When it comes to representation in the media for Latine communities, we often hear from some of the biggest celebrities in the industry. But what about the emerging stars and trailblazers? How do they feel about the representation now, and do they think it’s headed in the right direction?
We teamed up with Disney+ bundle for an #OurHeritageMonth panel to ask those questions — among other unfiltered topics — to groundbreaking women in the media. Remezcla’s Editor-in-Chief Thatiana Diaz spoke with Alexis Nunes (Soccer reporter and co-host, ESPN+), Tess Romero (Actress, Diary of a Future President), and Isabella Ferreira (Actress, Love, Victor) for the honest discussion. They all spoke on the representation they grew up with — while also diving deeper into their identities and the experiences that came with them.
“I’m a unique mix,” says Nunes, who is of Jamaican and El Salvadorian descent. “Looking on television and the shows that I’d watch, Latina women were bleaching their hair blonde.” The sports anchor recalls watching Latinas in pageants like Miss Universe and asking her grandma to straighten her hair. That lack of representation hit Nunes even harder when she stepped into a sports career as not just an Afro-Latina, but also a woman. “Especially [being] in the sports world, where back then, it’s hard to find women as well, I can’t think of anyone that I really saw myself in… Thankfully it has never been a deterrent for me.”
It wasn’t until Nunes co-hosted Somos Afro-Latinos — an ESPN special that highlighted the intersection of race, sport, and the Latine culture — this year that she felt more in tune with her Afro-Latinidad. “Growing up, people always asked me, ‘What are you?’,” she recalls. “In Jamaica, I wasn’t Black enough to be Jamaican, and in El Salvador, I didn’t really look how my mom and my family there looks. It was always a weird thing [in which] I felt I never really had a place.”
Ferreira only saw herself represented in shows like Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place, which didn’t hit the screens until 2007. “That was a Latina/Latino family,” she remembers. “Selena Gomez was my main role model growing up.”
But Romero, who also pointed to Wizards of Waverly Place and added Dora The Explorer, feels the industry is in a much better place compared to what mentors have shared about their experiences in Hollywood. “It’s gotten a lot better,” the actress declares.
All women stressed the need for more nuanced stories for Latine people — in which they could be the central character or family and not just a sideline character perpetuating stereotypes. For this reason, Romero is proud to be a part of a series like Diary of a Future President and hopes to see more of Hollywood follow suit. “This show is obviously about a Latinx family, and that’s an important part of the character’s identity, and it’s an important part of the show, but it’s cool to me that it’s not just about that,” she says. “We do have a lot of Hispanic struggle stories and stories of all the hardships Latinx people have to face, and I think that’s obviously really important, and it’s great that we have that. But it’s also great to see joyful stories.”
For more on what Nunes, Romero, and Ferreira had to say about their experiences, from finding superpowers in wearing hoop earrings to losing your culture in assimilation, and even an honest message to casting directors and writers rooms, watch the complete roundtable discussion below.