The reality of being Black AND Latino in the entertainment industry.
By Carolina Moreno, Latino Voices Editor
The Huffington Post, 2/18/2016 — Afro-Latinos face many challenges when it comes identity, particularly when people refuse to believe that being Black and Latino aren’t mutually exclusive experiences.
The Latino identity denotes an ethnicity, which means that Latinos exist in every color and race imaginable — and explaining the difference between race and ethnicity can be quite a cumbersome task to take on on a daily basis. And yet, many Afro-Latinos are often forced to do so after being told they’re not “Latino enough” or being asked to choose between being Black and Latino.
While many Latino actors have been brutally honest about the limitations that come with working in a predominately white industry, Afro-Latino celebrities often face even tougher challenges in Hollywood and beyond.
Take a look at what Laz Alonso (“The Mysteries of Laura”), Tatyana Ali (“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”) and more famous Afro-Latinos have said about being Black and Latino.
In NBC Universo’s “Black and Latino” documentary, the “Suits” star explained that casting directors wouldn’t consider her for Latina roles because of her appearance.
“There are so many of us out there,” she told Latina magazinee in 2013. “And part of it is, we’re undercover. They don’t know, and if we stood and said, ‘that’s it, I’m not going do any roles that are not Latina,’ we would not work. I don’t feel like I’m living a lie, because the fact is the world sees me as an African American woman unless they ask the question. Therefore my experience in the world, outside of my family, is that of an African American woman.”
Alonso spoke about embracing his Afro-Latino roots in the NBC Universo documentary “Black and Latino.” But the “The Mysteries of Laura” actor also said casting directors haven’t always understood his identity.
“I identify with my culture more so than a lot of the guys that I’ve lost roles to, but I just don’t look as Latin as they do,” Alonso said.
The former “Dexter” star told The Huffington Post in 2012 her Afro-Latino identity wasn’t embraced when she was first starting off in Hollywood.
As a singer and actress, the “Grandfathered” actress said she’s faced challenges due to her Afro-Latino identity during a HuffPost Live interview in October.
“We [Latinos are] all different, but you have to accept our differences,” Milian said. “As far as Afro-Cuban [goes], I’m finding more and more that there’s people opening their eyes to seeing that. Latinos come in all colors, all shades even in one family….but we’re still Latino, that doesn’t change a damn thing.”
The former “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”actress, of Panamanian descent, discussed the complexities of her identity and how “people usually identify being Latino with being Mexican” in NBC Universo’s “Black and Latino” documentary.
As part of her CNN documentary “Who Is Black in America?,” the journalist said her racial and ethnic background has been questioned in the context of her work.
“My mother would say, ‘Do not let anybody tell you you’re not black. Do not let anybody tell you you’re not Latina,'” she added. “And I remember thinking her comments were so weird, like ‘What is she talking about?'”
La La Anthony
In a personal essay for Latina magazine in 2011, the “Power” actress described the pushback she’s received over her Black and Latina identity.
“As I start to get my feet wet in Hollywood, I already know that there are certain parts I won’t even be considered for,” Anthony wrote. “The character can be Puerto Rican and speak Spanish just like me, but Hollywood defines Latina as Jennifer Lopez and Sofia Vergara. As beautiful as they are, we’re not all one race in Latin America. But I don’t go to auditions so that I can give history lessons to film executives.”
The “Orange is the New Black” star gave a passionate account of remaining proud of her roots despite coming across casting directors who’ve lacked tact when discussing her identity during P&G Orgullosa’s Nueva Latinas Living Fabulosa forum last year.
“The reality is that yes it was hard. Did I ever feel like I didn’t want to be Afro-Latina? Absolutely not,” Leyva said during the event. “We come in so many wonderful shades and body types…So whoever said I wasn’t Latina enough, suck it!”
In her interview with NBC Universo’s “Black and Latino” documentary, the “Devious Maids” star recalled being turned away from Latina roles because of her appearance.
“It bothered me, of course it bothered me, because what I look like and what I am, it doesn’t change that I’m a Latina,” Reyes said. “And you’re telling me that I’m too dark?”