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Yalitza Aparicio tells of how she nearly missed ‘Roma’ audition

The Mexican actress has written a moving piece about the importance of art to give ‘visibility to the unseen’

She shot to worldwide attention in her role as Cleo in Alfonso Cuarón’s semi-autobiographical movie Roma. And now Yalitza Aparicio is using her new-found fame to highlight the importance of art to bringing focus onto important issues in society. Writing an opinion piece in The New York Times, the Oaxaca, Mexico native explains how art “presents us with the amazing opportunity to give voice to the unheard, and visibility to the unseen.”

"ROMA" Red Carpet Premiere - TIFF 2018 - Toronto, ON©GettyImages
As UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Indigenous Peoples, Yalitza has become a powerful voice for those often over-looked

In the piece she reveals that she nearly ignored the casting call for the movie: “Four years ago, when a casting call for “Roma” was issued in my city, Tlaxiaco, in the state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, I almost didn’t go to the audition. The film industry was alien to me. As a child, I couldn’t relate to the people I saw on movie screens; the actors and actresses were nothing like the people I knew, and their stories centered on worlds far away from my own. As an adult, I studied to be a teacher, and had no thoughts of becoming an actress.”

Luckily she changed her mind and decided to give it a go, landing the part of the maid to a middle-class family in 1970’s Mexico City. Her moving portrayal garnered her an Oscar nomination and Yalitza was nominated by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2019. That same year she was she was named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Indigenous Peoples. And this is a role she obviously takes very seriously. In her piece she remembers the hurtful comments she got when she received the Oscars nod: “An Indigenous woman was not a worthy representative of the country, some said. It was hard for me to see and hear these sorts of statements. But real conversations were happening because of them. Eventually, these discussions highlighted the cultural and political importance of diversity in society, art and the media.”

Thankfully positive action came out of her nomination in 2019: “Mexico’s Congress unanimously approved a bill granting the two million domestic workers in the country rights to social protections and a written employment contract, along with law-mandated benefits such as paid vacation days, Christmas bonuses and days off.” She finishes off her heart-felt message with: “The role of Cleo, and filmmaking in general, have provided a showcase for many people to be heard, seen and valued.”

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