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  • When I was 15, I got my first professional audition.

  • It was a commercial for cable subscriptions or bail bonds⏤I don't really remember.

  • But what I do remember is that the casting director asked me, "Uh, could you do that again? But just this time, sound more Latina."

  • It took me most of the car ride home to realize that by "sound more Latina", she was asking me to speak in broken English, and I couldn't figure out why the fact that I was an actual, real-life, authentic Latina didn't really seem to matter.

  • Anyway, I didn't get the job.

  • I didn't get a lot of the jobs people were willing to see me for: the gangbanger's girlfriend, the sassy shoplifter, pregnant Chola number two.

  • These were the kinds of roles that existed for someone like me; someone they looked at and saw as too brown, too fat, too poor, too unsophisticated.

  • I kept receiving the same message again and again and again, that my identity was an obstacle I had to overcome.

  • And so I thought, "Come at me, obstacle! I'm an American; my name is America."

  • "I trained my whole life for this. I'll just follow the playbook. I'll work harder."

  • I stayed out of the sun so that my skin wouldn't get too brown.

  • I straightened my curls into submission.

  • I constantly tried to lose weight; I bought fancier and more expensive clothes.

  • All so that when people looked at me, they wouldn't see a too-fat, too-brown, too-poor Latina.

  • They would see what I was capable of, and maybe they would give me a chance.

  • Just a few years ago, my agent called to explain to me why I wasn't getting a role in a movie.

  • He said, "They loved you, and they really, really do wanna cast diversely, but the movie isn't financeable until they cast the white role first."

  • I went through this process for years of accepting the failure as my own, and then feeling deep shame that I couldn't overcome the obstacles.

  • But this time I heard a new voice, a voice that understood my tears and my pain were not about losing a job.

  • They were about what was actually being said about me

  • what had been said about me, my whole life by executives and producers and directors and writers and agents and managers and teachers and friends and family, that I was a person of less value.

  • I couldn't change what a system believed about me while I believed what the system believed about meand I did.

  • I, like everyone around me, believed that it wasn't possible for me to exist in my dream as I was.

  • And I went about trying to make myself invisible.

  • What this revealed to me was that it is possible to be the person who genuinely wants to see change while also being the person whose actions keep things the way they are.

  • Change will come when each of us has the courage to question our own fundamental values and beliefs, and then, see to it that our actions lead to our best intentions.

  • I am just one of millions of people who have been told that in order to fulfill my dreams, in order to contribute my talents to the world, I have to resist the truth of who I am.

  • My identity is not my obstacle.

  • My identity is my superpower.

  • I, for one, am ready to stop resisting and to start existing as my full and authentic self.

When I was 15, I got my first professional audition.

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Your identity is your superpower | America Ferrera

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    Julianne Sung posted on 2021/12/05
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