One of the most common questions I’m asked—by everyone from marketing heads to CEOs, ad gurus to media execs—is, “How can I do a better job of reaching Latinos?”
My answer is always the same: “The best way to start,” I say, “is by showing more images of us.”
Sounds simple, right? Yet as last night’s SAG Awards reminded me, the push for greater Latino representation across all walks of life remains a huge challenge: Of the 50 stars up for individual trophies, only three—Javier Bardem, Louis CK, and Sofia Vergara—are Latino.
That’s a paltry 6% at a time when Latinos represent nearly 17% of the American population.
Appalling, yes—especially when there are such easy ways to spotlight Latinos on screens large and small. Here are two obvious examples:
1) Let Latino hero Tony Mendez—whose story is so brilliantly captured in Argo—be portrayed by … a Latino. Nothing against Ben Affleck, whom I respect and admire, but what hope is there for greater onscreen diversity if Hispanic actors can’t even get cast as Hispanic characters?
2) Let The Impossible, a film about a Spanish family who survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, actually be about … a Spanish family. Again, Naomi Watts is a wonderful actress, but why couldn’t Penélope Cruz or Paz Vega have starred in María Belón’s real-life tale of survival?
The lesson to be learned is this: If you want to start speaking Latina, you have to learn the language the same way you would anything else—by starting with the basics.