America Ferrera is getting real about Latinx representation in Hollywood. Although, the Honduran-American actress is mega successful today, it wasn't always like that. She struggled throughout her career, and it was mostly due to the fact that people were pigeonholing her into certain "Latina" stereotypes. "These were the kinds of roles that existed for someone like me. Someone they looked at and saw as too brown, too fat, too poor, too unsophisticated," America said of the roles she would audition that called for her doing a broken english accent to fit the Latina sterotype.
America Ferrera gets real about Latinas in Hollywood during her TED talk
"These roles couldn't have been further from my own reality or from the roles I dreamt of playing. I wanted to play people who were complex and multidimensional, people who existed in the center of their own lives. Not cardboard cutouts that stood in the background of someone else's."
Throughout her career, the 35-year-old actress was led to believe that her identity was an "obstacle" she had to overcome and that she needed to follow the Hollywood playbook in order to get work. "I worked my hardest to overcome all the things that people said were wrong with me. I stayed out of the sun so that my skin wouldn't get too brown, I straightened my curls into submission. I constantly tried to lose weight, I bought fancier and more expensive clothes," she explained. "All so that when people looked at me, they wouldn't see a too fat, too brown, too poor Latina. They would see what I was capable of. And maybe they would give me a chance."
In the end, the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants star realized there was a problem with the way she was acting because she was changing and not the system. "I thought sunscreen and straightening irons would bring about change in this deeply entrenched value system," she said. "But what I realized in that moment was that I was never actually asking the system to change. I was asking it to let me in, and those aren't the same thing. I couldn't change what a system believed about me, while I believed what the system believed about me."
"I stayed out of the sun so that my skin wouldn't get too brown, I straightened my curls into submission," the actress said of her career in Hollywood
To her younger self, America has some wise words: "If I could go back and say anything to that nine-year-old, dancing in the den, dreaming her dreams, I would say, 'My identity is not my obstacle. My identity is my superpower.' Because the truth is, I am what the world looks like. You are what the world looks like. Collectively, we are what the world actually looks like. And in order for our systems to reflect that, they don't have to create a new reality. They just have to stop resisting the one we already live in."
Preach it, sister!