Latino actors and actors of color should have the freedom to portray whatever character speaks to them that they want to portray, and the moral code of that character isn’t a reflection on all of Latino society or every Latino person.
If you've heard of the web series Gente-fied then you may have some idea of what actress America Ferrera has been up years since wrapping up her Ugly Betty starring role in 2010. Following seven Latinx characters who each deal with various experiences relating to being brought up in the Los Angeles barrio, Boyle Heights, the series puts a spotlight on the very real effects of gentrification on a specific, commonly underrepresented or overlooked community. In celebration of the 20-year anniversary of blockbuster Selena being released, an important question to ponder is where Latinx representation stands today.
Developed by Ferrera's production company, Fountain Pictures, the show is in the process of closing a distribution deal, she couldn't be more on fire with coming into her own as an actress-turned-activist-turned-business mogul.
She recently told Vulture Magazine:
The fact that Gente-fied is a comedy is also really compelling to me. Because we are used to seeing ourselves through poverty and crime and devastation. We are portrayed as less than, as victims, as drug dealers, as pregnant teenagers, cholos, gangsters, and there is such a heaviness to it. Yet our culture is so vibrant and we have so much life and energy and humor, and we never get to see that part of it. That said, there’s nothing wrong with those images. Those are real people. The only reason we’re sick of drug dealers and housekeepers and gardeners and immigrants crossing the border in every movie with Latinos is because we are so much more than that. Those people exist, and they deserve to be seen in complex and human ways. But that’s not all we are. So what we hope to strive for is more complexity in how we are seen in society. Latino actors and actors of color should have the freedom to portray whatever character speaks to them that they want to portray, and the moral code of that character isn’t a reflection on all of Latino society or every Latino person. But it’s different for everybody, and it’s a journey to figure out.
But, the Latinx community is not the only one America is adamant about pushing for equal rights.
Using her platform to speak out about equalizing the rights for the Latinx community, for women, and LGBTQ communities, Ferrera admits that she is constantly in fear of how seriously she is taken by others within her professional environment:
"I am not just an actor, I am not just a Latina, I’m not just an activist, I’m not just a director, a producer, a creative person. I’m all of these things, and I’ve finally come to a place in my life where not only is it okay for me to feed all of those things, but everything gets better when I do. I’m not going to stop being a person in the world because I’m afraid people aren’t going to see me as an actor. I’m not going to turn down a Latino role because I don’t want people to not see me as everything else. I am happiest and most fulfilled when I am nourishing and giving time and energy to all the different aspects of who I am. And I can’t control how people see me. I can’t control whether when someone says my name they think of an actress or an activist."
Just days ago America received an Ally for Equality Award by Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Followed by an introduction by fellow actress-activist Lena Dunham, America took the time to call out her perspective on representation in the media:
"We know that representation matters, we know this. Not just in the media, but in the schools, in our hospitals, in the boardrooms, in our halls of power...we know that it makes all the difference to see ourselves reflected by culture with dignity, with humor, with compassion...We can leave the next generation with a better reflection of their innate worth and their inherent power, simply by claiming and living in our own power..."
This is my ode to celebrities using their platform to reach a grand scale of thinkers and doers, free but critical.
While some public figures are merely selling tummy teas and promoting parties, I can appreciate the effort America Ferrera continues to make in pushing for two key things for Hollywood and the United States of America: to offer a more inclusive, accurate portrayal of diversity as well as include better human rights for various underprivileged communities such as the Latinx and LGBTQ ones.