A Wise Latina and the Color Red: Latina's Justice Sotomayor Cover

A Wise Latina and the Color Red: Latina's Justice Sotomayor Cover In 2009, Justice Sonia Sotomayor became an instant inspiration to Latinas in the United States.

She lost her father when she was 9, battled diabetes, and was raised by her mother in a public housing project. She eventually graduated with honors at Princeton University, received her J.D. from Yale Law School and embarked on a distinguished legal and judicial career. By the time she was nominated for the Supreme Court, Sotomayor had more federal judicial experience than any potential justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed to the court in the past 70 years. And that's the short story.

Here at Latina, we were honored to be granted the first photoshoot with the new justice in September. We all felt there was only one person for this assignment, and that was Platon, who graciously accepted. The story from the shoot after the jump...

On the day of the shoot, Justice Sotomayor entered the room with a big smile on her face, and the first thing she did was extend her hand and introduce herself to everyone in the room. Everyone. After experiencing some cover subjects in the last 20-plus years act as if they were somehow above that simple gesture, it was incredibly refreshing to see.

This was our very first shoot with Platon, and watching the man work was fascinating. We only had 30 minutes with the justice, but he was able to immediately connect with her and proceed to build that intimacy that is apparent in so many of his portraits. Thirty minutes, but he never rushed anything. At times, he even stopped shooting altogether, and he and the judge simply talked with each other as if they were the only two people in the room.

Everything was going great, but there was one thing that we remained curious about. Latina writer Sandra Guzmán provides some background:
While President Obama's staff was preparing Sotomayor for the confirmation hearings, the team covered all of the potentially explosive questions and briefed her on every minute detail, including how to dress for the cameras. They even advised her to keep her nails a neutral shade, which she did. But on the day of the White House reception celebrating her appointment, Sotomayor asked the president to look at her freshly manicured nails, holding up her hands to show off her favorite color: a fire-engine red. The president chuckled, saying that she had been warned against that color.
My editor, Mimi Valdés, tells me that in many Latino families, red is a very important and symbolic color. It's seen as an "adult" color, and it's even considered inappropriate to dress a little girl in red. For many, the color is very much a point of pride.

We knew about the judge's love for the color red, so we made sure to tell the manicurist for our shoot to bring lots of red nail polish. But we weren't sure if it would end up in any of the photos. During the shoot, there was a moment the judge made a gesture, and Mimi and I looked at each other. Platon saw it, of course, and captured her hand on her heart--and we had our cover.

I love this photo. To me, it looks like she's taking a pledge. It looks like she understands how historic this is. What this means not just for her, but for millions of other people. And, I like to think, it looks like she's now able to proudly show off... that beautiful color red.

  • Kory Kennedy

    I noticed her nails straight away -- probably because so many of Platon's portraits have a cooler feel to them -- the red really pops. It's very interesting to learn the story behind the nails. Very cool. Thanks Florian.

  • Scott Dadich

    Gorgeous cover, Flo. Plat is a genius, no doubt.

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