Rosie Perez is peeling back the curtain on Hollywood whitewashing.
The “Flight Attendant” star revealed that her former agent, whom she declined to name, encouraged her to undergo cosmetic surgery to land more roles early in her career.
“I don’t want her to be canceled, but she told me that if I dyed my hair blond and got a nose job, ‘I can get you more jobs, because you’re not Black,'” Perez told Variety in a cover story. “I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness. Like, thank you, fired.'”
But at the time, Perez admitted after firing her agent, “I had nobody. I had no money.” Perez recalled in 2014 that the agent in question encouraged her to “pass for white.”
After firing the agent, Perez later bonded with “Criminal Justice” co-star Jennifer Grey, who had her own career issues post-nose job.
“Jennifer and I clicked instantly,” Perez recalled. “I haven’t seen that woman in ages, but I just think she’s phenomenal. She’s like, ‘I cannot believe how racist this industry is.’ She picks up the phone and calls Jane Berliner at CAA and says, ‘You need to represent this actress.'”
Perez’s new agent helped her land roles in “Do the Right Thing” and “White Men Can’t Jump,” jumpstarting Perez’s career.
Yet the actress said there is a still a long way to go for representation: “It’s just not enough. And when we do get our stories told, we have some executive who knows nothing about who we are as a people,” Perez said. “And then they’re like, ‘Can you spice it up a little bit?’ You want to punch these people in the face. And then if it’s too real, they’re, ‘Could you pull it back, because we don’t want the audience to feel offended.’ And people are getting sick of it. I think that’s the reason why ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ was such a big winner.”
Perez previously spoke out about Hollywood’s response to her Puerto Rican heritage.
“When I first started in this industry, they didn’t want [diversity]. They wanted me to be completely whitewashed,” Perez told People in 2018. “I’ve never shied away from portraying my Puerto Rican-ness…You have to have that tenacity and that self-confidence to walk in a room and say ‘This is how I see the character and this is how I want to play it.'”
Gina Rodriguez, Jenna Ortega, and John Leguizamo have all addressed Latin stereotypes onscreen, with Leguizamo recently speaking out on “colorism” in Hollywood.
“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 “Menu” actor said. “I stayed out of the sun so I could work. For years I was so pasty so I could work.”