It isn’t every day you get to witness a scandal like this one. A celebrity cosplaying someone of a different cultural or ethnic background isn’t something that usually makes the news.
Hilaria Baldwin has come clean on Instagram about her heritage, a falsehood she has been perpetuating with the help of her husband, beloved actor Alec Baldwin. Baldwin came out as Hillary Hayward-Thomas from Massachusetts, a stark contrast from the Spanish woman from Mallorca she has portrayed to the public for almost an entire decade.
Baldwin’s scandal has impacted the public for so many reasons. Immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries have been the target of racially-charged attacks for years, and for Hilaria (or Hillary? Who knows.) to exaggerate aspects of another culture is seen as offensive and ignorant, perhaps even as cultural appropriation. Unfortunately, Hollywood has a long history of white celebrities appropriating Spanish and Latin-American culture. Think of Natalie Wood in “West Side Story” as Maria from Puerto Rico, Al Pacino portraying Cuban-American Tony Montana in “Scarface,” or Catherine Zeta-Jones as Elena de la Vega in “The Mask of Zorro.”
By definition, cultural appropriation is adopting elements of a culture or identity by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation borderlines controversy when members of a dominant culture appropriate disadvantaged minority groups. The case of Baldwin matches a little too close to this definition.
Her social media endeavors and public appearances show Baldwin integrating Spanish culture into nearly every conversation. They have become the source of evidence when examining how she expresses her cultural identity, and for catching her on her false claims. Since her first TV appearance in 2004, she has consistently alternated between a heavy Spanish accent, an American accent or what almost sounds like a butchered Spanish accent. Her upbringing and culture have long been a mystery, as her claims about her multicultural heritage, along with her fluctuating Spanish accent (one most similar to a native Spanish speaker), have sparked a lot of confusion.
When asked by an interviewer if her parents were of Spanish heritage, Baldwin responded with “My family is mixed with a bunch of different things.” She even stumbles on the word “cucumber” in a segment on the Today show back in October 2015. The following is a compilation of Baldwin speaking on her “Spanish” culture. Watch at your own discretion.
Baldwin took to Instagram a few weeks ago in a seven-minute video defending herself against the cultural appropriation claims, confirming for the first time that she is, in fact, a white woman who was born in Boston.
She stands by the fact that her birth country doesn’t take away any bit of her Spanish heritage and upbringing. Her biggest justification for embracing a dominant Spanish heritage is the time she spent growing up going “back and forth” between Boston, Massachusetts and Spain, where “35-40 of (her) family members” reside. However, she’s changed her story on her birthplace, previously stating that she was born in Mallorca, Spain, then later claiming to be born in Boston.
Journalists and lying experts have jumped at the chance to debunk Baldwin’s claims. Baldwin appeared on the “Mom Truths” podcast back in April of last year, where she stated that she left Spain when she was nineteen years old to attend New York University. This claim has been debunked by podcaster Tracie Egan Morrissey, a famed lying expert who caters his work toward celebrity scandals. Morrissey points out that Baldwin graduated as Hillary Hayward-Thomas from the Cambridge School of Weston in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is seen alongside friends of the academy in a 2002 yearbook photo, released by a fellow classmate.
VALLEY looked further into Baldwin’s generational family history to understand how (or if) Spain played any part in Baldwin’s upbringing and alleged Spanish heritage. Her mother is Dr. Kathryn Hayward, who was raised in Massachusetts and speaks with an American accent.
Morrissey also found that Baldwin’s father is David Thomas, whose family has a long history of residency in the state of Vermont, and who studied Spanish literature in college, only moving to Spain with his wife, Hilaria’s mother, in 2011.
Baldwin’s story doesn’t quite add up in the slightest. Her decade-long fluctuating accent, along with photo evidence and her family’s history proves one thing: this is nothing but a charade. Her excessive embrace of Spanish culture as her own has catapulted her career and become the center of her brand. It’s rare to scroll down Hilaria’s Instagram and not see the overuse of Spanglish, or her five “Baldwinitos” (her children with Alec Baldwin, all with Spanish names).
Let us know @VALLEYMag what you think of the Hilary Baldwin situation!