Yaris Sanchez exudes effortless cool and magnetic warmth from the moment you meet her. A model, artist, cook, mother, entrepreneur and all-around creative — it’d be impossible to guess just how many projects and roles she’s juggling from her mellow, nonchalant demeanor. Yaris doesn’t shy away from her multidimensionality, calling herself a “chameleon” who feels comfortable expressing herself and showcasing her ideas through whatever medium feels intuitively best.
An Afro-Latina who was born in Santo Domingo, Yaris immigrated to the U.S. when she was three years old, growing up in Washington Heights and later the Bronx. Driven by down-to-earth realness and a need to express herself authentically, she’s been making a name for herself in creative circles for over a decade. Some may recognize her as the face of French Montana’s “Shot Caller” video, or her countless modeling campaigns — she’s been featured in Good American, Calvin Klein, and Nike to name a few — or as the muse and visionary behind the photography series “Never The Girl Next Door” that she brought to life alongside celebrity photographer Ravie B.
But these have all been lead-ups to her own becoming. Now, Yaris is guided by a desire to give back to her community by sharing the richness and beauty of her own culture. With over 400k followers on Instagram, she’s created a popular home-cooking series called Dalai Mama’s Kitchen where she whips up her favorite Dominican and Latinx dishes, and she recently launched a book club called Dalai Mama’s Bookshelf where she highlights her favorite authors with a focus on Latinx, Black and brown writers.
We asked Yaris to kick off our new Spotify playlist series called VIBE CHECK, where we link up with our favorite SLX community members to curate the perfect playlist. She’s put together the smoothest track-list for the SLX familia — an hour-long mix that includes SAULT, Jill Scott, Sade and Ana Gabriel for the perfect soundtrack to ease you into your day each morning. You can stream it here.
We caught up with Yaris to talk about her current music obsessions, the book that recently changed her life and the things that make her most proud about being Afro-Latina.
What’s the mood or theme that inspired your SLX playlist?
Every morning, as soon as I wake up, I play music. I make my bed, I do my skincare, I sit down at my desk, so the playlist is what I listen to as I get into my day. It’s an eclectic feel, it starts smooth and slowly gets more upbeat. I want people to feel motivated when listening to it, and just feel good and inspired.
What’s your current anthem?
The past couple of days I’ve been listening to SAULT. But then I’ve also been listening to a lot of throwbacks, a lot of neo soul, a lot of Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Jazmine Sullivan. And then randomly, I had a moment where for like a week straight I was listening to Ana Gabriel. It took me back to my childhood, because that was my mom’s favorite artist. She’d be cleaning the house every weekend, and that would always be playing. So it really took me back. And I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but now that I’m older I appreciate it so much. It truly is timeless music. Ana Gabriel is timeless.
Here at SLX, our mission statement is to help the Latinx community feel seen, supported, and celebrated in all our ingenuity and creativity. Who was the first person in your life — whether it was a celebrity, a TV show character, or someone you knew personally — that made you feel seen, supported, and celebrated?
The first person that came to my mind is Celia Cruz. In my household, she was so praised. Celia Cruz was like our Beyoncé or our Aretha Franklin. She was a woman of color, an Afro-Latina, and that was the first representation of an Afro-Latina that I saw be praised to that extent. I just don’t feel like we have seen another representation of an Afro-Latina in music or media being so major and global and being celebrated for being themselves. And then of course Selena. I also saw myself in her, just how down-to-earth she was. Sweet, genuine, you could tell she was such a genuine soul. And she had very girl next door vibes, but she was still spicy. I feel like that reminded me so much of me.
What makes you most proud about being Afro-Latina?
The culture — the food, the music, my Dominican heritage, and the fact that we are so diverse. I am the African Diaspora, I’m Indigenous, I’m European, I’m all of it. And that’s something to celebrate. But mostly the culture, the traditions, the big family gatherings, the music, the dancing. The music and the dancing is really it. It’s so unique to us.
How would you define community?
Community to me means, acceptance, liberation, freedom, warmth, education, mentorship. Truly feeling seen and uplifted by a group of individuals that despite so many differences share a lot in common — love, respect and unity.
Cooking has become a way for you to share and celebrate your culture with your community. What’s your favorite Dominican dish?
Sancocho. It’s a soup, but it’s not just any regular soup. It has chicken, beef, pork — all the meats — and some root vegetables in there. It’s our staple dish, we’re very known for Sancocho. We eat it with white rice and avocado — the big avocado, not the Hass avocado.
I know reading is a huge part of your life and that you recently launched a book club in February called Dalai Mama’s Bookshelf where you share your favorite books with your community. What are you currently reading right now? And what was the last book that really moved you?
I’m reading “Somebody’s Daughter” it’s a memoir by Ashley C. Ford. A book that recently touched me to my core is “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle. I think it honestly transformed my life last year. I felt like I was reading the struggles, victories, realizations, and her becoming from a woman’s perspective. Woman to woman. It was a very powerful read.
Do you have a daily ritual that keeps you grounded?
I like to light a candle on my altar every single night, one of those that burns really slowly. I set an intention and let it burn until it’s finished.
What’s your favorite mantra or affirmation?
I have two. They’re sort of like prayers. I start and end my day with:
“Dear God, angels and guides, please continue guiding me towards the path of my highest good.”
And then I have this other one that I heard Oprah say:
“Use me God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use me for a purpose greater than myself.”
During the pandemic, I really came to realize that I thrive when I’m giving back or just giving in general, instead of always expecting to receive. And I was like, “Damn, help me find a purpose. I want to figure out how I can give back.” I was on my knees, praying. And then this idea birthed for a new business venture that’s all about community, it’s all about giving. So, that prayer is a powerful one.
Another one is:
“I want others to see the highest, truest version of me.”
When do you feel most beautiful/most authentically you?
Honestly, when in pajamas, I’ve showered, done my skin routine after a long day and I’m in my couch just enjoying the simple things, like my home, my TV…
What’s a lesson or value that you want to instill in your daughter?
I’m trying to instill the importance of having a routine. Having a routine is so important for your identity because it’s like, “When I do this, I am back to myself. This is who I am, this is what I do, this is how I get in my zone.” When I’m traveling and all over the place, I don’t feel the same. My routine is my grounding point.
Another thing I’m really trying to instill in her is speaking her truth and being herself and the importance of authenticity. And how being authentic and true to yourself will only attract people who are meant to be in your life and those experiences that are supposed to be in your life.
Last but not least, what are you five top picks on the SLX Marketplace?