo: Vogue Mexico

Karen Vega, the Oaxacan model breaking barriers at Vogue Mexico

The model’s journey started at 14, helping measure dresses in a seamstress shop.

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Eighteen-year-old Karen Vega has become the first Indigenous Oaxacan model to appear on the cover of Vogue Mexico. 

Her journey began at the age of 14 when she supported her grandfather’s wife, a seamstress in measuring the dresses she made for a local fashion form. 

From then on, she fell in love with fashion and the modeling profession. 

Vega started exploring more, using social media to search for magazines, meet models and understand what fashion meant in its broadest sense. 

Vega’s first step into the professional world was when designer Pompi García and photographer Enrique Leyva invited her to be a part of the production “Magical Realism” in the city of Oaxaca. 

They asked her because they wanted to show more brown and native skinned people in their projects. 

She later joined García and Leyva’s modeling agency, Talento Espina, which represents young Oaxacans with a passion for modeling. It was through the agency that she received an invitation to participate in an Autumn-Winter show in Mexico City from the Mexican Firm, Barragán

“At first there was a lot of doubt about my participation, because although it was a very nice opportunity, the move and my parents’ confidence to leave was difficult, since it was the first time I was leaving Oaxaca,” Vega told Vogue Mexico. 

However, the agency was able to arrange for Vega’s older brother to go with her. 

She said her agency helped her develop professionally by advising her to never tolerate abuse of any kind, to use her voice, and to be confident in who she is. She said her agency helped her understand that this dream has been complicated for Indigenous people, but that it’s not impossible. 

Vega thinks it’s very important for the fashion world to see more diversity. 

“It is time for new generations to have media that show them expressions of equality and educate them about the differences that make us all beautiful,” she said.

When Vega saw actress Yalitza Aparicio on the cover of Vogue, she felt seen, and she hopes that her work will make other girls feel represented as well. 

“My grain of sand would be to put the focus on the southern woman, our stories, where we come from so that more than just photo models, we can also be an inspiration of another kind,” said Vega. 

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