Many Latina women struggle with being able to relate to the “sassy, sensual, hot-tempered and street smart Latina” mold portrayed by the media. As a Latina woman, I have never quite fit into that mold and often wondered about the existence of Latina role models.
Where Are the Latina Role Models?:
There are still many stereotypical Latina characters in mainstream media. Originally I felt like America Ferrera’s character in Ugly Betty spoke to me, but felt like most of the humor in the show was at her expense. Despite being a writer, I could not connect with her and didn’t really want to. She did eventually work her way to the top, but I felt like I was left wanting. This experience has happened many times with other young Latina characters. Many of them often miss the mark. I was looking for someone to look up to and say “I want to be her when I grow up!” That aha! moment seemed to happen when I watched the pilot of 30 Rock.
My Role Model is Not Latina:
I related more to characters like Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. Liz Lemon’s humor is more easily identified and even a bigger part of her personality. She is quite sardonic and at times self-deprecating. I genuinely felt like I could relate to her flaws and her vices such as stress eating. In the pilot Jack, Liz’s future boss, describes Liz Lemon as a “New York third-wave feminist, college-educated, single-and-pretending-to-be-happy-about-it, over-scheduled … [person who] buy[s] any magazine that says ‘healthy body image’ on the cover and every two years [takes up] knitting for…a week.” I felt as if he described me as well. Something inside me connected to the socially inept comedy writer. Seeing a strong female character who I can relate to was inspiring for me.
Be Your Own Role Model:
Sometimes, we have to be the pioneers to encourage others to follow their dreams. Our role models can be of a different ethnicity, gender, or sexuality than us. The first woman astronaut in space, Valentina Tereshkova, did not have a fellow woman to look up to that was in the field she aspired to be in. Lack of role models did not stop her and she achieved her dreams and she became a role model for future aspiring female astronauts.
Choosing a Role Model:
It is unfortunate that we still do not have the variety of Latina characters on television to look up to; however, do not let that stop you from looking to women you know in real life. It may be your mother, sister, aunt, grandmother or small business owner you know across the street. You can have more than one role model and not all of them have to resemble your outer shell. Sometimes you just have to pick out the best qualities of the best women you know and make them a part of your own. You might be a role for someone else by using the characteristics from YOUR role models.
Hope for the Future:
You may be a big-shot lawyer one day, a best selling author, a politician or even an astronaut. The point is to never let lack of representation affect your lack of ambition. You might even pave the way for feature generations of Latinitas as the first female or Latina in your chosen field. The world needs more people achieving their true potential and if that means expanding your pool of role models, then in the mean time, so be it!