EXCLUSIVE: Melissa De Sousa On Not Speaking Spanish: "It's Kind of Looked Down On"

Panamanian actress Melissa De Sousa — who stars in the new BET series, Reed Between the Lines (premiering in the fall) — has paved the way for other Afro-Latinas to make it in Hollywood. But De Soussa — a proud Latina who grew up in New York — says she feels terrible about the fact that she doesn't speak Spanish. 

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"I wasn't raised speaking Spanish," says the actress, who is best known for her role as Shelby in the rom com, The Best Man (1999). "That's a hard thing for me because it's not acceptable. It's kind of like, looked down on," she says.

De Sousa says not speaking the language can be challenging, especially when she visits her family in Panama. "I'm trying to piece things together. I get frustrated and I just feel terrible," she says. "Rosie Perez actually talked about that in a short she did. I ran into her and I said, 'thank you for talking about that because a lot of parents come to the U.S. and they don't speak to the kids in Spanish because they want them to be American and just fit in.'

Adds De Sousa: "Some parents do {teach their children Spanish} and some don't."

Even though De Sousa isn't a fluent Spanish speaker, she says she's interested in learning the language. "I'm constantly practicing and I've taken tons of classes," she says. "I definitely have to be more agressive about learning faster. I speak a little Spanish, but I would not feel confident doing it in public," she explains. 

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However, De Sousa says she is able to speak Spanish if it's part of a role she's playing on TV — like with her new show, Reed Between the Lines. "In my roles when we're filming I can memorize it and do it," she says. "I actually speak Spanish in the show sometimes, so I can do it in that sense. But as far as going on Telemundo and doing an interview and freestyling it? I'd probably be a train wreck."