America Ferrera Once Painted Her Face White to Make a Point About Racism in Hollywood

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America Ferrera (not Gina Rodriguez).
America Ferrera (not Gina Rodriguez).Photo: Jeffrey Mayer

The Times interviewed dozens of minority celebrities for a new feature about racism and sexism in Hollywood, and they dished some real talk about what it’s like surviving in an industry dominated by white men. Many of the celebrities interviewed discussed the ways they were directed to perform their respective races (“Can you do it again but sound more Latino?” one white director asked America Ferrera), while others lamented the dearth of roles available to people of color.

America Ferrera (not Gina Rodriguez) revealed that she was once so angered by the restrictions placed on her for being Latina that she decided to fight back:

I was 18 and putting myself on tape for a movie I really wanted. I got that phone call: They cast a Latino male in another role in the film; they’re not looking to cast [a Latina]. So I defiantly bleached my hair blond, painted my face white and made the audition tape. I never heard back. I just remember feeling so powerless. What do you do when someone says, “Your color skin is not what we’re looking for”? Let me tell you: Blond does not suit me. I try not to prove my point on audition tapes anymore.

Mindy Kaling also perfectly encapsulated the difficulties of being a woman in charge, especially when you’re a people-pleaser:

My personality and [that of other women] I know is to want to please. It can sometimes feel alien to just say, “I need this to happen, because it’s my show,” and not feel afterward that you’ve been unprofessional simply by stating the thing that you want. I struggle with it all the time. When you are a minority, and it’s the first time you’ve done something, you’re like, this could all be taken away from me. I think the presumption with women is that they will be team players, and that is not the presumption of men. Especially show runners. When women push back, they [are perceived as] bitches or divas. I just made a slight demand that wasn’t even that bad. And at the end of it, I’ll send bagels [to the staff]. Please forgive me for asserting myself in a small way.

Just a little bit of cheery news to kick off your hump day.