Meet dreamgirl Braina Laviena.
Photographer, visual artist, and advocate for self love and body positivity.
Foe & Dear caught up with Braina to talk about her journey in the modeling industry,
creating visual stories with Andrew Echeverria, and encouraging women to embrace their natural beauty.
How did your upbringing in Puerto Rico allow for your creativity to flourish?
Both my parents were very encouraging of me and my sister's creativity growing up. My mom had an arts and crafts store, so she really taught us to work with our hands; paint, cut wood, wrapping, to sew, work with flowers, all of it. My dad worked with electronics & computers so he gave us that curiosity, of understanding how things work, breaking things open and putting them back together. He also did videography so there was an introduction for me of many cameras.
I think I grew up in a pretty creative environment. Apart from my household, Puerto Rico being so small and the artistic community so tight, everyone encourages it around you and never tries to limit you to one thing, everyone who works in arts in Puerto Rico pretty much know each other and it's very common to cross paths creatively.
While I was in university I actually worked with a jewelry designer for a couple of years, that's where my deep love of jewelry comes from, from doing it first hand, seeing all that goes into it, especially the detail it requires.
Who has been an influential part of your journey?
My parents. They have been so supportive through everything I've done and been through, I could never thank them enough. Also my agent Jesse Simon who I've been with for a few years now, it's amazingly lucky to find someone who believes in you and will push for you, no matter what.
Tell us about your photography work with Andrew Echeverria. Any new projects on the go?
Andrew is my boyfriend, we live together and have 3 cats :) We met on Tinder about three years ago now, and we hit if off immediately. At the time I was living in a loft downtown and I had pretty much no furniture so I had it set up as a photo studio, we started doing editorials together and it was very natural for us to create together so we decided to keep doing it.
Currently we are researching for some upcoming projects, for example, we're very interested in doing portraits of people who are the best at what they do, masters of their craft, so with that in mind we want to do a series of environmental portraits of sorts, inspired by Arnold Newman. We always have a list of about 10 ideas we want to work on and we just have to see where those go, whatever time allows.
What excites you about creating together?
For me, learning from each other is always the most exciting thing. Also, seeing how someone else interprets your ideas and vice versa is always so interesting. I can have an idea and when I share it, he interprets it as something much more interesting and i go 'woah yes', that's my favorite part, seeing a thought grow outside of your own head.
How do you see your work in modelling being able to expand the modern standards of beauty?
When I was young and I'd watch fashion TV or read magazines, I never really saw anyone who looked like me, so I truly never thought I could be a model until I just decided to do it because I enjoyed it so much. When I started it was still hard for me, and I got turned down so many times, but I didn't give up.
Nowadays, the industry is really changing for the better, there's so much more diversity and inclusivity, and I can only hope that I am a part of that; to hope that some little girl out there can see herself in me and know that she's beautiful, that she doesn't need to get a nose job or lose weight or whatever to look like someone else, instead she can be proud of who she is.
5 facts people may not know about you
- I used to imitate Shakira, which led me to belly dancing, which was such a big part of my life until university.
- I went to school for Advertising & Journalism
- Koalas are my favorite animals but I have never seen one in real life.
- I have been vegetarian since I was 13 years old, so 15 years, and now vegan for 2 years.
- My favorite food are plantains cooked in any way possible; mofongo, tostones, soup, you name it, I love it :)
What’s your favorite way to start the day?
With a cup of tea and some soft classical music.
Words to live by
By Foe & Dear
Photos provided by