Cuban actress Ana De Armas is ELLE Magazine’s August cover girl. And as a part of the profile, her friend and fellow actress Jamie Lee Curtis offered an anecdote about De Armas, which soon made headlines for its problematic nature.
According to Variety, Curtis told Elle: “I assumed—and I say this with real embarrassment—because she had come from Cuba, that she had just arrived. I made an assumption that she was an inexperienced, unsophisticated young woman. That first day, I was like, ‘Oh, what are your dreams?’”
Her statement on De Armas being “inexperienced” and “unsophisticated” on account of her being a Cuban immigrant oozes with the same piercing casual racism that is all-too-familiar for many Latines.
Personally, her statement took me back to my mother, whose thick Argentinian accent caused a white classmate in my highly conservative small town to ask me how she learned English so quickly. The implication that my mother had only just learned English because of her accent, and the idea that De Armas was “inexperienced” because she is Cuban go hand in hand — a casual remark that hides underlying racism, telling us that Latine immigrants are automatically seen as less than our white non-Latine counterparts. We have to work thrice as hard to be sitting at their same table, and even then, they question how we got to their level or offer assistance as if we can’t get to their level on our own merit.
Armas is arguably in a position of power in comparison to the average Latine, being an actress making millions. But her experience feels relatable in that someone is questioning how she got to be this star in a casual manner that isn’t meant to be malicious but is still damaging. And if this is any indication, it’s not the first or last time she’ll experience something like this in an industry that doesn’t call out microaggressions like this that make people feel like the other or like an outsider.
Here are some other public thoughts on Curtis’ statement:
One user points out another layer to the issue, citing that Curtis believed De Armas had immigrated from Cuba when they first met (in reality, De Armas had spent several years in Madrid working as an actress before moving to Los Angeles).
One user expressed offense over Curtis’ publicizing of her casual racism:
One user draws comparison to Curtis’ character in ‘Knives Out’, the film De Armas and her met on set of. In it, she plays Linda Drysdale, a wealthy white woman whose casually racist remarks toward Marta, her father’s caretaker, go without facing consequence.
One user expressed how unfortunately commonplace Curtis’ comments seem:
One user expressed their non-existent surprise over the situation:
Though Curtis admits her ignorance within the statement, the painful mistruth of her assumption reflects a larger cultural issue — white non-Latine women who directly profit from being seen as “progressive” while still holding prejudiced views of Latines (see Jill Biden’s comparison of the uniqueness of Latines as “breakfast tacos”). And even in a casual capacity, these views are still inherently harmful and need to be rooted out.