Meet the face of "The Poet X" cover: Puerto Rican photographer, Amanda Rivas

We live in a fast-paced social media world, in which artists take social media platforms as a tool to start their careers and establish a name. But that sometimes goes the wrong way, not because of the artist's wrongdoing but thanks to other creators that decide to claim other artists' content as their own. 

Amanda Rivas is a passionate 23-year-old Puerto Rican artist from Naguabo, currently part of the diaspora created by Hurricane Maria, living in Tampa, Florida. This artist’s preferred pronouns are she/they. Since they were only a kid, they found themselves captivated by photography, “I loved taking my mom’s camera and taking photos of others and myself,” they stated while recounting how they knew that they wanted to become a photographer. Throughout high school, Rivas found themself even more involved in photography after they bought their first camera. In their senior year, they knew that they were going to pursue their passion as a career and decided to get a bachelor's in Digital Photography. 

While in college, her love of the craft kept growing and, since then, Rivas has worked in photography; doing paid and unpaid jobs while also working on creative projects with friends. Beyond her career, Rivas’ “photography is [her] main source of entertainment and artistic release.” When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Rivas spent her time before leaving the island capturing the moments that were occurring around her and the things Puerto Ricans were doing during the aftermath of the hurricane. She used photography as a tool to focus on positivity.

“I look to capture the moments that are worth remembering and documenting. I rarely photoshop my images when it comes to people’s skin or appearance, and I love working with bright colors.”

The Poet X is a young adult novel about a young Latina girl from Harlem named Xiomara. The protagonist uses slam poetry as a creative outlet that liberates her from the tension caused in her life by family conflict. The novel, written by Elizabeth Acevedo, gain popularity as soon as it hit bookshelves. Winning the Pura Belpre Award, the Michael Printz Award and the Odyssey Award. The popularity of the book ignited a wave of fans using social media to share the book that had captivated them. This is when Amanda Rivas saw her face in the front cover of the novel The Poet X.

Rivas first learned about the cover of The Poet X when an online friend sent them a message saying that she had to look at the cover twice because of the resemblance to them. “The more I looked at it (the cover), the more it reminded me of my first viral photo.” They then overlapped their viral picture with the cover of the book and it was in fact their picture. The artist behind the cover, Gabriel Moreno, had previously stated in a now-deleted interview that inspiration for the woman portrayed in the cover came from reading the book. But it is clear that the drawing he made is of Rivas’ first viral photo.

After she tweeted a video overlaying her viral picture and the cover of the book, it was pretty clear that the artist behind the cover art had plagiarized the self-portrait picture. With the help of her followers and people that saw her tweet, attention was brought to Elizabeth Acevedo, the author, on how her awarded acclaimed book cover was plagiarized. Acevedo rapidly contacted Rivas through Twitter and after that interaction, Rivas worked directly with the publishing company on the matter. Harper Collins publishing credited Rivas as part of the art cover alongside Gabriel Moreno and Erin Fitzsimmons. 

It’s been almost 4 months since Rivas first learned about the plagiarism and artist Gabriel Moreno hasn’t addressed the fact that he plagiarized the image of an independent, upcoming artist. Moreno has gone as far as to block anyone on his social media that brings up the book or photographer Rivas. “He hasn’t even tried to reach out to own up to his mistake or apologize,” said Rivas. They are just glad that their name has been added to the book and that articles written about Gabriel Moreno’s art have been taken down. At least someone is taking to account his mistake. 

I encourage you, to follow Amanda Rivas on her social media platforms. To share her art, her pictures and engage with her accounts. Supporting local artists and upcoming independent artists is such an important part of their journey. And we don’t lose anything by following them, sharing their content and engaging with their accounts. We actually add to their growth and help them fulfill their passion. You can follow her on the following social media: Rivas’ Instagram handle is @mandasjournal and her twitter account @Mandasjournal.  

All featured pictures were taken by Amanda Rivas.