Let’s talk about THE OSCARS

And not what everyone else is talking about. Let’s talk about LATINOS and the OSCARS.

I wasn’t going to watch. For the first time, I asked myself “What’s the point?”

I’ve been watching the Oscars since I was a little girl in Venezuela. I’d sneak to the living room after my bedtime, turn on the TV with the sound really low so my parents wouldn’t wake up, and fantasize that one day I’d deliver my Oscar speech.

But things are different now, and I’m just not that excited to watch anymore.

A few days before the Oscars, I shared my sentiments on my Facebook page. Most people agreed that they were also going to skip the show altogether. They feel, like I do, that there’s a big disconnect between The Academy and the community at large.

But, a couple of people pointed out that this year there would be much more representation for Latinos, including the cast of Encanto, and the first time a Queer Afro Latina was nominated. They also pointed out that the production team was mostly POC. Because of this, I decided to watch.

The evening started with the amazing Ariana Debose winning a very well-deserved Best Supporting Actress award. Things were looking up!

I was also glad to see the cast of Encanto front and center. But then things started to turn for me. Right after the film was announced as the winner of best-animated feature, a song by Marc Anthony started to play, I immediately shook my head. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of his music but he’s Puerto Rican, and the film is based on a Colombian family, so what gives? Couldn’t they use one of the wonderful songs from the film itself? It made me feel as if the academy couldn’t differentiate between cultural backgrounds. I shook it off and kept watching as the three producers, one of them a Latina accepted their award.

As the evening continued, I was excited to see the same cast perform “We don’t talk about Bruno” and once again I felt a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach when the cast of the film was overshadowed by performances from three artists Megan Thee Stallion, Becky G, and Luis Fonsi. All talented in their own right but none Colombian or in the film. I started thinking to myself that the Academy didn’t trust Latinos to tune in unless they brought in additional celebrity power. That once again they were underestimating us.

Then the slap that was heard around the world happened and it literally took away from the few wins as a community we had that evening. I immediately turned off the TV, once again disappointed at the Oscars.

As the days passed, the feeling of uneasiness kept lingering. Why was I feeling so let down?

The truth is, although we had some gains, they’re not enough by a long shot. In the entirety of the Oscars, only ONE Latina had won an acting award. ONE. The incomparable Rita Moreno for the very same role DeBose won. Moreno was made to darken her skin. Both of them were made to put on thick FAKE accents.

Photo by NYT

I started thinking, so is that what it takes for us to be recognized? Do they have to remake West Side Story every other year so that talented actors can have an opportunity? Or in the case of Encanto, do we need two white male directors so they can trust a Latina to take the helm? It, unfortunately, seems so.

UCLA released its yearly Hollywood Diversity Report and they found that

Latino creatives, who make up 18.7% of the population, “remain extremely underrepresented” in all the major film categories surveyed, accounting for just 7.1% of leads, 7.7% of overall cast, 5.6% of writers and 7.1% of directors.

Year after year we see the same results, other communities show progress yet Latinos keep falling behind. This is despite the fact that we buy more movie tickets than any other group, nonetheless, our shows keep getting canceled and films that represent us are not being made or marketed properly if at all.

As time passes by, I no longer have the same dreams I did when I was a little girl. I’ve realized that for me as a Latina it would take almost a miracle to be nominated let alone win. The truth is in this industry Latinos are almost invisible. Yet, we keep wanting to be included, to be given a seat at the table.

More and more I believe that we have to build OUR OWN TABLE.

That’s what we have set out to do with Avenida. Instead of hoping for the industry to change, we have come up with ways to fund, produce, and distribute our projects outside the studio system.

When Hollywood won’t fund our films, we fund them via crowdfunding. And people are supporting Latino creators! In the past two months close to $200,000 has been raised on our new crowdfunding platform www.SupportOurStory.com That tells me our community members want to see themselves represented. So if we give them a way to support, they absolutely will.

We also moved into our own production facility in the heart of LA with several standing sets so we can shoot content that truly represents us.

Yes, it is harder to start a whole new system. But what alternative do we have? We can keep complaining or hoping that Hollywood will change and start embracing us, or we can start creating our own, just like Tayler Perry did. Once we have garnered some success, the industry will come knocking. I believe this in my heart.

Today, I can proudly tell that little girl who used to sneak out to watch the Oscars, that now I’m doing everything I can so Latino kids see what’s truly possible when you forge your own way.