Latin actress America Ferrera says she once bleached her hair blonde and covered herself in make-up to lighten her skin colour in order to land a movie role in Hollywood.
The “Ugly Betty” star said when she was a teen eager to break into the industry, she went to great lengths to try and convince casting directors she could fit the part, reported New York Times.
“I was 18 and putting myself on tape for a movie I really wanted. I got that phone call: ‘They cast a Latino male in another role in the film; they’re not looking to cast (a Latina)’,” the 31-year-old actress said.
Ferrera refused to give up and took drastic action before shooting her audition tape.
“I defiantly bleached my hair blonde, painted my face white and made the audition tape. I never heard back.
“I just remember feeling so powerless. What do you do when someone says, ‘Your colour skin is not what we’re looking for?’ Let me tell you: Blonde does not suit me. I try not to prove my point on audition tapes anymore.”
The star, whose parents hail from Honduras, said it wasn’t the first time she had been held up in by her heritage.
“My very first audition ever, I was about 16, and the casting director (for a commercial) said, ‘Can you do it again but sound more Latino?’. I had no idea what she was talking about.
“‘You mean you want me to speak in Spanish?’ She’s like, ‘No. Do it in English but just sound more Latino.’ I genuinely didn’t realise until later that she was asking me to speak English with a broken accent. It confused me, because I thought, ‘I am Latino, so isn’t this what a Latino sounds
And it wasn’t just casting directors who were blind to Ferrera ‘s acting potential – even her agent during her time as an up-and-coming star failed to help her realise dreams of pushing the boundaries of Latinos in Hollywood.
“I had just won (a top award at the Sundance Film Festival), and he (my manager) wanted me to audition for the Latina chubby girl in a pilot. She wasn’t even the lead; she was just the sidekick.
“I said, ‘I’m not going in for that’. When I ultimately left him, he (told) another of my reps, ‘Somebody should tell that girl that she has an unrealistic idea of what she can accomplish in this industry’. That was someone I was paying to represent me!”