Imagine hosting a national beauty pageant meant to honor the African ancestry of a people, and the reigning favorite emerges a woman of Eurocentric disposition. In 2018, Colombia’s Señorita Afrodescendiente judges in Bogota crowned Ana Paula Rueda – a white Colombian woman – as their beauty queen. True story.
Blackness is, of course, global and comes in many forms, but this contest should have purposefully honored Black Colombians, those who are discernibly of African descent (read: darker skin, afro-textured hair, Black physical features). It instead further perpetuated society’s beauty ideals, failed to make space for the country’s Black communities and, moreover, robbed a Black woman of the opportunity to exalt her negritude in a world that traditionally relegates Black bodies to the backseat of mainstream glamour.
Hollywood actress and Jane the Virgin starlet Gina Rodriguez is someone who’s once or thrice been accused of hijacking spaces and erasing narratives not hers. Like the time she tweeted “where are the Latinos?!” when Marvel premiered their now-Oscar nominated blockbuster hit Black Panther. It’s as if it never occurred to Rodriguez, a Puerto Rican from Chicago, that Black people with Latin American roots might also have identified with Wakanda. Never mind that the likes of Rosario Dawson, Tessa Thompson and Zoe Saldaña — Latina women who don’t reflect Rodriguez’s image — have all previously been a part of other Marvel projects.
Then there’s the infamous moment Rodriguez attempted to interrupt Smallfoot costar Yara Shahidi when entertainment editor Xilla “Blogxilla” Valentine bigged up the 18-year-old for being an exemplary model for Black girls all around.
“You are just goals for so many young, Black women,” Valentine lauded, speaking directly to Shahidi. Before he could complete his thought and Shahidi could speak for herself, Rodriguez interjected with “so many women,” glossing over the need for more Black female voices in media. The kicker? This came from someone who fancies herself a champion for Latinx representation and visibility in film and television.
Despite the warranted critiques Rodriguez regularly receives on Twitter from women of color, that wasn’t the last time that the Miss Bala star would center her plight or just outright downplay the context of her melanated peers.
In a recent interview with Sway Calloway on Sway in the Morning, Rodriguez was asked about her reaction to the backlash that ensued after she claimed Black women made more money than Latinas, during a roundtable discussion alongside Gabrielle Union, Ellen Pompano and Emma Roberts on Net-A-Porter’s The Big Television Debate.
“When that happened… whew, man, that was really f**king hard,” she expressed in tears at the thought of being called anti-Black. She then doubled down on her original statement. “But it’s sadly a fact that Latinas in all industries make less money. It’s a fact and it sucks.”
While a 2018 study offers stats that adhere to what Rodriguez was trying to explain in the first place (which doesn’t expressly take into account Black people of Latino heritage), it is quite possible for Rodriguez to advocate for better Latinx representation without habitually bringing up African-American progression, especially when you consider that Black people are the ones who have pried open Hollywood’s door for all people of color.
“I was rooting for you so hard @HereIsGina Seriously - giving you space to be problematic and grow on your own. I didn’t want to lose another Chicago fave,” tweeted attorney and cultural critic @hjaybee. “But weaponizing tears to play victim is DIRECTLY out of the white feminist playbook and Im beyond disappointed.”
In the same interview, a tearful Rodriguez called it interesting that “the white community nor did the Asian community get mad,” trivializing Black women’s concerns and discontent. She further suggested she could not be anti-Black because of her “dark-skinned” father, a man with light skin and green eyes who is at best considered “trigeño” in places like Puerto Rico.
Perhaps what is most disturbing about Rodriguez’s perpetual framing of Latinx representation is her misrepresentation. She wants us to know that whites and Asians weren’t offended by what she said, without considering that Latin or “Hispanic” isn’t a race, much less monolithic. There are white, Black and, yes, even Asian Latinos.
“I think when I speak about Latino advocacy, people believe only people my skin color,” she said on Sway in the Morning. “And little do they know that I am very aware of what my culture is.”
Maybe Rodriguez only counts her negrura when she’s dancing salsa and eating mofongo? One thing’s for sure, you can’t call your dad an Afro-Latino, deny your own Blackness, allege the Black community was the only one you looked to/identified with and in the same breath put down Black women to advocate for “all women” and want be taken seriously or for people to sympathize for you.
Uh-uh, come again.
(Photo: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photobank)