How The Show Girls Contributes to My Identity Crisis

Girls-HBO-poster I had a dream that my life was a Girls story line, which means it looked nothing like it actually does for a regular gal living in Brooklyn. Things were good. I was of course a working actress, because the women in that show have no problem making money in their chosen professions and my biggest drama was some love storyline that I can't specifically recall. I walked up to Lena Dunham and said, "Life is good. Don't fuck it up by writing me some shitty storyline where Jessa or Marnie steals my boyfriend."

Like I said, life was pretty simple.

I like Girls. The dialogue is funny and the plots keep me entertained. I think Lena Dunham is a super-talented writer. But I do have to say, I wish there was just one show that shows how life in Brooklyn actually is for a young woman trying to make it as an artist. We don't all live in Fort Greene (I WISH) and everyone isn't white and we burn the candles at both ends with day jobs and preferred career work and ain't nobody got time to care who their ex-boyfriend is dating.

Am I the only one who wants to see someone more like me on the screen? I can't tell if my life is too boring or if I'm not white and privileged enough. Maybe if someone watched a show about me, they'd be like, "Where is the entertainment in this entertainment? And if she's Latina then why isn't this more of a 'real' Latina show? Why isn't this a telenovela?"

Identity has always been a tricky thing for me and the entertainment industry sure as hell hasn't helped that. I've never quite felt like I fit in a white world or in the Latino world.

Because frankly, I'm too white to be Latina and I'm too Latina to be white.

It's like that in the world for me, and it's definitely like that in the acting industry for me.

Too White To Be Latina

There are few auditions I've been on where, with a tilted head, someone hasn't asked me, "What are you?" What I'd like to answer is, "A human being. One that just gave you a kick-ass sample of my work. Were you paying attention to that?" Instead I say, "My dad's from Portugal and my mom is Puerto Rican." That's immediately followed up with the question and a glimmer in their eye, "Do you speak Spanish?" No. No, I don't. A sigh before they say,"That's a shame."

Too Latina To Be White

And then there was this one time, when I was sixteen and worked at the Gap in Bensonhurst. I was folding clothes and talking to my friend/co-worker about nothing at all and a group of Hispanic people walked in. My friend/co-worker turned to me and said, "Ugh. I hate fucking spics." I hate to admit this but I was actually scared she would no longer be my friend when I told her, "What do you think my background is?" She said, "Aren't you Italian?" I said no and told her what I was.*

And then there was that time when I was at NYU that a girl asked me if I would technically be considered mulatto because Portuguese is white (as if there aren't Black people in Portugal). Oh yes, I am hybrid offspring of a horse and a donkey. Want to see my tail?

Whenever I tell these experiences to people, they can't believe it's true, like "You mean racism actually exists?" Yes. Yes, it does, and in more subtle ways than in the stories I just told you.

When I was a kid and I learned what melanin was (the skin's brown pigment) I thought, "This is what the fuss is all about? How much pigment people have? Well that's stupid." I'm not going to lie. I believe that the perceived ambiguity about my race or ethnicity (and even the ambiguity of whether it is a race or ethnicity) has helped me in some ways. I have been able to hide, to just not talk about it with people who I fear won't get it.

But then I wonder, why am I hiding? Frankly, because it's just been easier than explaining. And like I said, I'm also too white to be Latino. I can't tell you how many times Puerto Ricans have told me I'm not really Puerto Rican because I don't speak Spanish or I don't speak/look a certain way. This is not reverse racism. There is no such thing. This is straight up, plain old racism.

There you have it. I am still confused, to be honest. And then sometimes I wonder, why do I have to identify myself to anyone at all? I'm a person and while a lot of people define themselves in a lot of different ways, there is one universal definition:

A person is a person because they have the right to be a person.


*BTW, I used to define myself as Hispanic and the government still does. But what do they know? After further investigation, I decided to define myself as Latina. I can define myself as a puppy if I wanted to. My choice.