Would you believe an acting coach who told you that calling yourself “Rosa Ramirez” is enough to get you a meeting in Hollywood? Before you start laughing at such a wholly ridiculous idea of LA as a town tripping over itself to hand parts to Latinx-sounding actors, know that an actual acting coach by the name of Lesly Kahn did, in fact, deliver such advice. To an aspiring young Jewish actress, no less! As Deadline reported, audio of Kahn’s comments (recorded by an anonymous student) surfaced when Hyper RPG host Dani Fernandez posted them to her social media channels.
This is the other part that was sent to me.
I am shaking.
Our culture is not something for white people to “try on” for fun.
This is beyond upsetting and happens at agencies and studios.
This has to stop.
This doesn’t fix anything. This hurts us pic.twitter.com/VhIcOdobmw
— Dani Fernandez (@msdanifernandez) February 25, 2018
We suggest listening to the full clip above to really get a sense of the way Kahn’s tone suggests that pretending to be Latina to catch the eyes of casting directors and agents alike is just good common sense. But here’s a taste of the kind of stereotypical image she was foisting onto her students: “Go to the headshot shop and tell them you’re Latin. Wear something f*cking red. Wear some f*cking sparkly earrings.” Her remarks don’t just exemplify a rather myopic view of Hollywood hiring practices, but they perpetuate needless stereotypes about the Latino community.
After her remarks went viral, Kahn issued an apology via Twitter. “I believe in diversity and inclusion in the arts and in all areas of life,” it reads, though curiously it does not walk back the assumptions that underscored her entire tirade.
— Lesly Kahn (@leslykahn) February 26, 2018
Thankfully, there are those in the industry who are ready to call out the insidious “anecdotes” that feed into a narrative where one’s “diversity-cred” is all of a sudden your ticket to stardom. One Day at a Time showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett, for example, took her time to tweet out a stat that should convince anyone thinking that having a Latino-sounding name is somehow a boon in an industry that still struggles to give Latinx actors their due.
It’s pilot season & I’m hearing the lie again. “Gloria, I would have gotten the part but they are going Latin.”
People, listen to FACTS, Latinx make up 5.8% of all speaking roles on TV. Including co-star, guest star & series regulars.
We are not taking your roles.
— Gloria Calderón Kellett (@everythingloria) February 27, 2018
That statistic she cites can be found in this year’s UCLA Hollywood Diversity report. Released just this week, the annual study has Latinx actors making up 6% of roles in broadcast scripted series, 5.6% in cable scripted shows, and 5% in digital scripted shows. So, if we were to follow the “saga of Rosa Ramirez” as Kahn encouraged her students to do, we’d find that she’d likely be in an even more dire situation than before, with perhaps fewer opportunities at her fingertips. But Kahn’s misguided advice and the lies Calderón Kellett was calling out merely serve the same purpose. They both suggest that somehow Latinx performers nab roles only for their Latin-sounding names (or their sparkly earrings!) and in turn deprive others of opportunities that should have been afforded them. They’re a way of gaslighting Latinx actors from thinking their callbacks and bookings aren’t legitimate, and a way of reassuring non-Hispanic performers that they’re somehow at a disadvantage in this presumably progressive solely diverse-driven industry. Surely we can do better than indulging either or both at the same time, no?