Alycia Pascual-Peña, the Proud Afro-Latina Who Fights Patriarchy

Alycia Pascual-Peña Moxie BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Teen Vogue.

This Wednesday, Netflix released the movie we so desperately need when we’re 16. Moxie is the new production from the hilarious Amy Poehler, who also stars as the rebellious mother whose teenage years inspire her daughter to fight sexism at her school.

Written by Tamara Chestna and Dylan Meyer, Moxie is based on Jennifer Mathieu’s novel of the same name that revives the feminist and punk cultural scene of the ’90s. The protest fanzine comeback is complete with an incredible soundtrack by Bikini Kill.

With an intersectional cast, including young girls and transgender actress Josie Totah, Poehler and her team gave Latino audiences the flesh-and-blood superheroine we’ve been waiting for: Alycia Pascual-Peña.

The young Afro-Latina actress, daughter of Dominican parents, became famous for her appearances on NBC Chase and the reboot of Saved by the Bell. But it is on Moxie where her style and spontaneous come-backs in Spanish have earned her the Latino audience’s respect and admiration.

“No nos vamos a quedar con este machismo, ¿verdad?” says Alycia Pascual-Peña toward the end of the film, switching directly to English in what may be the most honest scene in ‘Moxie.’

“That was just Alycia being Alycia. Coming from an immigrant household, Spanglish is, I would say, my third language,” Alycia Pascual-Peña, a Bronx native whose family hails from the Dominican Republic, told Refinery29 over the phone ahead of Moxie’s premiere. “Even to my friends who don’t speak Spanish, I’m constantly speaking Spanish to them.”

The pride with which the young woman carries her identity is deeply inspiring, as is her on- and off-stage stance against patriarchy and machismo.

“We got to talk about the complexity of me being an Afro-Latina and the importance of young women who look like me and come from my community being able to see themselves,” Pascual-Peña said, adding she never had the luxury of feeling represented when she sat down to watch a movie about a group of high school girls coming of age, like Moxie.

“Unfortunately, I think we experienced a lot of tokenism. Our bodies were a commodity in films and used as a force to perpetuate stereotypes or be the butt of the joke,” Pascual-Peña said. “The small times we did see ourselves, I would see a Black or a Latina woman in a negative light, and I would never see anyone with the intersectionality of who I am. I’m very proud to be Latina. I’m very proud to be Black.”

Her navigation between Spanish and English, and her natural way of dancing bachata on stage, are a strong message to new audiences and a platform that has been criticized for its lack of diversity.

“I think when I was younger, I felt the need to kind of sequester my voice and tell myself you can’t care about (representation, diversity, equity, inclusión), which is just very untrue,” she told LRM Online in an interview. “So I care about a lot of things, and I hope that my work and my art and in my personal life, I can push the needle forward in any way about the movements that I care about.”

“High school is hard, and being a woman can be really hard as a result of sexism and misogyny. So there are a lot of things that I hope that people take from this film. But essentially one of the grander stories that I hope people take from it is to be empowered in their voice and whatever that looks like. That everybody has something to say, and everybody should have the agency to pursue what they want and go after it vigorously and also change the world around them.”