Whenever minorities are able to successfully make the crossover onto the Hollywood scene and become household names, they inevitably encounter the 'role model' scenario. Because they are one of the few prominent names of Latino or African or Asian descent, they automatically fall into the role of representing their ethnicity. But I always question this- because placing any actor or actress on the ‘ethnic’ pedestal can only lead to backlash when they fail to ‘represent’ their culture the way millions expect them to. I think, in order to cross racial boundaries and actually progress as a society, we need to see actors as actors- individuals with a talent for his/her craft and not as figureheads for the Latino community or the Black brotherhood. I feel, on some level, that such ideas only propagate and reinforce social and culture stereotypes and create racialized identities. Jessica Alba reveals :
"For me, I never wanted to reinforce any stereotypes about Latin women, and that was why I've shied away from Latin characters I've been offered. Most of them reinforced the stigmas. The women whom I grew up with are intelligent, strong women, and unless I read a woman being portrayed that way in a film, I didn't want to play it.”
This does not mean that I don’t find the idea of attaching a role model status to minorities compelling; I think, on some level, if we see a person of the same race as ours, we immediately and subconsciously identify with them ( or at least, a little light bulb of recognition goes off!). And I also realize that award shows recognizing latino americans in film or celebrating african americans in the entertainment industry are important because we are only recently seeing the integration and presence of minorities (hence ‘minority’) on television and film more prominently and widespread. And yet, the flipside of this is that we subconsciously create these specialized role model roles that help to cultivate and forge a racial identity or place the burden of cultural embodiment on that individual. At what point can we appreciate and
applaud a minority for his/her advancements in this industry without foraying into racialized territory?