Patricia Velásquez is an actress, model, activist, author, and mother; she’s quintessentially the “Wayúu Princess” of all trades. Her work in the acting and modeling industries has been award- winning and precedent-setting, including international runways and magazine covers, and blockbuster movie roles. More recently, with the conception of a nonprofit organization that has its sights set on changing the hunger crisis one disadvantaged child at a time, Patricia is cementing her name and her humanitarian imprint on the world.
From humble beginnings, it was not only Patricia’s striking beauty that catapulted her into the modeling world, but also her desire to help support her family financially. Leaving her home in Venezuela, she set out for the fashion capital of Milan, where she was scouted to model. With a natural ability in front of the lens and an unwavering work ethic, Patricia has worked with some of the most high-profile names in fashion and beauty, including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Cover Girl, and Chanel, just to name a few.
“It was never an overnight success story,” Patricia says of her long journey to success and notoriety in the modeling industry. Working and living in the most prominent, fashion-laden places around the globe, like Spain, Japan, Paris, and New York, she excelled. She soon met the iconic designer, Karl Lagerfeld, with whom she formed both a professional and personal bond. “I’m always going to think of him as an angel,” says Patricia, who was featured on Lagerfeld’s very first cover.
Growing up training in dance and theater, Patricia’s fluidity and creativity in front of the camera was transcendent in both modeling and acting. The natural progression to the big screen was inevitable when the star accepted her first movie role because of her Wayúu heritage and the film’s portrayal of an indigenous community. Since then, her acting career has skyrocketed, landing leading-lady and powerhouse-female roles in movies like “The Curse of La Llorona,” “The Mummy,” and “The Mummy Returns.”
In 2002, in the wake of her uncle’s passing, Patricia channeled her philanthropic passion into creating the Wayúu Tayá Foundation, with her uncle’s final words in mind, “Don’t forget about the Wayúu.” The Wayúu Tayá Foundation was a way for her to give back to her childhood home of Venezuela and the indigenous people of the Wayúu, honoring her Wayúu roots.
The organization was created with the objective of improving the living quality of the indigenous communities in Latin America while maintaining and respecting their traditions, cultures, and beliefs. Instantly, Patricia received an outpouring of encouragement from her fashion industry friends, all of whom rallied around her in support of this mission. With fellow supermodels and renowned designers in her corner, like Iman, Carolina Herrera, and Isaac Mizrahi, the foundation was born.
“If I can start with a pre-school, that will guarantee the kids are getting at least two meals a day,” says Patricia when explaining how she conceptualized this mission, which today feeds more than 12,000 children each day.
In the midst of the current worldwide pandemic and closed borders, the indigenous people of Venezuela are lacking access to water, electricity, gas, and sewage, which has led to the spreading of disease, viruses, and malnutrition. The mission of Patricia’s foundation is simply providing access to food, health care, water, and now masks for these vulnerable communities along the northern Venezuela-Colombia border. Today, the Wayúu Tayá Foundation provides nutritional drinks to the children each day, along with masks to ensure their health and safety from the virus.
“The children all take it very seriously,” says Patricia, noting that the kids walk 5 kilometers to school to retrieve these necessities because they understand and appreciate the importance of protecting themselves and having access to such precious provisions.
Spearheading the One for One program, a very important initiative of the Wayúu Tayá Foundation, Patricia made the dream of feeding and protecting these children a reality. After already supplying hundreds of masks, this program provides a mask to a vulnerable child in need for every piece of Wayúu Tayá Foundation merchandise that is purchased. “We must continue to do our part, and—with everyone’s support—we can double that impact.”
Over the years, the Wayúu Tayá Foundation has saved thousands of lives because of the love and support of people throughout the U.S. Patricia’s heartfelt gratitude for the impact this support has had on the lives of the Wayúu is genuine and implicative that the work must continue.
“That is the true conscious of giving—of wanting to help somebody else,” says Patricia of the capacity for so many to care for a people that may never meet, and ultimately, change lives for the better.
For more information and to get involved, visit WayuuTaya.org.
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