What we learned at New York Int’l Latino Film Festival: The media is divided over Sofia Vergara
She turns heads and pushes buttons.
What happens when you stuff a bunch of Latinas at a panel to discuss the role of Latinas in the media and Sofia Vergara? Intense, loud conversation. Literally, though – I’m not embellishing or playing with stereotypes here.
The New York International Latino Film Festival held a panel on Thursday evening titled “The Changing Faces of Latinas in the Media,” which featured a small group of women sharing their insights on just that. The panel was moderated by Damarys Ocaña, Executive Editor of Latina Magazine, and featured the opinions of actresses Gina Rodriguez (star of Filly Brown), Monique Curnen (Sunset Stories), Andrea Sixtos (Sunset Stories), casting director Elsie Stark, and director/producer Trina Bardusco, and fashion stylist (and the only male in the panel) Oscar Montes De Oca.
For an hour, the group expressed their thoughts on Latinas and where they stand in Hollywood. For Puerto Rican actress Gina Rodriguez, who was by far the most vocal and hilarious of the panel participants, it was important to acknowledge the path that actresses like the late Lupe Ontiveros and Jennifer Lopez have paved for other Latinas in showbiz. But first, the 27-year-old asked the audience for a moment of silence for the Mexican American actress/activist, who died on July 26.
Rodriguez spoke in length about first and second-generation Latinos like herself who still have a lot of respect for their culture but also hold the desire to bring that into mainstream culture – to bring that into film and television.
But, she wanted to make it clear that at the end of the day, “we’re human.”
“We have stories to say just like everyone else, but our stories are not very different – and they don’t always have to be spoken in Spanish,” Rodriguez said. “I think the change is happening because we’re starting to see stories like Sunset Stories and Filly Brown, where you’re seeing Latinas in the position of power and in a position of independence and passion and grace, where they’re not half-naked or playing the stereotypical pregnant teen.”
The panel for the most part was incredibly engaging, and became even more so when Sofia Vergara’s name was dropped when discussing Latina stereotypes in the media. The panel was split about the Colombian-born actress’ role as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett in the hit show Modern Family and how it reflects on Latinas as a whole.
Casting director Elisa Stark said that even though Vergara plays “that sexy little Latina character,” she’s playful about her role and is, quite frankly, “the smartest person” on the ABC show.
“Let’s not devalue the fact that she’s married to a white man, who is rich and she’s on ABC and she’s the only Latina on that show… besides her son,” Rodriguez said, in reference to Vergara’s Modern Family character, who is definitely mingling with upward mobility on the show. “that’s fantastic.”
Providing deeper insight into the Vergara phenomenon was director/producer Trina Bardusco, who said that the roles that Latinas get in the media also reflect where they are in society.
“Sofia is definitely the kind of Latina that is acceptable… ‘Ooo, look at this hot Colombian lady who is your wife!’” she said, “it’s Carmen Miranda all over again… that’s what it’s allowed to be.”
Still, it comes down to individual actors and what they feel their purpose and intention is, which Rodriguez said is a completely different conversation.
“I personally have had to say no to roles, and who am I to say no to anything? I am nobody to say no, but guess what? I’m not going to shave off my integrity. At the end of the day, if I die tomorrow, I know that everything I’ve done, I’ve done because I love it,” the actress said. Now we can talk about actors’ intentions and those Latinas who are out there who want to make a difference.. who specifically became actors to have a voice and platform to reach and change social norms. That’s not for everyone.” Preach!
Whatever you say about Vergara, she most likely doesn’t care - she’s doing pretty well for herself. The Colombian bombshell is the highest paid actress on television right now - a position handed to her from Desperate Housewives’ Eva Longoria - a fact reminded to the panel by Latina’s Damarys Ocaña. From one Latina, to another.
When Vergara was recently asked about critics who feel she portrays a stereotypical character, the actress told Allure this:
“We’re loud. We’re passionate. We’re colorful. We’re voluptuous,” she said. “I am not scared of the stereotype of the Latin woman, because I think it’s fantastic.”
What is your personal take on Sofia and the Latina stereotype?