The premiere of Alfonso Cuarón’s 2018 drama “Roma” completely transformed the life of the film’s lead actress, Yalitza Aparicio, known now for her Oscar-nominated role as Cleo. This would make her not only the second Mexican actress to land an Oscar nomination, but the first indigenous woman of all time. It’s a record she doesn’t take for granted. She will also be included in Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people. But while the film sped Aparicio to stardom in ways she probably never anticipated, it would be years before viewers would see the star actress in anything again. After playing the housekeeper and nanny of a white Mexican family, inspired by the director’s nanny growing up in Mexico City, Aparicio was very intentional about the roles she chooses to play and that she denied. With the severe lack of indigenous representation that exists in Hollywood and being aware of how much of a symbol she has become for the indigenous people of Mexico, it has become crucial for her, she said, not to engage in projects that could potentially perpetuate negative perceptions and stereotypes of Latinx Indigenous communities.
Four years after “Roma”, Aparicio is back with many projects to his credit, including his latest: “Presencias” by Luis Mandoki on TelevisaUnivison’s Vix+. In it, she plays the supporting role of Paulina, a role that demonstrates both her growth and her reach. She goes from the starring role of housekeeper and nanny Cleo in “Roma” — which bears no resemblance to real life, mind you — to a supporting role in a lowly horror movie. She also stars in “Midnight Family,” Apple TV+’s first Spanish-language original drama based on Luke Lorentzen’s 2019 documentary of the same name. Aparicio is also in the second season of “Los Espookys” on HBO Max, which premiered on September 16. And it does not stop there. You can also expect to see her in Netflix’s ‘The Great Seduction,’ which is slated for release in 2023. Our girl is busy, and that’s because she’s very clear about using her platform. to create more and better representation of native Latinx people. She creates much-needed visibility, and part of that is moving away from roles that fuel stereotypes about people who look like her.
There is a certain perception that the media has created about Aparicio. As they celebrate her success, they also often describe her as shy and timid, much like her character Cleo in “Roma.” The truth is, it’s not her at all. Aparicio is not Cleo. It’s just a character she played – it’s called acting. From the second she appeared on the Zoom screen, Aparicio seemed confident and excited to jump into the conversation. She never choked on her words or spoke too fast like some celebrities or subjects do when they find themselves off guard after an unexpected question. While she’s grateful to be where she is, she also knows she deserves to be here. This quality shines through.
Roma director Alfonso Cuaròn has said in previous interviews that Aparicio had nothing to do with the character she played in his film, and he’s right. He called her “a person who is incredibly grounded in her truth, that she is not easily swayed by the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, (…) who is focused on being a force for change and of empowerment for Indigenous women, accepting the symbolic value of what she has done and assuming that responsibility with her dignity and grace.”
“It was shocking to read this script and realize that I had the opportunity to explore another realm of acting. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to be part of ‘Presencias’ and to overcome my own fears of whether I was going to make it as an actor or not.”
Aparicio recognizes the much-needed change that is finally happening in Hollywood, and the role she has played and will continue to play in making more change a reality. “I’m very happy to be back. I mean, we started something amazing, changing the idea that the public had by exploring a different genre,” Aparicio told POPSUGAR in Spanish during a Zoom call with a gracious smile on her face. She explains how working in a horror movie wasn’t something she necessarily saw herself doing before. But everything changed once we handed him the script. “It was shocking to read this script and realize that I had the opportunity to explore another realm of acting. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to be part of ‘Presencias’ and to overcome my own fears of whether I was going to make it as an actor or not. [referring to Luis Mandoki] had spoken years ago about the possibility of doing something together, so when the opportunity finally came up, of course, I didn’t hesitate.”
For Aparicio, taking on this role was all about growing up and trying something new to show the world that she can play all kinds of roles — not just a maid. “You know, one of the stories that I always had to personally remember is that each of us has the opportunity to experiment in different roles,” she says confidently while explaining the importance of challenging ourselves. to get out of our comfort zones and try different things. “Because at some point you are scared or scared to play or step out of this area that you have always been rehearsing. I am very happy that this opportunity is given, and to be considered and seen in different roles and more diverse. And of course there’s also work on our part to show that we can do it.”
“You know, one of the stories that I always had to remember personally is that each of us has the opportunity to experiment in different roles.”
Aparicio is on the road to success and she is already showing it clearly. You can attribute this to his endless curiosity. She’s the kind of person who really embodies the idea of being a student forever. There is a desire to learn, grow, and challenge themselves, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable the obstacle or challenge presented to them may be. You feel it with the energy she brought in her role as Paulina in “Presencias”.
“I think the character of Paulina is a woman who has autonomy and independence and lives in a small town who isn’t used to seeing that in her town or from a woman,” said Alberto Ammann, who plays the lead role of Victor in “Presencias.” says POPSUGAR in Spanish. “At her age, she has her own business, she swims in the lake every day even though they tell her it’s dangerous, and she has a motorbike. In other words, what I find interesting in the Yalitza’s character, she’s a different kind of woman; she’s special. She’s different from the model of small-town society and the way women have to be a certain thing. And there’s a kind of rebellion in her character and that’s why I think she’s approaching Victor. She’s interested because she has a stake in the world around her, right?”
Aparicio is committed to making a difference in this industry – in this world – whether it’s taking on an empowering role that will help the world reinvent the kinds of roles Indigenous women can play, being a strong voice for her community or even in the ways she chooses to fight against colorism and the erasure of indigenous communities that still exist today. She even pays it forward by giving back and partnering with organizations like Cine Too, an organization run by Mexican filmmaker Juan José Garcia Ortiz, which helps fund a small movie theater in the town of Guelatao de Juárez, Oaxaca.
Aparicio has shared in a number of interviews that before “Roma” she never imagined herself to be an actress. She barely even watched movies because in the town where she grew up there was no movie theater and the movies often shown in Mexico never portrayed women who looked like her as mere servants or maids. . For Aparicio, bringing the arts to areas like the city of Guelatao de Juárez not only gives young children access to the arts, but allows them to really imagine themselves having worthy careers in film and taking action for the first time. It allows them to see themselves in the lives of the people society has discouraged them from becoming. And that’s exactly what Aparicio offers Latin and indigenous girls and women who look like her. She proudly represents Indigenous communities in all the roles she takes on. It expands its representation in Mexican cinema, but it does not stop there. Aparicio makes positive representation of indigenous communities more than a dream or a hope – it makes it a reality. She embodies the change we yearn to see.