Respected Acting Teacher Tells White Student to Pose as Latina


Lesly Kahn, a well-known acting coach in Los Angeles, is under fire for instructing a student to change her name to a Latin-sounding name in order to get more roles as a Latina. The conversation during acting class was all caught on tape. On the recording, Lesly says that in order for the white student to get diverse representation in Hollywood, she should change her name to Rosa Ramirez, which would ensure her roles.

The student tells Lesly that people confuse her for being Latina but that she is in fact Jewish, but her acting coach suggests changing her name to a Latin-sounding name.

“But, yeah, no one’s ever told me to change my name,” student responds.

“I 100 percent thought you were Latin when we came here,” someone else is heard saying on the recoring.

“Yeah, I get that. I’m Armenian,” the student reiterates.

“Fuck the Armenian, that’s not going to help you,” Lesly tells her. “The Latin could actually get you interviews for representation. Just the fact that your name is Rosa Ramirez is gonna get you a meeting. … So you might try it. … Go to the headshot shop and tell them you’re Latin. Wear something fucking red. Wear some fucking sparkly earrings. Change your goddamned name, and let’s just do an experiment. You know what I mean? Just fucking come up with most Latin name you can come up with, and I mean I don’t know what we’re going to do if they ask is she’s really Latin. I don’t know how we’re going to handle that. Maybe no one will ask. … Aren’t we allowed to change our names to whatever we want to change our names to? And she already looks it. So stop admitting to being a huge Jew. OK? That’s not going to help you. Speaking as one, it’s not going to help. As a Jew, it doesn’t help. … So just try it … and keep us posted, like the saga of Rosa Ramirez.”

Lesly was sure to add: “Make sure before you change it to Rosa Ramirez that there isn’t already a Rosa Ramirez in SAG, and if there is, we try a slightly different name.”

Lesly has since issued an apology, saying: “As a Jewish woman, I understand the pain that can come from being discriminated against. On behalf of myself and my company, the most sincere apology is extended to my students, current and former, and all others affected. I deeply regret the offended my words have caused.”

According to Deadline, Alex Nogales of the National Hispanic Media Coalition addressed Lesly saying she should be ashamed of herself.

“If that weren’t enough,” Nogales continued, according to Deadline, “you go on and on callously calling it an interesting and entertaining experiment. Shame on you. Latinos are severely underrepresented in the film and television industry, and through your words you are contributing to even less representation. Justice would be served if all the Latino students that have attended your classes get their money back because they certainly are not getting its worth from you.”

Commenters on her page are livid as well.

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