The Latino side of Anya Taylor-Joy

The actress grew up in Argentina and is proud of her heritage; however, she is very ‘careful’ not to take on Latino roles in Hollywood for an important reason

Anya Taylor-Joy
Anya Taylor-Joy attends the red carpet for 'Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga' in London (England) on May 17.Lia Toby (Getty Images)
Alonso Martínez

In 2021, Anya Taylor-Joy had the honor of joining the list of personalities who have hosted the iconic comedy show Saturday Night Live, and she took the opportunity to remind the audience that she is proudly Spanish-speaking. At the end of her monologue, the actress — who at the time was gaining recognition for her work in the acclaimed series The Queen’s Gambit — requested to conclude in her native language, and displayed an impeccable Argentine accent that moved the Latino community.

Anya-Josephine Marie Taylor-Joy has an Argentine father of American and Scottish descent, and a mother born in Zambia with English and Spanish ancestry. Although she was born in Miami while her parents were on vacation in the city, she spent her entire childhood until the age of six in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and attended a bilingual school, before her family moved to London, England. However, the actress has mentioned that the experience was not pleasant, and she even refused to learn English, hoping to convince her parents to return to Argentina.

In an interview with the Standard newspaper, she reflected on her adaptation process: “When I was younger, I didn’t fit in anywhere. I was too English to be Argentine, too Argentine to be English, too American to be anything.” She also highlighted having suffered bullying for being a foreigner and for her physical appearance, which has now made her one of the most recognizable actresses in the industry.

She attributes these childhood problems to her accent being able to adapt easily to wherever she is. She points out that in England she sounds more English and that in Ireland she adjusts the way she speaks. “It’s really difficult for my personal life, but for acting it’s amazing.”

Despite her Latin background, the actress does not usually play roles of Latin people in Hollywood. Her first role — and the one that immediately put her on the map — was in Robert Eggers’ film The Witch, where she played the teenage daughter of an English couple. In an interview with Vulture magazine, Taylor-Joy pointed out that she identifies as Latina (particularly white Latina), but she is “careful” about auditioning for Latino roles. “I am aware that I don’t look like a typical Latin person, and that’s not fair. I don’t want to be someone you can just sub in for that role, when I’m really white and blonde.”

In fact, in 2021, when Variety magazine profiled the actress, it stated that she was the “first person of color to have won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a miniseries, since Queen Latifah in 2008,” which immediately generated negative reactions from internet users who pointed out that the actress was not a person of “color.” This recalls the time when Antonio Banderas, a Spanish actor, was also referred to by some media as a “person of color” after being nominated for an Oscar for his work in Pedro Almodóvar’s film Pain and Glory. Banderas does not identify as a person of color; however, he mentioned in an interview with Jorge Ramos: “When I have gone to the United States, I have considered myself Latino, because those are the people I have connected with.” Similarly, he pointed out that during an official registration in the United States, he indicated that he was “white,” but was told that he was actually “Hispanic,” to which he replied, “Hispanic is not a race.”

This is evidence of how complex the issue of identity can be for Spanish speakers in the United States. While many people in Latin America have Indigenous or mestizo ancestry, others are predominantly white. In Argentina, where Taylor-Joy’s father is from, 97% of the population has European ancestry, among whom 56% also have Indigenous or mestizo ancestry. In Spain, where her mother is from, the majority of the population is white. However, Hollywood often categorizes anyone who speaks Spanish as Latino, which can lead to confusion.

The fact that she can speak Spanish draws more attention from Latino fans, particularly from Argentines. It’s not surprising that one of the most viral videos of her circulating on TikTok and Instagram is one in which she admits that her favorite foods are “churros with dulce de leche, provolone bread, and empanadas, which are not as common in the United States.” Regarding her connection with her country and the love she receives from Argentines, the actress who has just premiered George Miller’s new film, Furiosa, mentioned: “The idea that people in Argentina love me in that way and want me to represent them in that way, that makes me cry.” She also clarified: “Most of my family lives there, I don’t spend as much time there as I would like. In my mind, I would like to live in Buenos Aires again at some point in my life, so the fact that they love me in that way, and want to say ‘this is our Argentine,’ makes me feel proud but also affects me a lot, I feel the responsibility of that.”

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