For many young Latinas, the first time seeing themselves through a girl who embodied true ambition, confidence and creativity all-in-one didn’t come from a plastic doll; it came from America Ferrera.
The Honduran American actress was nominated Jan. 23 for her first Academy Award after a career spanning over 20 years portraying fully dimensional Latina characters on-screen.
Ferrerawas recognized for her supporting role in Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” as Gloria, a Mattel employee and mom to Puerto Rican-American actress Ariana Greenblatt in the film. The nod from the Academy came as no surprise considering the standout monologue she delivered about the impossibility of womanhood.
“… always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So, find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful,” saidGloria in her speech.
Her character continues to list the things women could “never” be in a male-dominated society, referencing ageism, body and beauty standards, and sexism.
#BarbieSpeech soon went viral on social media platforms such as TikTok. The monologue was shared on the app more than 22,000 times after the film’s release and had fans trying their best to keep up with Gloria’s two-and-a-half-minute long delivery without shedding a tear.
With all that said about Ferrera’s outstanding performance in the film, her historic nomination was overshadowed because her “Barbie” colleagues, Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig, did not get the same recognition from the Academy for their respective roles.
What should have been a celebratory moment for Latinas everywhere who yearned for authentic representations of their stories on film was diminished by white feminists angered by an institution that has catered to their storytelling for decades.
What Gloria failed to mention in her speech was it is “literally impossible” to be a Latina in Hollywood.
Stephanie Alvarado, a recent theater graduate from Cal Poly Pomona, recognizes these hardships all too well and looks up to Ferrerabecause of it.
“Being a woman is hard, but being especially a woman of color, that’s just a whole other layer that complicates even more things,” said Alvarado. “You have to walk on a tighter rope.”
Alvarado began following Ferrera’s career after watching her star in “Real Women Have Curves,” a film that heavily impacted their life. It was the first time they saw a Latina just existing in a movie without conforming to stereotypes.
“She was the main character,” Alvarado said. “She got to have these romances and had these dreams and aspirations.”
Alvarado was ecstatic after hearing about Ferrera’s Oscar nomination, as they shared many similarities with the actress.
“Her parents are immigrants; they’re from Honduras, like me,” Alvarado said. “So, seeing America shining and doing these big projects and getting these big nominations is just really special.”
Mya Alvarado, a third-year theater major, also acknowledged the significance of Latina experiences both on and off camera.
“It makes diversity more normalized,” said Alvarado.
She also mentioned Ferrera’s upcoming directorial debut based on Mexican author Erika Sánchez’s novel “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” which was greenlit after Ferrera’s nomination was announced.
“Recognizing Latinos is really important, so they can continue expanding diversity,” Alvarado said. “Her (Ferrera) directing this new movie and seeking opportunities that really represent Latina characters is inspiring.”
It is easy to say Ferrera is an inspiration because of the women she plays in film and television, but more importantly, she is a role model for Latinas everywhere because she chooses to embrace her cultural roots behind the camera without fail.
Alvaro Huerta, an associate professor at CPP who specializes in Latina/o and Chicana/o studies, expanded on why it is vital for Latinos in the business to always be proud of their cultural identities.
“We don’t need just brown people to make it and then they forget who they are and where they came from … and what I appreciate about her (Ferrera) is how she represents our people in a positive way,” Huerta said.
Before the announcement of her nomination, Ferrera was the eighth recipient of the SeeHer Award at the Critics Choice Awards Jan. 14 for her productive contributions to women in entertainment. She reflected on the honor by acknowledging future generations of Latinas in Hollywood through another empowering speech.
“To me, this is the best and highest use of storytelling to affirm one another’s full humanity, to uphold the truth that we are all worthy of being seen — Black, brown, indigenous, Asian, trans, disabled, any body type, any gender,” Ferrera said. “We are all worthy of having our lives richly and authentically reflective.”