That laugh, that smile, that accent and that body! You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in this world who doesn't think that Sofia Vergara is simply amazing! Noted by Forbes as television's highest paid actress of 2011, Sofia Vergara has found her niche and made a killing in it! The only thing is, her niche is based almost exclusively on the perpetuation of Latina stereotypes. No bueno!
Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm proud of Sofia for making a name for herself and holding her own in the perro-come-perro world that is Hollywood, but a big part of me laments the means by which Sofia has "made it." Sofia biggest -- and most popular -- role to date has been playing Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on ABC's comedy darling, Modern Family. As Gloria, Sofia perpetuates just about every stereotype about Latinas ever dreamed up. Loud? Check! Fiery and passionate? Check! Bombshell body wrapped in a tight cheetah-print dress? Claro! But what bothers me the most about Sofia's portrayal of Gloria -- or a sexy Latina maid, or a sexy Latina penguin, or sexy Latina lamppost -- is that she doesn't mind the fact that she's perpetuating stereotypes about Latinas being fiery sex kittens, because as she tells the U.K.'s Daily Express, "Latina characters are usually sexy and voluptuous on screen, but then that's just how Latin women are."
Now, I realize that there are far worse things that a Latina can be called than sexy, voluptuous and even -- and I shudder as I type this -- spicy, but the fact of the matter remains that stereotypes are narrow-minded classification of an entire group of people. I'm not 100 percent sure as to when Sofia was voted the ambassador for all things Latina, but I'm not comfortable with her making broad, sweeping generalizations about Latinas, even if she intends them to be compliments.
I guess the reason that I, personally, find the stereotype wrapped in a compliment to be disturbing is because at one point in my life I believed that particular stereotype to be true; I truly thought that all Latinas were supposed to be sexy, voluptuous and sultry. And as a quiet, awkward, pale and freckled teenager, I felt like the irregular sock of the Latina community! Where was my curly hair? Where was café con leche complexion? Where in the hell were my nalgas? Was I sexy enough to qualify for my Latina card? From the age of 18 up until the age of about 23, I was tanning (read: burning) my skin in the hopes of achieving a JLo glow, curling my hair to get that pelo vivo and squatting my ass on at the gym. All of this to convince other people to identify me with the ethnicity that I was born into. It was ridiculous! I was ridiculous.
The problem here is that this idea of the curvy, sexy and sultry Latina denies many Latinas their cultural identification based on their physical appearances and sexual attractiveness, alone. In essence, this sort of thinking traps our culture within our bodies, ignoring the values, ethics, and traditions that contribute to our sense of culture and community.
I don't necessarily begrudge the gorgeous actress for thinking that all Latinas are sexy, desirable women -- she has the right to voice her own opinion. I do, however, wish that she would refrain from summing up our shared culture with a superficial statement about sex appeal, and I don't know, step out of her cheetah-print upholstered comfort zone long enough to explore roles that demonstrate other facets of the Latina community. Sofia, just think of how brightly you'll shine once you come out from inside of that pigeonhole!
Follow Tanisha L. Ramirez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TanishaLove