Don't let them tell you stanning your favorite artist isn't a worthwhile endeavor: For 20-year-old model Jazmyne Joy, her love for Bad Bunny led to a major career break. Tagging the acclaimed Puerto Rican artist in Instagram posts showing off her shaved head designs — something he's known for — actually worked in getting his attention. Now she's a Bad Bunny video star, playing the female version of El Conejo Malo himself in his "Caro" video.
That was only a month ago, and the breaks keep coming: This week she announced her signing to Miami-based agency Next Models. This summer, Joy says, she'll move to New York.
Born in Connecticut to a Latinx mom, her family relocated to Puerto Rico when Joy was five years old. And while she may not have been born on the island, she says she still considers herself Boricua and credits the island's fashion industry with giving her a start.
But that start wasn't always easy. At 15, Joy alleges she encountered a sexually predatory photographer who was expelled from Puerto Rico's fashion industry and may now face charges, thanks to women like Joy and Miss Universe Puerto Rico 2018 contestant Yuanilie Alvarado coming forward to share their stories of abuse.
Joy recently opened up to us about these experiences — and why she decided to speak out now — along with sharing more of the Bad Bunny back story and where she's hoping her career will take her next.
So how did your role with "Caro" come about?
I did some pictures inspired by him in the summer. They kind of went viral over here; everyone was loving it and they were tagging him. He saw them — it was pretty crazy because I wanted him to see them, but I thought he'd see them in, like, a week, and he sent me a message the following day. I had just taken a flight to Texas, so I was super tired and it was literally when I was going to go to sleep, because I had to rest. I got a message and I was like, Oh my god! And I could not sleep.
What did he say?
He told me he loved [the pictures], and that he would love to work with me. I was like, oh my god, and then we talked a little bit and [he said he was] going to keep in touch. I was like, OK. And then I didn't hear from him, so I thought he forgot about me. Then he was on the island for a few weeks, and I wrote to him, like, "Look, I'm still down for whatever, let me know." He said he hadn't forgotten, that he was just getting everything together, and that they'd be calling me soon. That was in September, and then in November they called me.
That's great you took the initiative by reaching out.
I didn't want to — it felt weird doing it, writing someone so big. But I was like, "Well, you gotta do what you gotta do."
It's extra sweet because you're such a big fan.
I find him so interesting. His mind is so ahead of ours; he thinks of so many things. When I worked with him, it was like I'd talk to him but I could tell he was maquinando [scheming], like you could tell he was thinking about what would be best for the final product while you're talking. Just him and his whole crew are just, wow.
I noticed in your posts you wear a third eye necklace — Bad Bunny's current trademark. Did you get that after working on the video?
I did. My best friend who went with me to record the music video bought it for me for my birthday, and I've been wearing it every day.
You've mentioned that you appreciate the song's message of equality, that "todxs somos caro." Can you elaborate on what that means for you?
The video kind of says it itself. It's showing us that we're all equal, and we should all love each other, no matter our sexuality or color or economic status. Todos somos igual, todos somos bellxs [we are all equal, we are all beautiful], and everything else doesn't matter. I felt grateful to be part of such a big message. One of the reasons why I had shaved my head was because I wanted to create more diversity in the modeling industry. Being able to be a part of a music video that's so diverse, and it's giving everyone such a great message — it was very important to me.
"One of the reasons why I had shaved my head was because I wanted to create more diversity in the modeling industry."
When you say creating more diversity, do you mean in terms of feminine beauty standards?
Yeah. Because we all know how many beauty standards there are, and how many beauty rules we feel like we're supposed to follow. We're supposed to have a skinny figure, a tiny waist, clean skin, long, luscious hair, and it's supposed to be a nice brown or a light blonde. And that having hair makes you more of a woman — I don't believe that. Girls think that you have to have hair to be beautiful, and that's not true. I think it all depends on how you treat others and your personality.
What have your experiences in Puerto Rico's fashion industry been like?
I've had pretty good experiences — I've met great people, I've worked with very talented photographers, great designers. But you know, I've had those bad encounters also.
You've been vocal about the alleged mistreatment you faced from a photographer who's now being pushed out of Puerto Rico's fashion industry.
I met him when I was 15 and I was doing my first magazine [shoot]. He told my mom not to stay at the shoot. Mami had nowhere else to go; we're not from this area, we don't have family over here. But he said that the owner of the magazine didn't want her at the shoot. I'm like, "Okay, that's fine."
You were only 15 — that's crazy.
It was. But I told mami, "They want the shoot to be more private, they feel like you being here is going to make me nervous. Could you go somewhere to eat or the mall and I'll call you when we're done?" She said, "Yeah." We finished seven, eight hours later, so she was alone all that time with nothing to do.
[Initially] everything was fine. I wasn't getting uncomfortable, nothing bad was going on, but I put on a dress, and I went to change in the bathroom after, and the bathroom had two doors. I closed one and he came in through the other. I was like, "What are you doing?" He was like, "I came to help you change." I said, "Don't worry about it, I know how to change myself, I can do it." He's like, "No, this is my job, I'm just going to help." I'm like, "Really, it's OK — I can do it." He's like, "No, no, no, no — I'll do it." Since I was new to all of this, I thought, maybe that's normal, maybe this is his job. He would give an impression that he wasn't interested in women, so it makes you feel a little more comfortable, but you find out later that he is, and he's doing that on purpose.
So I took my dress off and I'm covering up my chest the whole time, and he's like, "Why are you covering up?" I'm like, that's not normal. I just stared at him like, what? He's like, "Why do you cover up if you have a beautiful body?" and all this, and I was like, stuck. I was just shocked. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know if this was, as I said, normal, so I didn't know if I could talk to the other people in the crew. I felt alone, like anything I said would have been used against me. So I didn't do anything in the moment, and when I went to put on another dress, I had to let go of my chest. And he stared right at my breasts. I was like, oh my god. I couldn't move. He was like, "I don't know why you cover up, they're beautiful." I was like, that's not normal. That's not okay. And he's like, "You're going to have to do things when it comes to modeling that you're not going to like to do, but that's what you have to do to get to a bigger name." He made me feel like shit.
He's done other things to girls. With me [it wasn't as bad]. With other girls, he would [allegedly] say that he's a photographer and that he had a whole crew, he was going to get them in Vogue or in huge magazines and they were going to be big if they took pictures with him, and they'd get to the shoot with him and it'd be with his phone — he'd take pictures of them with his phone and he'd tell them to be half-naked. It was really bad.
That's so predatory, the way he isolated you, the things he said.
And we were all young. He was always backstage in all of the fashion shows at San Juan Moda — that's like a tiny New York Fashion Week, the island's fashion week, and he was always back there. All of us were like, "Why is he here? We hate him, get him out of here." It was really weird because he'd disappear during the day, and when we were changing he'd come back. He was always there to change us. He was always asking, "Let me change you." I was like, "No. I have someone already that's going to change me. Don't worry about it." Really bad.
Wow. Well, the collective effort to get him out and hold the industry accountable for keeping him out was major. It was incredible to see.
We didn't expect to have so many people with us. I got so many messages from girls I have never even seen. He didn't only affect models, he affected girls out of the industry who were trying to be models or girls that were just at the wrong place.
It's really brave of you to speak out.
I had wanted to talk about it for a long time, but my friend, Yuanilie Alvarado, spoke up about it first, and I guess I was like, OK, so we're all going to do this now. It was because of her mostly that I was like, "You know what? I'm talking now too. I'm not going to be silent about it anymore."
And Puerto Rico's fashion industry is so small, too, so in a way, fewer opportunities means the stakes are higher.
That's why we never said anything, because he has a lot of connections. And if it was one of us, without anyone's support, we could lose our jobs because of him.
I think he's effectively been banned from the industry now, right?
Oh yeah. He's not allowed to go — if he shows up, I don't even know what would happen. But we have a case against him. We're working on a case.
That's another very brave thing to do, to take legal action.
It's a long process. We were hoping it would be something that could happen [fast], but they explained it to us — since there's so many girls involved, it takes longer than their usual court thing.
Wow. Well, there's no good segue here — what's next in your career? Are you looking to get more video and acting work?
I would love to do more videos. My plan this year is to be able to move to New York, [because] I love everything about the high fashion that is happening in New York and Fashion Week and all the designers over there.
"We're supposed to have a skinny figure, a tiny waist, clean skin, long, luscious hair, and it's supposed to be a nice brown or a light blonde. And that having hair makes you more of a woman — I don't believe that."
I'm excited to see what you do next. I imagine great things.
I hope so. They say hard work pays off, and I've been working hard! I hope everything I have planned works out.
I appreciate that, whatever you do, you'll be carrying a message of respect.
I don't know why a lot of people don't think of that. When I see people [being disrespectful], I'm like, how can you think of a person in that way? How are you going to tell me that you're better than that person? How are you better than anyone else? We're all the same. We're all human.
Follow Jazmyne Joy on Instagram (@jazmynejoy_), and stream "Caro" by Bad Bunny, below.
Photography: Nicole Pagán (courtesy of Jazmyne Joy)