America Ferrera Was Asked to "Sound More Latina" During Her First Audition at 16

In a pre-recorded segment for the 72nd Emmys, Superstore actress America Ferrera said she was asked to play up a Latina stereotype for her first audition in Hollywood.

By Jonathan Borge Sep 21, 2020 1:45 PMTags

Hollywood may have taken baby steps toward improving diversity and inclusivity in recent years, but the battle for equal representation on and behind the camera continues. 

Need an example? For a pre-recorded segment that aired during Sunday night's 72nd Emmys, Superstore star America Ferrera, 36, described her first-ever audition at age 16, an unsettling event that made her realize how industry insiders perceived her Latinx heritage.

"I was 16 years old when I got my first audition and I was this little brown, chubby valley girl who spoke like a valley girl. I walked in, did my audition, [and] the casting director looked at me and she was like, 'That's great, um, can do you that again but this time sound more Latina?'" Ferrera said in the video. 

Unsure of what she meant, Ferrera asked for clarification: "Um, so do you want me to do it in Spanish?" She moved on to explain that the casting director really just wanted her to play into the dangerous stereotype that Latinx people speak broken English and act like giddy sidekicks to lead characters.


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Ferrera told the director, "I am a Latina and this is what I sound like," which of course didn't land her the role. Ferrera's family explained to her that the director did want her to sound "like a chola," not the next Julia Roberts, as she joked. 

She continued, "That realization for me has fueled me to create more opportunity for little brown girls to fulfill their talent and their dream."


Despite setting a new record for diversity at the Emmys, the only Latinx star nominated for an award at Sunday night's event was The Handmaid's Tale's Alexis Bledel, a disheartening fact considering we're smack-dab in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month.

For "little brown girls" who relate to Ferrera's message, her seconds-long clip offered a moment of hope when a majority of the stars present during TV's biggest night look, well, different than them.