LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 12: America Ferrera attends the

America Ferrera Finally Sees Herself in ‘Barbie’ — But Hollywood Still Has Work to Do According to Her

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 12: America Ferrera attends the "Barbie" European Premiere at Cineworld Leicester Square on July 12, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Being part of this year’s Barbie-mania doesn’t always root from owning a Barbie growing up or connecting to the nostalgia that’s driven by the film’s marketing. Some people, like one of the film’s leading actresses America Ferrera, never owned a Barbie in her childhood or connected with the toy’s sentimentality — even if she’s part of the upcoming film directed by Greta Gerwig.

Ahead of Barbie’s premiere, Remezcla got a chance to talk with the Honduran-American actress, producer, and activist. Best known for her roles in the multi-awarded ABC comedy-drama adaptation of Ugly Betty, we got to chat about how she actually never played with Barbies, the moment she finally related to Barbie, and how her character is leaving her mark in the Mattel world.

We don’t blame Ferrera for never playing with Barbies, though. Many of us grew up playing with hand-me-down dolls (if we were lucky), and if you were like me, didn’t even get a chance to play with the iconic Latine-inspired doll Teresa. In Ferrera’s case, she didn’t resonate with the pretty-in-pink plastic phenomenon at all.

America Ferrera in Barbie
Warner Bros. Pictures
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“I didn’t grow up playing with Barbies. We couldn’t afford them and also it didn’t really resonate because I didn’t really see myself in Barbie or in the Barbie world,” she told Remezcla. “But at this moment, getting to be a part of expanding that very influential and dominant cultural narrative of Barbie, to include more of us is really an incredible joy… We all belong in that narrative. And so it’s wonderful to be a part of that shift.”

This cultural shift in Barbie is more inclusive. When asked if there was a moment that she stopped to think if her inner child would ever believe this, she said it was when she finished reading the script. “I thought to myself, like, Barbie in the world of Barbie was never anything that I could imagine being represented in; being seen in being a part of. It just didn’t relate to me… but because the narrative has shifted to include someone like me–people like us–that felt like something I could never have imagined as a kid.”

Not only is she representing Latines in Barbie, but her character, Gloria, is also giving its viewers a feminist crash course on accepting every inch of ourselves. “For me, it’s about the opportunity to claim all the parts of us. We’ve learned to compartmentalize as women. Playfulness, joy, is something that we have to claim for ourselves, and yes, we work hard and we make everyone happy and we struggle and we fight and we’re the martyrs and like that’s something that is acceptable, but getting to have joy and expression and imagination and aspiration for the sake of it is not as valued,” she said.

She also explains that her character, Gloria, is someone who believes in something she had a connection with as a child. And although that might make her seem immature, people get to see all parts of her because she’s aspirational and hopeful, but at the same time understands deep struggles, pain, and contradictions of what it means to be a woman–real or imagined.

America Ferrera in Barbie
Warner Bros. Pictures
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She continued: “I think that it’s a message for all of us, not just women, not just Barbies–the Barbies and the Kens and the humans–that we have permission to be all the parts of us.”

However, let’s make one thing clear. Ferrera’s feminism has been around for decades. She’s been paving the way for Latine women since her early 2000s movies like Real Women Have Curves (2002). Still, what keeps her going is knowing that there’s more work to be done in Hollywood. “As an actress, but also as a producer and a director, bringing our lives, our joys, our stories, our struggles, just as full humans to our culture is what makes it so meaningful to me.”

And she’s doing a hell of a job. Though she didn’t play with Barbies, her likeness in Gloria is now the first Central American Barbie doll in the history of Mattel. “That seems significant. That doesn’t mean that it’s perfect and that it fixes everything and that there isn’t more to get done,” she concludes. “But like, that’s pretty cool that we didn’t have it, and now it’s there.”

Catch America Ferrera in Barbie when it hits theaters on July 21, 2023.