Yalitza Aparicio Writes About Racist Backlash She Faced After Her Oscar Nomination
The actress opened up about racism in an essay for The New York Times.
Yalitza Aparicio received a ton of well-deserved accolades for her performance in the Oscar-winning film Roma, but in an essay for The New York Times, she wrote about the darker side of her newfound fame. "After I was nominated for an Academy Award for portraying Cleo, racist comments began to circulate on social media," she wrote. "Commenters questioned why I was nominated, making references to my social and ethnic background. An indigenous woman was not a worthy representative of [Mexico], some said."
Aparicio, who was the first indigenous woman to receive a Best Actress nomination, added that it was "hard" to hear this commentary, but was happy that her appearance "highlighted the cultural and political importance of diversity in society, art, and the media" and inspired a conversation about racism. "I never thought that a movie alone could prompt social awareness and change," she said. "Suddenly people in my home country of Mexico were talking about issues that have long been taboo here — racism, discrimination toward indigenous communities, and especially the rights of domestic workers, a group that has been historically disenfranchised in Mexican society."
In Roma, Aparicio played a housekeeper for a middle-class family in Mexico City; the film was based on director Alfonso Cuarón's own childhood. The actress wrote that seeing the impact the movie had on her community has made her appreciate art even more than she already did. "Art sheds light on the urgent, necessary and at times painful issues that are not always easy to approach because we as a society have not been able to figure them out," she said. "Art lays bare our brutal reality — a reality that is complex, diverse, and often unfair — but it also presents us with the amazing opportunity to give voice to the unheard, and visibility to the unseen."
The actress also wrote about what she's doing to help end discrimination and racism in her country. "I am using my newly discovered activism to improve social conditions in Mexico, champion gender equality, and promote diversity wherever I can," she wrote. Last year, she was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and will use her post to advocate for gender equality and indigenous rights.