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John Leguizamo Calls Out Colorism in Hollywood: ‘I Stayed Out of the Sun So I Could Work’

The Latinx actor and comedian admitted to having "benefitted from being light skinned" in Hollywood, and slammed tokenism casting.

John Leguizamo, 2018 Tony Awards Meet The Nominees Press Junket - Part 2, InterContinental New York Times Square Hotel, New York, NY May 1, 2018. Photo By: Jason Smith/Everett Collection

John Leguizamo

Jason Smith/Everett Collection

Despite the push for representation onscreen, Hollywood still isn’t addressing all the issues.

Following the debate over colorism in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” John Leguizamo spoke about his experience in the film industry.

“There’s colorism within Latin culture that we have to fix, but there’s colorism in Hollywood too,” Leguizamo said during Nick Barili’s new series “Seen” in collaboration with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as reported by Deadline.

Leguizamo continued, “All the Latinos who’ve made it so far, a lot of them were light-skinned. What happened to all the Afro Latinos and the majority of the indigenous Latinos? They don’t get a shot.”

The Colombian-born actor, writer, and producer admitted that he’s “benefitted from being light-skinned” and even purposefully tried to maintain his fairer complexion to get roles.

“I stayed out of the sun so I could work,” the “Encanto” star recalled. “For years I was so pasty so I could work.”

Leguizamo even reflected on being dropped from a film he declined to name after working for a week on set. The director called Leguizamo to say they “can’t have him in the movie anymore” since they cast a Latin actress and they “couldn’t have two Latin people in the movie because then it becomes a Latin movie.”

“He meant he can only have one token at a time,” Leguizamo said.

And since addressing racism in Hollywood, Leguizamo has seen a drop-off in his personal social media followers.

“I got a lot of hate tweets like, ‘Go back to your country. Go back to Mexico.’ I’m not Mexican but I’ll gladly go back to Mexico because it’s a great country,” Leguizamo said. “When I post stuff on my Facebook, they say, ‘John used to be so entertaining, but now you’re a bore.’ … Being vocal has a cost.”

He concluded, “All this hate stuff, I just ignore. I feel like if you’ve achieved a certain amount of success, it’s your duty to give back. You gotta give back.”

“West Side Story” star Ariana DeBose discussed her Afro-Latinx identity with POPSUGAR last year. The Broadway veteran, who was an original cast member in Miranda’s “Hamilton,” explained that she brought up her heritage to Steven Spielberg during the “West Side Story” audition.

“I said to Steven, ‘You know, if you’re not willing to explore and acknowledge this identity in the context of the script, then I don’t think you should hire me. Perhaps I’m not the girl for you,'” DeBose explained. “Because it’s so rare that you see an Afro-Latina this integral to the plot, playing a leading role. She’s supporting, but she’s very important to everything that’s going on in this community, and she really packs a punch by the end of this thing.”

DeBose continued, “I really just approached the work from being unapologetically Afro-Latinx — unapologetically Black…Colorism is very real, and we never talk about that in the entertainment industry. Our lived experiences are invalidated every day, so it was nice to feel affirmed that we are not crazy and that micro-aggressions are real, and that’s what I have to say about that.”

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