‘Roma’ Star Yalitza Aparicio Makes Oscars History as First Indigenous Nominee for Best Actress
The 2019 Academy Award nominations are officially out, and the year’s Oscar contenders are breaking from awards season convention in more than one way. With the January 22, 2019, announcement of the year’s Oscar nominees, Black Panther received the precedent-setting distinction of becoming the first superhero movie to ever get a nod for the coveted Best Picture category. Netflix also scored its first ever Best Picture nomination — and nine others — for the Alfonso Cuaron-directed feature, Roma. But it was the film’s star, actress Yalitza Aparicio, who became one of this awards season’s most exciting history-makers when she was named the first-ever Indigenous woman nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.
In Roma, Aparicio plays a young woman named Cleo who shares the actress’ Mixtec identity. The film centers on Cleo’s effect on the white, middle-class Mexican family she works for. Though its portrayal of race and class issues in Mexico has been subject to debate, Aparicio defends Cuaron’s inclusive vision.
“He reflected us, indigenous people,” she told the Los Angeles Times shortly after the nominations went public. “This has allowed people to reflect on what exists in our environment and it shows other faces in film. It shows the rest of the world that there is great diversity in Mexico.”
The actress was a newly-minted schoolteacher when she decided, on a whim, to attend a casting call for the Netflix project in her hometown of Tlaxiaco. Since then, she’s become a beacon of hope for better representation of Indigenous talent in Latin American media and pop culture. When she appeared on the January 2019 cover of Vogue Mexico, Aparicio became the magazine’s first Indigenous cover star in its 20-year history. But the actress isn’t planning to let stardom go to her head just yet.
“In this process, I have tried to live it as I am — I have stayed the same,” she assured the Times.“I’ve never forgotten where I am from because it’s that that has brought me to where I am.”
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty)