America Ferrera Recounts Her First Hollywood Audition Where She Was Asked to Sound “More Latina”
The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were held on Sunday, and big-name stars gathered to celebrate and acknowledge groundbreaking television programs. One of the celebrities that made a special appearance was America Ferrera.
In a segment called “This Is What I Sound Like,” Ferrera spoke about her troubling experiences as a young Latina actress just starting off in Hollywood.
Before the segment, “Grown-ish” actress Yara Shahidi introduced the segment, emphasizing the importance of representation onscreen.
“The stories we tell on TV shape how we see ourselves and others,” she said. “And how we are seen can many times determine how we are treated. The dream of television is the freedom to live our full and nuanced lives outside of boxes and assumptions.”
In a pre-recorded segment, Ferrera then described her first audition in Hollywood–an experience that ended up being a formative one.
“I was 16-years-old when I got my very first audition and I was this little brown chubby Valley Girl who spoke, you know, like a Valley Girl,” Ferrera explained. “I walked in, did my audition. The casting director looked at me and was like, ‘That’s great. Can you do that again, but this time, sound ‘more Latina?””
According to Ferrera, she asked the casting director whether she wanted her to do the audition in Spanish. The casting director declined. Ferrera tried to explain the contradiction of the directions, telling the casting director: “I am a Latina and this is what I sound like.” Needless to say, she did not get the part.
When she went home to tell her family the story, they seemed unsurprised by the blatant stereotyping Ferrera was facing. They told her that the entertainment industry will want her to “speak in broken English” and “sound like a chola”.
“What did you think was gonna happen?” her family members asked her. “[Hollywood was] gonna have you starring in the next role made for Julia Roberts?”
According to Ferrera, the realization that Hollywood saw her in a different way than she saw herself made her want to “create more opportunity for little brown girls to fulfill their talent and their dream.”
Since then, the Honduran-American actress has starred in numerous projects that illustrate the diversity of the Latinx experience in America, from “Real Women Have Curves” to “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” to “Ugly Betty“. Most recently, Ferrera dipped her toe into the producing waters with the bilingual Netflix series “Gentified“.
Although Ferrera is putting in the work for more Latinx representation onscreen, the Television Academy still has a long way to go when it comes to recognizing Latinx talent. Unfortunately, the only Latino person nominated for an Emmy this year was Argentine-Mexican actress Alexis Bledel for her work in “The Handmaid’s Tale”.
Here’s to hoping that Latinos like America Ferrera will continue to make their voices heard, giving inspiration to little brown girls everywhere who want nothing more than to see themselves onscreen.
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