Influencer Spouses Are Remaking Latin American Politics

Influencer Spouses Are Remaking Latin American Politics
Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa and first lady Lavinia Valbonesi leave the National Assembly after he was sworn in as the country’s president, in Quito, Ecuador, Nov. 23, 2023 (AP photo by Dolores Ochoa).

Like a lot of young influencers, Lavinia Valbonesi used social media, namely Instagram, to communicate the details of a highly staged life to her followers. Her posts showed her dressed in athleisure and slouchy suits, slinging juices and applying lotions, rotating between Miami and Vail, holding babies, constantly clutching her phone.

Lavinia Valbonesi was like a lot of young influencers, that is, until May. That’s when her husband—Daniel Noboa, the 35-year-old heir to a banana fortune—decided to run for president in Ecuador’s snap election, the first round of which was held in August. Suddenly, her floppy straw hats and patterned bikinis were replaced by a wardrobe of all white. Meticulously documented on her Instagram feed, Valbonesi hit the trail, where she could now be seen shaking hands, doing radio spots and handing out food. To be sure, the posts were intermixed with the occasional shot of a designer dress or date night with her now-presidential candidate husband, but for the most part Valbonesi’s transformation was complete. She became a consummate political spouse.

On Nov. 23, Valbonesi also became Ecuador’s first lady, after Noboa, who won the second-round runoff election in October, was sworn into office. Much has already been made of her husband’s ascendance to the country’s top office at just 35. “Millennial” is a common appellation for Noboa in the headlines, and he himself talks of representing a “new generation” of leadership in his country. But Valbonesi is as much an emblem of this new generation as Noboa. In fact, she exemplifies a new type of political figure altogether: the influencer spouse.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review