Yalitza: the Actress Mexico Needed and Hollywood Welcomed

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The first time I came across Yalitza Aparicio was through Luke Meagher’s (@hautelemode) Instagram story. The fashion critic was praising Aparicio’s cover for the January issue of Vogue Mexico. She was wearing the most gorgeous white gown with black embroidery so naturally, I clicked through to Vogue Mexico’s post where I came across the young actress’ video interview.

“Let’s talk about real women, with nostalgia, memories, passions and an identity that you see and feel bursting from deep within,” Aparicio said. “My skin, very Mexican, very Oaxaquena and very human.”

First, I have to be honest, the main reason I clicked through to the interview was because I’m Mexican but I have NEVER seen a Mexican woman like Aparicio featured on any sort of Mexican media. Growing up, the actresses in the telenovelas (soap operas) and Mexican TV shows I watched with my mom were always those with “White” or Eurocentric beauty features. In Morning Shows like “Hoy,” the women were tall, thin, fair-skinned, had long dyed hair, light brown or sometimes even blue eyes. The same went for the soap opera female leads which for little girl me, really set the standard for beauty because their characters always had the hottest men (again, very white looking too) falling in love with them and so creating the image of how you should look to be deemed beautiful and desirable. Even the popular film character “La India Maria” (the India, Maria) was actually played by a white actress and extremely reinforced stereotypes of indigenous people.   

“My skin, very Mexican, very Oaxaquena and very human.” Reinterpretation of Vogue Mexico Cover

“Certain stereotypes are being broken,” said Aparicio. “That only people with a certain profile can be actresses or be on the cover of magazines. Other faces of Mexico are now being recognized. It is something that makes me so happy and proud of my roots.”

With Mexican media, there’s always been an issue with classist and racist perspectives. As an article by The New York Times perfectly details the impact of “Roma” in Mexico as “more than a personal project by a famous director.” The film has created a space for there to be “a conversation about inequality, the treatment of domestic workers and who is welcome on the red carpet in a country where Indigenous women are rarely seen in magazines, much less at Hollywood awards shows.”

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma” is an autobiographical film that takes place in 1970’s Mexico. Despite all the praise and nominations both the film and Aparicio have received, there has been almost an equal amount of hateful comments and critiques towards the Mixtec (indigenous of Oaxaca) actress that are really more reflective of the work Mexico still has in addressing racist and offensive beliefs.   

“Other faces of Mexico are now being recognized.” Vanity Fair photo reinterpretation

Just last week, Sergio Goyri, a popular Mexican actor, used hateful language and derogatory terms to express his disbelief of Aparicio’s Academy nominations and success in Hollywood. “A damn Indian, who only says yes ma’am, no ma’am,” said Goyri.

Aparicio’s journey from an aspiring school teacher in Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca to Hollywood’s new face may look like a total uphill ride. It really appeared this way when researching Aparicio. Given results of her partying with Hollywood stars, her latest interview with Teen Vogue, and, of course, her latest red carpet look.  

“That white and caucasian is beautiful, positive, successful, etc… We have a structural problem with [these beliefs]. Teen Vogue Reinterpretation

The reality is, Yalitza has become important in Hollywood because of her inspiring role but more importantly, she’s inspired a slew of audiences (including me) to wake up from the discrimination and lack of representation of all of Mexico’s people in the media, and to realize the beauty and worth in their image.

“Indigenous women are beautiful… the problem is that they have indoctrinated us with the idea that being white and aspiring to be white is the goal,” comments Miki Nunez in a video Interview of Yalitza. “That white and caucasian is beautiful, positive, successful, etc… We have a structural problem with [these beliefs]. It’s a great shame because from there stems the inequality and violence.” •

By: Anai Moreno

Graphics by: Izellah Wang

Anai Moreno is a senior Public Relations major with a concentration in Cultural Anthropology and Textiles and Apparel. While she is constantly looking for ways to intersect her passions of fashion and activism, she enjoys cleaning while watching Chef’s Table or Terrace House as an act of self-love. Her current goal is to reconnect with nature. 

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