For Bennett, proudly representing Caribbean and Black culture is not new. In 2017, she made headlines when she took the stage at the Miss Universe pageant with an afro, her natural hair, becoming the first Black woman to be crowned among the top three to do so. In “7 Días,” she wears dreadlocks, emblematic of Jamaica, and is a constant player in a visual work that went to great lengths to stay true to the island’s roots and traditions.
“She’s not just beautiful, but a big ambassador of her own culture,” says Maluma.
Bennett spoke to Billboard about the significance of Black presence in a Latin music video, especially coinciding with Black History Month. “I hope we become a domino for others to follow,” she says.
I’m making an effort to think of videos where you have a white Latin superstar with a beautiful Black woman as the model, and I can’t think of many…
I’ve never seen it. I think that’s why social media is eating it up. It’s an immense sense of pride. It’s also very overwhelming, because sometimes I think, “Is this real?” I’ve been in this position once before, representing Jamaica in Miss Universe, and being the first woman to rock my Afro — and that was a big thing for my country, and for Afro and brown girls. To be in the same position, rocking another hair style and showing unity between two countries and two cultures… I don’t have words to express it.
You’re opening a big door. It’s amazing there haven’t been more instances, right?
It feels the same as when I did Miss Universe. This pageant is over 60 years [of history] and you’re telling me there has never been a Black woman with an Afro in the top three? And there are other music videos, and they have never considered: Let us merge cultures, let us merge Black and white. It’s mind blowing. But, someone has to do it first. Someone has to be the first domino on that table.
The album is called 7 Días In Jamaica, and it truly is an homage to Jamaica, showing so much of the island. Did it surprise you to see how prominently Jamaica is featured?
What makes it even better for me is there’s the combination of two cultures: Latin from Colombia and reggaetón and dancehall from Jamaica, and that makes it even greater. Maluma incorporates people like Ziggy Marley, Charly Black. For you to not just come to our country, but also use Jamaican creatives, a Jamaican girl, Jamaican artists — it’s not cultural appropriation, but literally paying homage. It’s not, “I’m coming to your island, taking credit and leaving.” It’s about us. It goes in-depth in terms of our culture, how we portray ourselves. Even down to the drink we have in our hand, Red Stripe, is unique to the Caribbean.
Your hairdos are incredible. Tell me about them?
We decided to do locks [dreadlocks], which is a great representation. We are Rastafarian. Mellisa Dawkins, my hair stylist, would come up with these ideas on the spot. This woman just transformed each look into something amazing. It was such a great representation in my country. Locks are discriminated [against] in many places. And to show locks can be styled, they can be elegant, flirty — it’s something I’m extremely proud of.
There was a highly publicized case of locks and discrimination in Jamaica recently, right?
Last year there was a discrimination case in Jamaica, because a little girl went to school with her locks and she was sent home. This is a big slap in the face. We are known for our locks. If you’re going to send a girl home for wearing locks, you might as well spit on us. So to be able to be on a [major] platform and use locks is a big deal, not just as a Jamaican woman but as a Caribbean woman. I hope this will tell people: “It’s not OK to discriminate against natural hair.” Because it is natural hair. And it’s a disgrace that today you would tell someone you can’t wear your hair like that.
Normally, how do you prefer to wear your hair?
Afro. It’s more relaxed. I’m someone who doesn’t comb her hair every day. So my Afro is my every day hairstyle.
You also shot in Colombia, in Medellín, but also in Barú, a beautiful beach close to Cartagena. How was that experience?
I’ve never experienced anything quite like that, where they appreciate Black beauty [to that degree]. It had nothing to do with being Miss Jamaica. In Barú, people would walk up to me and say, “We have the same skin. We’re family. We don’t even speak the same language, and just because of our skin there’s a connection.” I was in awe of the fact that these people were appreciative of who I am, my beauty and my color.
Did you talk to Maluma about these things?
I asked Maluma why he decided to do Jamaica. And he said, “Our cultures are so similar. There is a lot of diversity in Colombia. Our cultures intertwine.” He just wanted to connect the two. And it’s amazing someone as big as Maluma can come to small Jamaica and find the uniqueness and the things that make us one. To be able to create an entire album paying homage to that is an iconic and very brave move. And it was executed in a way that both sides should be very proud of. I am, anyway. It’s a white guy from Colombia falling in love with a Jamaican woman with dreadlocks.
How did you meet Maluma?
I first met him in Jamaica. I was a little bit nervous. But I think it’s because I had to kiss him. It was in the script. I thought, “Oh Lord.” I don’t want to make a fool of myself. But, yes he’s a very good kisser. And the kissing scene was quite a delight.