Hollywood has a long history of casting non-Latinx actors in Latinx roles, so it’s no surprise that there are a bunch of celebrities that people assume are Latinx, but actually aren’t. Still, in a day and age where there are tons of up-and-coming, Latinx actors trying to make it in the industry, Latinx characters are routinely played by non-Latinx actors. Despite our lack of representation in front of and behind the cameras on TV and in movies, this is partly because there are many actors who are talented and simply look the part and also because well…some of them have super-Latinx sounding names.
And of course, there are also a number of musicians whom for whatever reason—whether it’s because of their appearance or because of their music—can absolutely pass for Latinx. We have to admit, even being Latinx ourselves there are definitely more than a few celebrities we really did at one point or another think were Latinx. Here are 10 famous people that we totally thought were Latinx but actually aren’t.
That’s right. He speaks Spanish, but acclaimed actor Javier Bardem is not Latinx. He’s from Spain, and as much as we would love to welcome him into the fold, Spaniards are not a part of the Latinx community which is defined as being born in or a descendant of Latin America, including Spanish-speaking islands throughout the Caribbean like Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
A familiar face on nearly everyone’s TV screens, actress Jennifer Esposito has long been confused for Latinx. Fact is, she’s Italian. Perhaps some of the confusion comes from the fact that she looks a lot like Cuban-American TV personality Daisy Fuentes, or perhaps it’s because her last name sounds Spanish, but nope, both of her parents have Italian roots, not Latino.
Well…yeah. This one is definitely an easy mistake to make. Doja Cat totally looks Afro-Latina and since she’s often grouped in with artists like Cardi B and has a musical style similar to what we hear from many Latina artists, it makes sense that a lot of people think she’s Latinx. Her mom is actually Jewish and her dad is South African.
This one’s a shock right?! If he doesn’t look like somebody’s tio, we don’t know who does. This prolific actor isn’t Latinx, he was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, and is of Black and Italian descent. Despite not speaking Spanish, he, of course, has played many Latinx characters on TV. Although we’d love to see more Latinx actors playing Latinx characters, Giancarlo’s talent is undeniable.
TV personality Maria Menounos is Greek guys! No matter how “Spanish” her name sounds or how brown her Mediterranean roots and tanning cream make her complexion, the woman is Greek, not Latinx. Both of her parents are Greek immigrants and she’s outspoken about her roots.
As much as we all want this stunning hunk of a man to be Latino, he’s not. Actor Daniel Sunjata who is best known for his roles in Rescue Me and Power has not Latinx roots. Although Daniel was adopted and does not know his biological parents, he was told they were Black and Irish-German. However, he has played a Nuyorican on TV.
Similarly, action star Vin Diesel has long been mistaken for Latinx probably because of his combination of looks and vibes. He’s gotten questions related to his racial ambiguity all of his career and has identified himself as a person of color, although he says he’s not Latino. His mom is Irish, English, German and Scottish. He doesn’t know his dad, but he’s believed to be at least part Black.
Although she could definitely pass for Latina any day of the week, actress/dancer/singer Vanessa Hudgens is actually Filipina. To be exact, her dad was mostly Irish and Native American and her mom is a native of Manila. So, she’s certainly a POC, but not Latina in any way. It kind of makes sense though since Spain also colonized the Philippines.
Don’t even try to tell us you never thought Ariana Grande could be Latina! When she became famous, everyone was trying to guess her heritage and her name certainly added to the confusion. This was especially true for those of us who watched her on the Nickelodeon show Victorious before she got that deep tan and hit it big in the music biz. The “34+35” singer is not Latinx though, she’s Italian and apparently, her last name is pronounced “Gran-dee”. The more you know!
Much like her aforementioned husband Javier Bardem, actress Penelope Cruz has long been thought of as Latina, whether due to the fact that she’s also from Spain so speaks the language or by being guilty by association as one of the best friends of Mexican actress Salma Hayek, who is of course one of the most famous Latina actresses in the entire world. She’s certainly represented Latina characters throughout the span of her career in films including Loving Pablo and Bandidas co-starring Hayek.
Rosalia is often grouped with Latinx musicians in mainstream coverage and award categories but the singer-songwriter is from Barcelona. She’s known for infusing her pop/urban sound with flamenco, folkloric music which began in southern Spain. Rosalía said in an interview with Fader, “If Latin music is music made in Spanish, then my music is part of Latin music. But I do know that if I say I’m a Latina artist, that’s not correct, is it?”