In December, news that Hilaria Baldwin, Alec Baldwin’s wife, faked a Spanish heritage and accent spread like wildfire. For many, this was the first time they had heard of Hilaria, but a quick Google search of her name over the past couple of weeks opened up a gigantic can of worms that made it impossible not to know who she is. The internet has an unrelenting past for exposing celebs for questionable parts of their pasts. So it’s no surprise that it was a regular Twitter user, @lenibriscoe, who brought Hilaria’s false story to light in a recent Twitter thread. Here, it was revealed that Hilaria Baldwin (née Hillary Hayward-Thomas) had fabricated having Spanish roots despite being born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Hilary changing her name to one that resembled its Spanish counterpart is just the start of unraveling a very complicated narrative.
In multiple videos on the Twitter thread, Hilaria is heard using a Spanish accent; one video even showed her seemingly forgetting the word “cucumber” on the Today show. As expected, Hilaria has since attempted to defend herself on Instagram by posting multiple lengthy videos where she explains her side of the claims. In her posts, Hilaria admitted that she is, indeed, a white woman. She also shared that she felt connected to the Spanish culture since her parents’ move to Majorca, Spain, in 2011. Thus, she went on to mimic the culture as her own. While most can agree that Hilaria’s fabricated life is a glaring example of cultural appropriation—not to mention, just wildly unnecessary—many don’t see why this is a big deal. It’s important to note why this story is particularly painful to many people across America.
I grew up witnessing firsthand the bias that occurred when my grandmother, who was born and raised in Mexico, was repeatedly told to speak English as opposed to her native language. Or when her cheeks reddened as she lowered her head while cashiers claimed they couldn’t understand what she was asking due to her heavy accent. This is the reality and shame many people in America face daily. Having a Spanish accent is not at all something that someone should feel humiliated for, but rather, it should be proudly used.
People welcomed Hilaria because she was seen as enticingly “foreign,” you know, without being too foreign
Hilaria failing to realize that faking her accent is a big deal is the prime example of white privilege in action. But I’ll be honest, I almost wish she was right. I really do wish that having a Spanish accent (even a fake one) wasn’t seen as a big deal, because having one would be normalized—but it isn’t. Not completely, anyway.
The problem occurs when people to this day are vigorously mocked and presented with limited opportunities because of their accents, while Hilaria has had many doors opened for the same thing. People welcomed Hilaria because she was seen as enticingly “foreign,” you know, without being too foreign—or in her case, not at all. It’s the same way that AAVE (African American Vernacular English) has been appropriated by so many people on the internet that it’s now seen as “trendy.” When a Black person uses the same language they’re often called “ghetto,” “uneducated” or much worse.
The impact of Hilaria’s scandal is upsetting when you consider how this white woman appeared on the cover of ¡Hola! and other Latina magazines. Women like Hilaria have perpetuated the harmful narrative of the picturesque Latina women—one that’s just not true. Latinas come in multiple shades but women of a lighter complexion are almost always prevalent in the media. This directly correlates to the disenfranchisement of so many Afro-Latinas in the mainstream news because many choose to only acknowledge light-skinned women. It’s because of this that Hilaria was so easily given attention, and it is why the ostracization of those with darker complexions continues. I’m by no means saying that fair-skinned Latinas don’t deserve to be on the cover of these magazines as well, but when the media is unable to dissociate a white woman with absolutely no Spanish heritage versus someone who is actually Hispanic—it’s a huge problem. Especially when she happily took opportunities that a minority could and should have been offered. This is where the true disconnect occurs.
We all know Hollywood tends to be quite forgiving when it comes to entitled, wealthy, white women.
Hilaria’s exaggerated accent is one that she chose to appropriate as an adult, and this makes it all the more frustrating. She was the idealistic success story and profited from it. While others are marginalized and rejected, Hilaria made a name for herself with her accent; even now as she faces bad press, Hilaria’s follower count on Instagram increases. More and more people who had never heard of her now know who she is. Hilaria, or should I say Hillary, will bounce back, and she’s sure to once again reap the benefits of her privilege. We all know Hollywood tends to be quite forgiving when it comes to entitled, wealthy, white women.