“It’s interesting because I am white passing. So, when I got here people didn’t know I was Latina. I was going out all the time, getting call backs all the time. Then I booked ‘One Day at a Time’ — which thank God. But, then people found out I was Latina. And then, the auditions dwindled and people don’t want to see me as much,” Gomez said at the NALIP Diverse Women In Media panel moderated by Entertainment Tonight’s Deidre Behar in Los Angeles, Calif. Thursday night.
Gomez continued to say that it has been an interesting transition, dealing with the fact that she “was getting accepted” as a teenager working in this business. But as she got older, on “such a common Latinx show,” she started to experience more rejection.
“I was like, I’m still the same person,” Gomez said. “These are the same casting directors. I’m still bringing the same amount of talent, if not more because I’ve been training and growing on the set. But, now because you know where I’m from, now it’s weird.”
The Colombian actress doubled down on her acknowledgement of her white passing status, sharing that it was a recent realization that she discovered during the second season of the show when her brother’s character Alex (Marcel Ruiz) is bullied because of his darker brown skin color and Elena realizes she doesn’t have the same experience, prompting her to connect more with her Cuban heritage. “I was like ‘Oh, that’s why! Then everything in my life made sense,” she said.
Gomez admitted frustration with this experience and noted it’s still “something I’m actively working through.” But, she added that having a collaborative community of Latinx performers in the business helps.
“A lot of my Latina friends, what we’ll do is any time we get an audition, we tell the other ones so that we can all audition for the same stuff because if there’s only going to be six big parts we can all audition for, we’re all going to audition for it,” she said.
The NALIP event was another form of collaboration, bringing together women from behind-the-scenes and on-screen to talk about why representation manners, as well as how to deal with challenges they face in the industry. Gomez sat alongside fellow performers Emily Tosta (“Party of Five”) and Sasha Calle (“The Young and the Restless”), but trailblazers behind the camera also participated in the event, from “One Day at a Time’s” Gloria Calderon Kellett to “Party of Five’s” Mary Angelica Molina, “LA’s Finest’s” Pam Veasey and “Shark Tank’s” Yun Lingner.
“Stuff like that has meaning for people who look like me, who don’t look like me, that are Latinx that are making it, that are working. It’s so inspiring because it lets you know that there are people out there that are changing or meeting people like Gloria Calderon Kellett and Norman Lear, who’s 97 and a white man and said, ‘You know what? We need a Latinx family on TV,'” Gomez said.