Why Won't Gina Rodriguez Let Black Women Have a Piece of the Spotlight?

Over the past few months, actress Gina Rodriguez has gone from media darling to someone who can’t let other women shine. Seriously, my eyes hurt from rolling them so much.

I’m used to white women within the feminist community undermining the trials and tribulations of their Black, Asian, Latinx, and Middle Eastern sisters. But when it comes from someone who I thought understood the struggle, I realize that it’s not just white women who need to check their privilege.

Before I even touch upon the disaster that the Jane the Virgin actress got herself into with her recent Net-a-Porter interview, let’s go all the way back to a year ago, when her apparent annoyance for black success started showing.  Back in February, the cultural phenomenon and Marvel hit Black Panther burst into theaters. Everyone was excited about this movie, but it was truly special for the black community. Wakanda is an African nation that is untouched by colonizers. It gives black boys and girls the chance to see themselves on screen and watch with pride. And just as importantly, it proved that Hollywood could no longer use the tired narrative that people of color “don’t sell movie tickets.” While most non-black people of color realized the importance of the film, Gina came rolling in with the negativity.

Last time I checked, Tessa Thompson, who is of Panamanian and Mexican descent, and Zoe Saldana, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, both played prominent roles in Marvel films. Gina’s complete dismissal of both of these women gave me the feeling that she doesn’t care about shining a light or celebrating Afro-Latinas.

Now, let’s fast forward to her September interview for her movie Small Foot. In the interview, journalist Xilla Valentine, who was specifically talking to Gina’s co-star Yara Shahidi about the influence she’s had on young Black women, was rudely interrupted by Rodriguez.

Xilla Valentine: You are just goals for so many young Black women-

Rodriguez: For so many women! Women. Yeah. Yeah.

Valentine: So many women, yeah, for women too, but for Black women we need people on a whole other level. How does that feel for you, to be so young and be a role model for so many people?

Shahidi: It’s overarchingly just kind of surreal, but I have to appreciate the fact that the support comes from just being me. So, luckily, I don’t have to promote some sort of facade to gain that support. But also, I feel like it’s been amazing because I get to be a part of such an incredible and thoughtful and brilliant community. And so it’s very easy to just be constantly motivated and be inspired because you look next to you in any which direction and there are people that are continuing the work in another industry, in another area of your life.

I love the fact that Valentine stuck his guns and shut Rodriguez down. And all she could do was to sit back awkwardly. The journalist even reiterated his point later on Twitter and wrote:

And now fast-forward to this month, when she recently put her foot in her mouth once again with her interview for Net-a-Porter (which also featured fellow actresses Gabrielle Union, Ellen Pompeo, and Emma Roberts). Where she stated — with an undeserved amount of confidence — that Black actresses and Asian actresses get paid more than Latinas.

“I get so petrified in this space talking about equal pay especially when you look at the intersectional aspect of it, right? Where white women get paid more than black women, black women get paid more than Asian women, Asian women get paid more than Latina women, and it’s like a very scary space to step into.”

But of course, Black Twitter came through with the receipts. As did Forbes, which showed that Colombian actress Sofia Vergara came in at number one for the highest paid actress in Hollywood. Kerry Washington came in at number eight and there were no Asian women on the list whatsoever.

Not to mention that her statement as a whole, is incorrect when you look at context. As writer Mikki Kendall pointed out on Twitter,

“Overarchingly Black women earn more compared to a white man’s income than Latinas. But (and this is a big but) white Latinas earn more Black women including Black Latinas. So Gina Rodriguez used a metric that is based on all women to talk about entertainment & ignored context. In context, Black actors earn less than lighter skinned costars (this is also true in a broader context because lighter skin = higher pay), but when you dig down to what the differences amount to? You’re talking about a difference of 10 cents. Not ten percent. 10 cent.”

She also added that the entertainment industry pay scale was especially skewed, and thus, “you can’t really use these metrics for any meaningful single industry discussion.”

I don’t think Gina has grasped the fact that you can be a voice for your community of women, without bringing down another group. I’m hoping that Gina not only responds to the backlash but also learns from her many mistakes.


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Photo: Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com

Alysia Stevenson
Alysia Stevenson is a twenty-seven New York City transplant currently living in Florida with her boyfriend and three furbabies. When she's not writing, you can find her watching beauty tutorials on Youtube or Parks and Rec for the millionth time.