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11 Latina Actresses Who Have Spoken Out on Hollywood Stereotypes and Lack of Diversity

Credit: BELatina/BrandStar

It is no secret that Latinos have been grossly underrepresented in Hollywood. And when Latino actors are included, they are often portraying criminals and domestic workers. Back in the earlier days of film and television, we were “greasers,” “banditos,” immoral and/or angry women, and comedically dim-witted individuals.

Today, however, the tides are changing, with a variety of roles being interpreted by Latinas, and people of our ethnicity and culture(s) are creating those projects which are absent. But we still have a long way to go. Here are 11 actresses in Hollywood who are holding it down for Latinos everywhere have spoken out about both the stereotypes assigned to us as a people, as well as the notion that all we look, act, and are the same.

11 Gina Torres

Photo Credit IG @iamginatorres

Afro-Cuban actress Gina Torres found resistance when she would audition for Latina roles in Hollywood. She noticed that when a part called for a Latina, that often meant the casting department wanted someone with dark hair, dark eyes, and lighter skin, who essentially looked Italian. “My view of myself doesn’t change. I know who I am,” Gina has said. “I’m Cuban American; both my parents are Cuban — one was a little browner than the other one. That’s who I am. I feel sorry that it’s taken so long for the film industry to figure it out and to catch up.”

10 Judy Reyes

Photo Credit IG @itsijudyreyes1

Afro-Dominican actress Judy Reyes also has spoken out on Hollywood’s perception of what a Latina is supposed to look like. On her own audition experience, she has said: “I’d get really positive reactions at auditions for both African-American and Latino roles, but I did not look Latino enough because of the curly hair and the freckles and the nose…you’re telling me I’m too dark [to be Latino].”

9 Rosie Perez

Photo Credit IG @rosieperezbrooklyn

Rosie Perez is an Afro-Puerto Rican actress who has appeared in numerous films and television shows. She has represented both Latinas and Afro-Latinas on the screen, and has experienced pushback for her fearless attitude. “The majority of Latin actresses were always playing either spitfires or maids,” Perez is noted as saying. “Now here is a woman who comes in and does leads opposite white people and black people and other Spanish people, and she’s comfortable in her skin? Gasp! How dare she.”

8 Camila Mendes

Photo Credit IG @camimendes

Camila Mendes, who was chosen to represent Archie Comics character Veronica Lodge on the show Riverdale, is Brazilian. She, too, has talked about people’s perception of her appearance and how Latina she appears to be. I often hear things like, ‘You don’t look Latina enough,’ and that mentality is so backwards,” Mendes has shared. “The fact is, I am Latina, so how are you going to tell me that I don’t look Latina?”

7 Jennifer Lopez

Photo Credit IG @jlo

Jennifer Lopez is an iconic, international star. While she has knocked down so many barriers, and achieved major success, there are doors that appear to remain closed to the Nuyorican. “I’d be stupid not to take into consideration that there are certain things people will not consider me for because my name is Lopez,” she has said. “And I know I can do any kind of role. I don’t want anybody to say, Oh, she can’t pull this off. So those are barriers that you have to overcome.”

6 Salma Hayek

Photo Credit IG @salmahayej

She has been nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Actress, but Salma Hayek fought to get the success she has experienced. “I had to endure the worst time of all in terms of racial discrimination in Hollywood when I first started out,” Salma has shared. “It was inconceivable to American directors and producers that a Mexican woman could have a lead role.”

5 Luna Lauren Velez

Photo Credit IG @LaLunavelez

Hollywood has a hard time wrapping its head around the idea that women — a lot of them — are both Latina and black. Latinas are portrayed as one way — dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin — and anything outside that ideal is not accepted or represented (in fact, many Italians have been hired to play Latinos on screen for decades). Luna Lauren Velez, an Afro-Puerto Rican actress, has represented Afro-Latinas (and Latinas) in film and on television since the nineties. But she had to change perceptions first. “When I first came out to L.A., Hollywood’s idea of a Latina was Mexican,” Velez shared. “It was almost like they had never seen or heard of an Afro-Latina before.

4 Eva Longoria

Photo Credit IG @evalongoria

As a producer, Eva Longoria has created shows that tell Latino stories, and include mostly-Latinx casts. She has also played a variety of roles in TV and film, outside of the typical characters Latina actresses are given. But she, too, has experienced the effects of Hollywood stereotyping Latinos. “I remember moving to L.A. and auditioning and not being Latin enough for certain roles,” Eva has said. “Some white male casting director was dictating what it meant to be Latin. He decided I needed an accent. He decided I should [have] darker-colored skin. The gatekeepers are not usually people of color, so they don’t understand you should be looking for way more colors of the rainbow within that one ethnicity.

3 Sonia Manzano

Photo Credit IG @suki.lopez

For over 40 years, Puerto Rican actress Sonia Manzano was Maria on the children’s show, Sesame Street. Manzano recognized that she was the face many Latinos before her didn’t see on television growing up. There are more Latinx faces on screen, but it seems that we have to jump through more hoops and have a particularly unique story just to get the same air time. On this, Sonia stated to HuffPost Live, “Why can’t people of color just be as mediocre as everybody else and make a lot of money?

2 America Ferrera

Photo Credit IG @americaferrera

Honduran actress America Ferrera has been very vocal on Latino representation in Hollywood. When reflecting on how only two Latinas have won the Golden Globe for Best Actress (she and Gina Rodriguez), America had this to say to HuffPost: “It’s not an awards ceremony problem. It’s a creation of content issue. We need more in art and entertainment that is reflective of the world we live in. And there’s just not enough reflection in it for women, for people of color.”

1 Rita Moreno

Photo Credit IG @theritamoreno

Rita Moreno is the Latina icon who many of today’s Latinx entertainers look up to. She admits that she looked up to Elizabeth Taylor, as major Latin-American stars such as Dolores del Rio and Lupe Velez were “way before” her time. Moreno found that being a trailblazer was hard, as she had to fight to obtain her immense success (EGOT!) and change the Hollywood perception of Latinos. About this she has said: “Being the house ethnic was destroying my life and my sense of myself, because I had been consigned to play every dusky maiden you have ever seen in your life in movies.”

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