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Rachel Zegler Opens Up About Representation in Hollywood: ‘Because I Wasn’t Born in Colombia, People Think That Strips Me of That Colombian Identity’

In 2020, Disney announced they had cast “West Side Story” actress Rachel Zegler to take on the titular role of their upcoming live-action remake of “Snow White.”

The reaction to Rachel Zegler — an actress of Colombian and American descent — being chosen for a role in which the main character’s defining characteristic is her snow-white skin, was mixed.

Just like in response to “The Little Mermaid” casting a Black actress to play Ariel, Disney purists took to the internet to express their outrage over Snow White being played by a Latina.

Twitter users posted angry comments, like: “A Latino going playing in snow white. Seriously stop with the race swiping.” And: “Skin as white as snow. I don’t think Zegler is pale enough to play the role.” And: “Snow White ain’t a Mexican,” — neither is Rachel Zegler.

In a recent conversation with Andrew Garfield for “Variety,” Zegler address the controversy of her casting.

“Never in a million years did I imagine that this would be a possibility for me,” she said. “You don’t normally see Snow Whites that are of Latin descent. Even though Snow White is really a big deal in Spanish-speaking countries. Blanca Nieves is a huge icon whether you’re talking about the Disney cartoon or just different iterations and the Grimms’ Fairy Tales and all the stories that come with it.”

She continued: “But you don’t particularly see people who look like me, or are me, playing roles like that. When it was announced, it was a huge thing that was trending on Twitter for days, because all of the people were angry.”

But despite the backlash, Zegler expressed her excitement at getting to play such an icon. “At the end of the day, I have a job to do that I’m really excited to do. I get to be a Latina princess.”

While some users were coming after Zegler for being too Latina to play Snow White, there are also a subset of critics out there who didn’t think Zegler should’ve played Maria in “West Side Story” because she was too white.

A quick search on Twitter will find that a lot of users condemn her for being born in the United States. Like many multi-cultural people, it seems that Zegler faces hate from all sides.

Earlier in the interview, Zegler talked about how the conversation around her identity and ethnicity can turn toxic when discussing representation in Hollywood — an area where Hollywood continues to fail Latinos.

When Garfield asked her if she feels a “weight” to represent the Latino community, Zegler got candid about her identity.

“The conversation can turn really nasty, really fast when you’re talking about representation,” she said. “It’s such a multidimensional conversation, because it’s not only dependent on what generation you’re talking to, [but] what their relationship to their own identity is.”

She continued: “My dad is white, he’s an American man, his family has been in the United States for many, many years. And my mom is Colombian, and she was born here. And because I wasn’t born in Colombia, people think about strips me of that Colombian identity — which could not be further from the truth.”

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