The Unbearable Lightness of Being…Sammy Sosa


The first time I met Sammy Sosa was at a private party he hosted after his Hurricane George benefit at the Casa de Campo villa of the Fanjul family. He was hospitable, somewhat shy, super easy-going.  I was in La Romana, Dominican Republic profiling Shakira for Vibe. Jon Secada, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Carlos Vives, etc. were all there after masterfully rocking the stage at the dreamy Altos de Chavon amphitheater. It was a beautiful night. The concert, fantastic. And people were gathered from all over South and North America, and the Caribbean for a great cause.

Fast forward to fall 2008. I ran into Sosa again in D.R. This time, at a function tied to a film festival. When he sauntered into the lobby of the venue in Santo Domingo, I almost caught whiplash when I caught sight of him. There was something different about him. Sure, all people evolve as their circumstances change, but this was different. Sosa was a little lighter than when I saw him last. Maybe he was sick, I thought. He was wearing what looked like an ill-fitting zoot suit and his hair was conked—permed straight. I swear he was wearing light contacts. I introduced myself to him and complimented him on his English. I said something like, “Wow, you look different. And your English is great.” He looked at me, with the arrogance that befalls too many folks who come into money and power, and said something totally forgettable. I just remember it was snarky.

This is probably why I wasn’t too surprised to see these photos of an either very, very sick, crazy scared or bleached Sammy Sosa surface from last week’s Latin Grammys. This sends out a really negative message to many of the young  [and old] people who look up to him. If he isn’t very, very sick, the retired baseball player has really intense low self-esteem issues playing out before our eyes. The higher he climbs on the social and economic ladder, the more he seems all too willing to shed the self that got him there in the first place. WTF Sosa!? I hope this is just a simple case of over-exposed flicks. Either way, I hope he releases a statement very soon.

UPDATE: My twitter friend @SpeaksBeliefs, sent me this piece in where there’s some sort of explanation offered: it’s a “skin rejuvenation process.”

“He’s not trying to be Michael Jackson,” said former Cubs employee Rebecca Polihronis, who talks frequently with Sosa.”

Comments 16

  1. I read a statement (sent to me) in the Chicago Tribune story yesterday. He claims that his lighter (brighter) skin is the result of some sort of skin cleansing. It didn’t feel like an honest statement to me. The sad thing is, the (silky smooth) conk pretty much shows that he is trying to assimilate to the “whiteness” his class and power now place him in. I hope this is not a case another Latino shedding (or denying) his “Blackness,” but it sure feels that way. Sad. Self-Hate.

    @13Rose @RaquelCepeda The Sosa thing is a shame. But you know what, I’m ready to be on some you don’t want Melanin no more. Be gone. Rock with THEM.

  3. Sosa appears to be experiencing some complexes about having dark skin, dark eyes, and nappy hair. He now wears a relaxer on his hair ,green contact lenses in his eyes, and has skin that is SUBSTANTIALLY lighter than it used to be? Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the plasticity of identity and all but everything about this screams “I hate my appearance b/c of the negative meaning that’s been historically attached to it.” Too bad that he’s internalized the sentiment of “racialization” so deeply, that he has opted to do these things. I wish him the best. Also, I do not believe that the claims about skin rejuvenation and loss of skin color due to steroid use are legitimate explanations for his appearance. If this is truly a loss of skin color due to abuse of steroids, why the green contact lenses and permed hair? Doesn’t add up. Again, I wish him the best.

  4. When I saw the photo of Sammy Sosa over the weekend I was so embarrassed. People were asking me why did he do it. Yes, I’m Dominican but I don’t have to answer for his actions. In my household I am happy to be surrounded by Dominicans with beautiful chocolate skin. Shame on you Sammy. This is terrible and a bad representation of Dominican people. He claims it’s a skin rejuvenation. I highly doubt it. I really wish he didn’t do it to himself.

  5. Initially I was upset & outraged. But then I really felt a sense of compassion for Sammy because in order for him to do something so drastic, he obviously has a level of self hatred that I can not begin to comprehend. Therefore, it would be impossible for me to judge his actions. I’m sad that he couldn’t realize that he was beautiful already. My wish for him would be to see a professional, as would anyone that needs help.

  6. VIA TWITTER: @61key @RaquelCepeda i’m from san pedro de macoris as well. this area is predominantly black. unfortunately light skin is thought 2 b better

  7. Via Twitter: @santeromusic @RaquelCepeda great piece on Sammy. He will never be accepted into white culture he aspires to. Nothing a few days in DR sun can’t fix tho.

  8. im half puerto rican and ecuadorian. i was raised to love myself, my curly hair, olive skin. i was told to flaunt it and walk with “orgullo”.

    well, when i went to ecuador several years ago i was told a different story. i was told “you look very “indian” but at LEAST you have curly hair and european lips”. i was very confused. it was the first time i noticed the huge segregation within my own culture. it was one thing to be “different” in a community of irish kids (i grew up in woodlawn, bx) … but my OWN culture?

    as a response to what i saw, i began painting portraits of the women i saw in otavalo. to me, they were some of the most beautiful women i had ever seen. i felt a connection to them. it was a very pivotal moment in my life. a huge awakening.

    can you imagine if you grew up hearing these messages? it has to live inside of you.

    whatever the case is with sosa, its an unfortunate reality and a very prevalent pre-occupation in our society, in our culture(s), and cultures around the world.

    it has to change.

  9. listen before we start bashing sammy we need to have compasion on him. we can only speculate what his motives are. my personal opinion i do think that it is unnessesary for him to be coloring his skin. its looks awful on him and as ugly as he is he looks even uglier. LOL by the way why should anyone be embarrased by sammys actions? this has nothing to do with dominicans as much as it has to do with the mans actions. who is asking anyone to speak for sammy? shoot if anyone asked me i would just respond by saying hey its sammys decision.

  10. Via FB:
    From Cristina V.: Just think how racism could be cured if everyone would just whiten themselves! (Um, Kidding?)
    Light-skinned Latinos need to all go out and get tans to protest this!

  11. Wow you would hope that success and accomplishments would bring peace. I wonder how much influence his wife has on the way he sees & feels about himself?

    Sammy Sosa played himself! He’s suffering from post Trujillo syndrome!

    Joseph Sanchez
    Uptown Champs
    Hip Hop Facilitator

  12. I really do think it is shame and depicts his internalized self-hatred and uncomfortableness with his blackness. Add him to the sad group of Michael Jackson, Latoya and Lil’ Kim. So sad, I am Puerto Rican and pretty fair-skinned but I was brought up on the slogan “Black is Beautiful” and I’ve always been able to see the beauty in our diversity, whether you have light eyes and freckles or a gorgeous ‘fro. I do have to admit though that he looks a lot better w/o the jerry curls and with the perm he looks a bit like Tito Rodriguez

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