Jenna Ortega, Anya Taylor-Joy’s Interaction at Fashion Show Sparks Debate on Latinidad and Language
Jenna Ortega, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Rachel Zegler‘s appearance at Paris Fashion Week together has given the internet lots to talk about. And while the three actresses enjoyed watching Christian Dior’s Spring-Summer 2024 runway show together… their Latinidad took center stage.
Why? Well, it all stemmed from one viral video that shows Taylor-Joy speaking in Spanish to Ortega. However, the “Wednesday” actress notably replies in English.
Taylor-Joy’s Argentine accent that’s straight out of Buenos Aires may be surprising, but it makes sense. While the “Queen’s Gambit” star was born in Miami, she grew up between Argentina and London. Even more, her father is Argentine. On the other hand, Ortega has Latino heritage but was born and raised in Coachella Valley, California.
Still, many people were shocked by Taylor-Joy’s Spanish skills in the video, commenting on how this makes her “more Latina” than Ortega. One X user wrote, “It’s so ironic that the one who looks less ‘Latina’ is the only one who is actually Latina.”
This is especially interesting because Taylor-Joy was born in the United States. So, the comments about her being “actually Latina” seem to mostly stem from her speaking Spanish.
Each of these stars’ backstories aside, this week, we’ve seen a whole lot of social media commentary that looks like, “The only bilingual person in this photo is Anya Taylor-Joy”:
By this, people also brought Zegler into the conversation, who is of both Polish and Colombian descent but was born in New Jersey. Much like Ortega, Zegler has oftentimes been critiqued for her Spanish.
A video showing Taylor-Joy speaking to Ortega in Spanish went viral — for many reasons
As you can see in the video, Taylor-Joy, Ortega, Zegler, and Rosalía were all sitting front row at the Dior show during Paris Fashion Week. The clip shows Taylor-Joy introducing her husband, Malcolm McRae, to both Ortega and Rosalía. She says, “Ese es mi marido,” translated to, “This is my husband.”
Still, you can hear Ortega replying in English, “Yeah, nice to see you again.” A.K.A., a very normal exchange. But because it is the internet, people got quite wound up about it.
Once the video was published, some X users began accusing Ortega of having “fake Mexican heritage,” just for not speaking Spanish. Other users continued to say Taylor-Joy is “more Latina” than both Ortega and Zegler, writing, “The other two don’t even know their mother tongue.”
However, it’s important to note that a recent study shows a whopping 78% of U.S. Latinos think it is “not necessary” to speak Spanish to be considered Latino. Speaking Spanish does not equal Latinidad, and vice versa — the Latino identity encompasses so much more than that.
As one X user interestingly put it, “If speaking Spanish is a requirement to be Latino, then I guess all the high school Spanish teachers are Latino.”
Each of these actresses has different experiences regarding their Latinidad
While Taylor-Joy spent much of her life in Argentina, Ortega and Zegler grew up in the United States — and had a very different experience as Latinas.
Ortega famously wrote about her Latinidad in a 2016 op-ed for POPSUGAR, describing how she is “75 percent Mexican and 25 percent Puerto Rican.” Still, she was born and raised in Coachella Valley, California, and talked about Spanish dying down in her family.
“Since my father does not speak Spanish, trying to teach my siblings and me the language when we were little was a struggle,” she wrote at the time. She also wrote about having a bilingual mother, and all the confusion that created in her home at times.
“The problem was, my father could not understand what my mom would tell us in Spanish, and his constant questioning became too much for her.” Back when Ortega wrote the piece, she said her entire family was learning Spanish.
While both Ortega and Zegler identify as Latinas, many X users continued to call them out as “not Latina enough” after seeing the recent video. One user wrote, “This is how the debate ends on who is Latino or not in Hollywood. Thank you very much, Anya”:
Still, this may just prove how many diaspora babies constantly find themselves in a “you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. Case in point? When the actresses have received backlash online for taking on roles not previously designated for Latinos.
For one, Zegler experienced “nonsensical discourse” over her casting as Snow White, describing how “angry” people were about the decision.
She stated “You don’t particularly see people who look like me or are me playing roles like that.” However, Zegler said she was excited to be a “Latina princess.”
So are 200-percenters only Latina for some people when they want to criticize them? When do they win?
Many social media users note how “complex” the conversation about Latino identity is
Of course, many X users are noting how “complex” this conversation is — even if Hollywood doesn’t always represent our multifaceted identity on screen.
As one user wrote, “The complexity of [Latin American] ethnicity is something Hollywood doesn’t [want to] touch”:
All in all, many are simply calling for a wider perspective of Latino identity. One user added to the discussion, writing, “In a perfect world, we would all speak the language of those who came before us but that’s not always the case.”
Adding, “Not speaking Spanish at all, or fluently, in no way removes one’s [Latino] heritage.” Here, here!
As so many others wrote, “Just because [Ortega] doesn’t speak Spanish, doesn’t mean she isn’t connected to her heritage.”
Others chimed in with a final request— protect Jenna Ortega at all costs!
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