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[CH-CINE LA-CINE MI-CINE NY-CINE SF-CINE]

In Defense of: Jessica Alba

BY Rab Messina | PUBLISHED: Tuesday, March 16th, 2010
In Defense of: Jessica Alba

This week in the Guácala Audit (because you might think something’s “guácala,” but that’s only because you haven’t done your homework): In defense of Jessica Alba.

The greatest christener of our time, D-ListedMichael K — the man who came up with the name “Rojo Caliente” for Cynthia Nixon’s boner-killer of a partner and “Crystal Enchantress of The Ice” for my hopeless crush Johnny Weir (I have a vagina) — has bestowed upon her the moniker “MiserAlba.” Following the trail of the internets, one deducts that miserable Jessica is miserable due to, among other issues, the political neutrality of Sweden and minding the welfare of oceanic life. Plus, there’s the thing about her inner racial conflicts.

The genesis of her miserable existence can be traced back to 2007, when the actress started publicly discussing her Latina-ness. Or rather, her purported lack of it. Here’s what she told Para Todos magazine back then:

“Alba is my last name and I’m proud of that. But that’s it. My grandparents were born in California, the same as my parents, and though I may be proud of my last name, I’m American. Throughout my whole life, I’ve never felt connected to one particular race or heritage, nor did I feel accepted by any. If you break it down, I’m less Latina than Cameron Diaz, whose father is Cuban. But people don’t call her Latina, because she’s blonde.”

And this is where the Alba backlash began. Vivir Latino said, “one more reason to hate her.” Pop Crunch went all, “Jessica Alba hates Mexicans, doesn’t want to be called Latina.” And more taco-flavored Haterade was spewed in her direction from all over the Hispanic belts of the country.

But really, why such hatred? Does Alba not have a point with her Cameron Diaz comparison? Not only is the actress a second-generation Hispanic on her father’s side, the girl’s got Scandinavian genes courtesy of her mom — and you don’t see no Norwegians sipping on their glöggs and hatin’ on their blogs. Plus, she has been vocal about the fact that she wasn’t “raised” Latina to start with, and that her father can’t even speak Spanish. In other words, in this alleged post-racial America, her family decided to walk down the path of moderation. Of white moderation, that is. But it’s understandable. Early in her career, she kept getting scripts for characters named “María.” If there’s one thing that can be applauded about her professional choices, it’s the fact that she has refused to be racially typecast (the bombshell typecast is another topic). And unfortunately, in today’s film industry, playing it white — or, in Zoe Saldaña’s case, playing it black –  is the only way an actress can sink her teeth into profitable roles.

La Alba did not snub Latinos. The poor girl was simply answering a question about her surname, and thought it natural to speak of her culturally neutral upbringing, although her choice of words could have definitely been wiser. She wasn’t hiding her heritage as much as she was matter-of-factly explaining how it became so diluted. Alba has as much right to be un-Latina as Zoe Kravitz has the right to be un-black (or at least whatever black stereotype this society has in its collective head). But hurt Latinos were butthurt, and the backlash pushed Jessica to get her pandering gloves on, and started dancing for that plata: As a way to amend her tarnished reputation, she started appealing to the previously nonexistent Latina in her. She wanted her baby to be born brown. She avowed to start learning Spanish, and speak to her daughter in the language. And Latinos rejoiced! “That’s more like it,” said Latin Gossip. Please. It’s no coincidence that Latin American countries are Catholic: Hispanics sure know how to pull those guilt strings.

In this country and time in particular, people should be whoever they want to be. And most importantly, other people and their upbringings should be respected. In this instance, the Latino community should stop being the conflicted mother who insists on imposing straightness onto her gay son, and take a dose of dealwithitina. Just let Jessica and company be themselves. I bet we’d all be happier.

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This week on The Other Side of the Guácala Audit (or “the girl who has an equal or higher level of fame and respect as the person I just defended, but doesn’t deserve half of it”): The indefensible – Those who bring their Latina out only when it’s time to bring home the bacon. They can’t speak the language, can’t tell a pupusa apart from a quesadilla, and some have even lost the surnames, but they’ll raise that Latina flag like crazy when it’s time to appeal to potential Latin fans. Some will even try on a Selena song. I like a blind item as much as I like to share a bus with rabid Lady Gaga fans on their way to one of her concerts when my caffeine levels are low, but this time it’s worth it. I’ll just leave this here.



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