Hollywood, the home of “glitz and glam” or " the rich and famous.” The home of some of our favorite superstars. We watch TV and films in order to escape reality, yet we constantly find ourselves trying to find people who look like us on the big screen.
Hollywood has been producing films ever since 1910, and over 100 years later, though progress has been made, Hollywood continues to lack in the cultural diversity department. It makes me happy to see that a lot of people of color have made it to mainstream media and have been recognized for their work. It shows Hollywood is making progress, but it doesn’t mean that they have fully made it yet. There’s still a long way to go.
During this year’s Emmys, I couldn’t help but notice how the Television Academy continues to miss out on acknowledging the Latinx community. To me, award shows like the Emmys are supposed to be centered around celebrating performers and their work, yet they continue to ignore us.
This year alone, only a total of six Latinx actors broke through to earn Emmy nominations: Anthony Ramos, Anya Taylor-Joy, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mj Rodriguez, Rosie Perez and Alexis Bledel.
Francisco Cabrera-Feo, a TV Writer for Netflix’s “Gentefied” and HBO Max’s “Gordita Chronicles,” said he no longer waits for film institutions to validate Latinx work, so he celebrates Latinx shows on his own.
“When I look at award shows, I see it as a microcosm of a way bigger problem,” Cabrera-Feo said. “There are so few Latine shows on television that our chances to make it to the award stage are incredibly slim. But the lack of awards show representation is a symptom of a bigger industry problem. The more shows we get on air, the more chances we get to make it onto that stage - especially if studios and networks back us with marketing dollars.”
With showrunners, producers, directors, and writers who work behind the scenes, as well as actors, we are ready to represent our vast Latinx community on screen. And while this topic is complicated to a certain extent, the easy answer to the problem is that there needs to be more representation overall when electing who gets into nominated categories.
Cabrera-Feo said he strives to be the best he can be every day while representing his community.
“I try to walk into the writers’ room and push for better and more varied representation because I think it’s important to make sure it’s not only about seeing ourselves in media but pushing for those who are even more erased to be seen,” he said. “Afro-Latine characters, Latinx characters with disabilities, Queer Latinx characters. Our goal can’t be ‘I want to put MYSELF on TV,’ it has to be bigger than just us.”
Aside from needing more Latinx talent both in front of and behind the camera, we are often frustrated by executives who in many instances don’t understand where we come from.
“I’m a member of the television academy,” Fumero said. “A big part of the lack of representation are these board members. The majority of them can’t resonate with things we go through. They tend to vote and choose things that remind them of themselves and get the most attention.”
Fumero said he’s moving forward, representing his community in every way possible.
“We all want to feel seen,” he added. “And for me, there’s nothing more gratifying as a producer than having someone else like me come and tell me ‘I felt seen when you did this on this scene.’”
In a 2020 diversity study, NBC News found that a vast majority of nearly 80% of nominations went to white performers. By comparison, about 15% of nominations went to Black performers, just under 3% to Latinos, nearly 2% to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and barely 1% to those of Middle Eastern or Northern African descent.
Mariana Anaya, an actress and Vice Chair of Nosotros, the oldest Latino Arts Advocacy organization in the United States, said the Latino community is the one who brings in the money into the box office more than any other community.
Anaya explained “award shows aren’t just the only place where we are not recognized. We are not represented in the decision-making departments of those films/tv shows. We need more of our community representing us and hiring in the studios/networks, making decisions, we need more Latino Network Executives, Latino writers, Latino Directors, Latino showrunners.”
At the end of the day, it’s important to recognize the value we bring to television and film. We want to earn a seat at the table, not because of our ethnicity but because we are talented and hard-working.
We are far too many talented Latinx performers working in television to be overlooked any longer.