The Jessica Alba Controversy

By Mimi Valdés Ryan

When the controversy surrounding Jessica Alba’s roots heated up last fall, we at Latina really wanted to get to the bottom of it. We wrote a passionate letter to Alba’s publicist requesting an interview. Our thinking was that she needed to address her latinidad instead of all these random quotes that may or may not be true.

Immediately, our research department went to work to find where these quotes originally appeared, and absolutely nothing turned up. A rumor about them being in Para Todos magazine was false. I watched damn near every talk show appearance of Alba on YouTube and noticed that she always lovingly talked about her big family. Hmm, that didn’t sound like someone who wanted to cut loose from them.

Fast-forward to my arrival at Alba’s home in Beverly Hills. She was down to talk about anything, completely candid and a real sweetheart. As I read her all of the quotes ("Mexicans spread their seeds," "My grandfather tried to forget his Mexican roots" and "As a third-generation American, I feel as if I’ve finally cut loose"), she tried her best to hide her disappointment that people think these are her words. Even her family is incredibly hurt by all of the negative press. "My grandma gets called out about it," Alba said. "It really hurts my family when they read stuff like that. They really hate it. I always tell them I’m sorry, that it’s just the nature of what I do. People will say things that aren’t true and I can’t really do anything about it." Mind you, this is a family that’s very proud of their heritage and extremely close (1,000 people attended the wedding of her parents!). Her Mexican American father’s parents, as well as many of her aunts and uncles, were all performers at Padua Hills in Claremont, California, the longest-running Mexican American theater in the United States. She even has a cousin, a professor at an Ivy League university, who wrote a book about the complex history of Mexican Americans in California.

The quote about her not wanting to be labeled as a Latina actress is the only one she says is sort of true, but the intention behind the statement has been twisted. "I remember saying a version of that," she told me. "It was a Latin journalist that was like, ‘Don’t you want to be known as a Latin actress? It’s in vogue,’ and all this s--t, and I explained that I didn’t want to be identified as one race ever in Hollywood—that yes, I am Latin, but I just want to be known as an actress, not as a Latin actress or an American actress, just an actress that can do anything."

So to all the Alba haters in the world: She’s not backpedaling on any statements (if anybody has her on tape saying those crazy quotes, we welcome you to come forward!). If people were’t so sure before, our cover story proves she embraces her Mexican heritage. Now leave the girl alone. I wouldn’t mess with anyone who has a family that big!