Latinas should show their true color
Latinas should show their true color
December 21, 2002
BY SUE ONTIVEROS SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
So I was watching the late-night ''Oprah,'' and there was America Ferrera, the young star of my new favorite film, ''Real Women Have Curves.'' And while the talk centered on one of the movie's themes--women and weight issues--I wanted someone on screen to notice her hair.
Yes, America Ferrera is weightier than the lollipop-head actresses out there. However, I want people who see her, particularly young Latinas, to notice this young woman's hair. Because what's cascading down Ferrera's shoulders is what I call Latin hair. It's dark brown and thick, with a lot of body so it holds a curl well. And you know what? It is really pretty.
Right before Ferrera, Salma Hayek was chatting about her latest film, ''Frida,'' with Oprah, and Hayek, too, had a nice case of Latin hair going. Hers isn't as full, but it is a real color, not one you get out of a bottle, so it was shiny and so healthy looking. Once again, it was very pretty hair.
I mention this, and I wish young Latinas would notice these actresses because all around me I see butchered Latin hair. Everywhere I see big blotches of phony red (really burnt orange) covering what once was pretty dark Latin hair. Or the color that really saddens me, bleached blond on a little Latina, where that true pretty Latin hair is struggling at the roots to sneak back out.
Maybe they're modeling themselves after the celebrity Latinas. Jennifer Lopez used to sport some really pretty Latin hair. I remember it in her short-lived TV show ''Second Chances.'' Her hair was a lot like Ferrera's back then.
Now that Hollywood has gotten its hands on Lopez's hair, it's been straightened and blond highlights are everywhere. Why, if you were looking at just the back of her head, you'd think she was just any other Anglo actress, which I am sure is Hollywood's goal. She's still ''Jenny from the Block.'' Right.
And then there's Shakira, the Latin pop songstress with a good set of pipes. That should have been enough for her to make it here, but oh, no. Along the way, someone convinced her that to really cross over into the mainstream market in the United States, she'd need new hair. If you ever saw photos of her before, with this long, flowing, gorgeous dark hair, you'd know why that frizzy bleached mess on her head today is such a crime.
Oh, I know young females want to experiment with their looks. (I also know that there comes a time in a middle-age woman's life when a little hair dye is a good thing.) What troubles me is I'm sure there are entertainment executives who want these young Latina celebrities to appeal to the growing Latin market here, but they don't want them to be too Latin.
When you have that long, flowing dark hair running down your back, there's no denying that Latin blood.
But, add some blond highlights, or, in Shakira's case what looks like a whole case of peroxide, and the eye isn't entirely sure what it's seeing. Hollywood likes actresses to have that ''exotic'' look, but not too exotic. Think I'm paranoid? Catch Margaret Cho's brutally honest film, ''I'm the One That I Want,'' and you'll see that the entertainment industry has some hideous ideas on how to work with minority entertainers--particularly females.
As celebrities agree to back away from their Latin looks, that message seeps down to the young Latinas who want to emulate them. So what you have is some really ugly hair out there. I don't like seeing so many Latinas masking their ethnicity.
I just wish Latinas would realize that true Latin hair is an asset. It's really pretty, and it's who they are. There's a quote I like from the poet e.e. cummings, a guy who really went his own way. To paraphrase, he said to be really brave, show the world who you really are.
If Latinas would just be who they are (and in most cases, they are not blonds), they'd feel a lot better about themselves. Experts say lack of self-esteem among Latina teens is a real problem. Hiding who they are under a bottle of hair dye can't be helping matters.