Dascha Polanco Just Called Out Hollywood For Only Casting 'Fake Latinas'

June 15th 2017

Kyle Fitzpatrick

Hollywood just doesn't understand racial diversity.

Despite it being 2017 and the industry's diversity struggle being blasted several times - movies, television and other media still struggle to reflect race in a nuanced way, both on-screen and behind the scenes.

Dascha Polanco recently spoke up about experiencing this first hand, as an Afro-Latina whose identity has constantly been suppressed.

In an interview with Vivala, the actress candidly shared what it's like to be Latinx in Hollywood.

The “Orange Is The New Black” star bemoaned how Latin stars are being pushed away from authenticity. “We have to be 'Fake Latinas,'" she told Vivala, pointing out how successful Latin actresses are “super thin and you really can’t tell if she’s Latina or not."

To her, the issue stems from a strict black and white binary in relationship to race. “I look at all these articles like, ‘All the Powerful Women of Hollywood’ and I don’t see a Latina in it,” she said. “It’s disappointing, as an actor, not to see that. Latinas have so much culture, and such richness, and we bring so much life.”

Polanco’s thoughts aren’t just personal. Hollywood really isn’t diverse.

While movements like #OscarsSoWhite highlighted the suffocating whiteness of the industry, the diversity that is included is not very nuanced.

A University of Southern California (USC) study from 2016 found that racially balanced media are greatly unbalanced with only 28.3 percent of speaking roles going to underrepresented speaking characters. Just 5.8 percent of this percentage was attributed to Latinx characters while the most represented minority group went to black characters with 12.2 percent of speaking characters.

Similarly, a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study from 2016 echoed the results in a more drastic tone. The researchers found that Latinx persons “were the most underrepresented among the minority groups, by a factor of more than 3 to 1.”

While more nuanced representation seems minor, it only highlights how disconnected the media is from reality.

What’s most distressing about these numbers is their distance from reality. The U.S. Census Bureau from July 2015 breaks down the U.S. population as 77.1 percent white, 13.3 percent black, 5.6 percent Asian, 2.6 percent mixed race, and 17.6 percent Hispanic or Latinx.

Moreover, Pew Research Center has found that — despite a slow in population growth — Latinx Americans account for more than half of the population’s growth from 2000 to 2014. The slow is believed to be the result of the Great Recession as both fertility rates and immigration slowed.

Again — for those in the back who might not have heard — representation matters.

This may sound like a broken record given ATTN:’s repeated reporting of the need for diverse female representation, male representation, ableness representation, racial representation, queer representation, and the intersections within and beyond. It's all to say the obvious: representation matters — and Hollywood sucks at doing a good, accurate job of representing people.

Greater representation isn’t something discussed to give groups warm, fuzzy feelings of seeing themselves on screens but, instead, it represents a ripple effect Hollywood can have on society. For example: when black men are depicted in exaggerated, negative manners, audiences feel less sympathy for and greater antagonism toward black males in real life. Some studies have even found that greater LGBT visibility in media leading to greater public favor of the group.

By discussing matters of representation, public figures like Polanco push Hollywood — and society, as a result — in the right direction.

Polanco is known for advocating for myriad aspects of diversity by discussing the issues that face her and so many other people publicly. In doing so, she’s raising awareness of these problems — and showing people that a little love goes a long way.

“I love myself,” Polanco told Vivala. “I love myself to know that I’m as important as anyone else out there.”