Indigenous peoples everywhere have faced microaggressions and criticism from non-natives for centuries but actress Yalitza Aparicio has been at the forefront since her acting debut in the Oscar-nominated 2018 film Roma. The daughter of Indigenous parents from the Mixtec and Triqui peoples in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, the Oscar-nominated actress is one of the few Indigenous actresses in Hollywood. She made history as the first Indigenous woman to be nominated for best actress at the Oscars. Because not enough Indigenous voices are being put in the spotlight, she carries a lot of responsibility to represent her heritage in a certain way, both on-screen and on the red carpet. In a recent interview with influencer Juanpa Zurita, she revealed that she’d received criticism because she chose to wear designer gowns to award shows rather than traditional Indigenous clothing. As if her Indigenous heritage meant she couldn’t wear anything else.
“Give me a justification and a logical reason as to why I can’t use designer clothing,” Aparicio said. “It’s who I am. I use Indigenous clothing at events when I want, not because people tell me to use it for a photo.”
It may have seemed like people were criticizing her assimilation into Western beauty standards but all it did was reveal how little people understand Indigenous people and yet feel free to perpetuate expectations for no reason. Indigenous people, both in and out of Western society, have full control over what they wear and should be allowed to have those choices without hearing other people’s opinions, especially non-natives.
Aparicio also went on to point out the hypocrisy of the whole situation. Everywhere online and in real-life, non-natives appropriate Indigenous culture for the aesthetic and disrespect clothing all the time without knowing its history and not caring enough to learn. Earlier this year French fashion label Sézane came under fire for using imagery of an Indigenous woman without paying her. “Why are people who aren’t Indigenous appropriating our clothing, sharing it on social media?” she said. “Why can they use our clothing but you can’t use designer clothes?”
Not to mention that when Indigenous people do wear their traditional clothing, they get criticized anyway for refusing to assimilate. There’s literally no way for them to win. Thankfully, Aparicio is above the criticism and she’s not letting it affect her sartorial decisions and no doubt she has plenty of red carpet moments coming up. Last year, she announced that her next film would be in Presences (Presencias), a Mexican horror film about “a man who loses his wife and goes to seclude himself in a cabin in the woods, where strange things happen,” according to El Universal.
We’re excited to see her on-screen again and support her fashion choices, no matter what she chooses to wear or how she expresses herself. We know she’ll look great no matter what!
“My people, as Indigenous as we are, can also enjoy the luxury of designer clothing – this isn’t a limitation,” she added. “We have the freedom to use what we want.”