Shifting Narratives: Student Nicolette Alexandra Brito-Cruz

Born and raised in New Jersey, Nicolette Alexandra Brito-Cruz is a photographer and first-generation Dominican-American student from Rutgers University, who studied abroad at JCU in Summer 2022 and Spring 2024. Nicolette is a senior majoring in Journalism and Media, and Italian, with a minor in Women and Gender Studies.

Nicolette Alexandra Brito-Cruz
Nicolette Alexandra Brito-Cruz

Your photographic project “Letters of The Unheard” was recently published in Afrique Noire magazine. Tell us a bit more about it.
“Letters of The Unheard” is a literary and visual project where models wrote letters to their past selves to recount their growth and embrace their identities as women of color. I worked on “Letters of the Unheard” as a project for Women’s History Month. The photos captured the emotional moments described in the letters.

I was inspired to start this project from feminist courses I’ve taken, both at JCU and Rutgers, as well as feminist social media pages. I noticed how prevalent white feminism is in gender discourse. Through my photography, research, work, and other creative endeavors, I aim to create a safe space for all people to thrive and express themselves. I wanted this project to shine a light on women of color and their contributions to feminist causes and art.

The nine models were chosen based on their stories. Most of them are JCU students, and it is wonderful to be surrounded by such diverse and enlightened young women during my time here. One letter that stood out to me was the poem by Natasha Kalondu Kilisa. She wrote about something that I along with many black women have struggled with: loving our hair. She pieced together the vulnerable thoughts and emotions that many people experience.

“This white world will never love me
This white world will never love me
This white world will never love me, for simply existing.
I must sit and allow a white man to dictate what I “should” be. Catering to each of them.

My hair is too short, he swiftly swayed his hand to reference what a woman’s hair should look like.
A small brunette woman, loose curls, past her shoulders.

Now, how do I help this situation?
This body I was born into, one that I have grown to love.
Nothing about who I am has the power to trigger insecurity.


And still, I would choose this life. My hair, my body and this space. I would choose it over and over again cause I know I’m as much of a human and a woman as you.”

How did you become passionate about photography?
I became passionate about photography my first time studying abroad at JCU in Summer 2022. I noticed how advertisements and clothing brands misrepresented Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). I was inspired to shift those narratives, so I created the Juliet Rose Review, a literary and art review exclusively for BIPOC models and creatives, and I became a photographer.

Tell us about your time at JCU and how it impacted you.
Being at JCU and in Rome opened my eyes to the person I want to be and the importance of standing firm in my beliefs, passions, and creative talents. I have had the privilege of meeting professors who exposed me to opportunities to grow as an artist, professional, and person. One professor who impacted me is Elizabeth Macias-Gutiérrez. I took two courses with her, and she served as a wonderful mentor and professor. I’ve never met a professor who takes such a deep interest in each student’s work and passion.

What are your plans for the future?
I am graduating this semester, and then I will be going to graduate school for an M.A. in International Affairs. I have several career goals, including continuing my art, especially in different areas across the world, being a foreign correspondent, and doing research on the influence of colonization and how it affects the lives of different BIPOC social groups.