Latina women struggle with workplace equality, imposter syndrome and feeling as if we don’t belong in certain institutions, and we’re also constantly told to shrink ourselves in order to not make others (read: white people) uncomfortable with our Latinidad. Another policing of our identities and how we navigate the workplace and the world is when others tell us what to wear or not wear.
None of this is okay and Latina women deserve more respect and freedom to be our unapologetic selves.
NBC/MSNBC correspondent Mariana Atencio wrote in her new book that an unnamed female manager told her not to dress “too Latina” for the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2017.
According to Newsweek, the manager told Atencio that she should dress more like Ivanka Trump. In her new book, Perfectly You: Embracing the Power of Being Real, Atencio writes about how happy she was to represent the Latinx community and how proud she was to have a seat at the table, “literally and figuratively.”
She also writes about the encounter she had with the unnamed female manager who gave her a call before the White House Correspondents Dinner and asked what she planned to wear to the dinner.
“It was a weird phone call—with an even weirder request,” Atencio writes. ” ‘Why do you ask?’ I replied. ‘Please don’t look too Latina.’ At first, I thought I didn’t hear correctly. ‘I beg your pardon?’ I asked. ‘When you pick your outfit, I mean. Don’t look too Latina.'”
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“I felt offended. Outrage and indignation hit me at once… This person was making me feel smaller and smaller with each word. Can you imagine someone in your field asking you to please not look so African American? Or Asian? Or white? Don’t look so Muslim or Christian? How do you change who you are?,” Atencio wrote.
However, according to Atencio—the manager didn’t stop there with her unsolicited fashion advice. She went on to advise Atencio to go to Saks Fifth Avenue “and have someone help you out.” The female manager told Atencio, “‘Have them pick out something demure. Not too colorful or tight. Think Ivanka Trump, OK?'”
First of all, how do you dress “too Latina”? If that’s the case, should we stoop to the same level and say, “Ivanka, can you dress a little less like the complicit daughter of a racist commander in chief”?
According to a statement given to USA Today, MSNBC called the manager’s comments “highly inappropriate and unacceptable. More than a year and a half later, when it was first brought to a manager’s attention, immediate action was taken. Since this is an HR matter and there are privacy concerns, we won’t go into greater detail.”
In an interview with NBC News, the award-winning Venezuelan correspondent spoke about the incident and shared more lessons of inclusivity and diversity as well as what she hopes the book will achieve. The Latina immigrant journalist and author began her career in Venezuela and talked about what it was like being one of the first Latina journalists on air when she first began her career.
“When I first started, it was more of, ‘How can we tone this down?’ But with time it was realizing that in fact, I had to be more myself,” Atencio said.
She goes on to say that she wanted to include the anecdote in her memoir not to focus on the negative but to remind readers that “these things still happen. We have to call them out and have conversations as adults about how to get past them.”
People on social media shared their own experiences about going through something similar to what Atencio went through.
Daisy Fuentes tweeted that she could relate and that it’s “time to end the racist stereotypes.”
Another journalist said he’s heard this countless times from Latina coworkers in the media industry.
We’re glad men in the industry are also bringing to light this discriminatory and dangerous stereotype against Latina women and the Latinx community in general.
Latinx film critic Yolanda Machado also shared that she’s been told to not “go all Latina” in reference to getting upset over something in the workplace.
“Most of these are followed by ‘I don’t see color, but…’ or ‘I don’t mean you, of course, but…'” she tweeted. “Racist. Racist. RACIST.”
We applaud Mariana Atencio for including this in her memoir in order to work toward a future where Latina women in the workplace don’t have to undergo this type of behavior from others.
“The message of my book is that you, too (readers) can make it. By sharing my journey, I hope to inspire (others) on their journey,” Atencio said of her memoir.