41 years on-air and SNL finally hired a Latina cast member. Yeah, that matters.

"Saturday Night Live" just hired its first-ever Latina cast member, so now's the time on Sprockets when we dance!

Sprockets. GIF from "Saturday Night Live."

But seriously, folks, this is huge wonderful news that's been a LONG time coming. In its 41 years on air, SNL has only had two Latino cast members: Horatio Sanz and Fred Armisen.


The long-awaited addition of a Latina cast member shows the landscape of racial diversity on television is slowly but surely widening.

Without further ado, live from New York, it's Melissa Villaseñor!

Thank you @tylerossity for this capture of my roach man impression. @meltdowncomics

A photo posted by Melissa Villaseñor (@melissavcomedy) on

Villaseñor's journey onto the SNL stage has been a long time coming. She auditioned once before when she was only 21 (she's now 28), and she made it a ritual of sending the show a tape of her new stuff every summer — just in case.

"I’m starting to understand that when I visualize something happening and believe in it, I start seeing results. So I put myself out there," she said in an interview with Bird.

That's exactly what happened in 2011, when she killed it on "America's Got Talent" with two minutes of ridiculously good impressions.

Her spot-on impression of Kathy Griffin alone is worthy of a spot on SNL. Villaseñor's dream of joining the NBC Saturday night staple came closer when she began work on an impression show "Daily Itineraries" for Más Mejor, a Latino-focusd studio that falls under the umbrella of SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels’ company, Broadway Video.

Villaseñor does an impression of Jennifer Lopez that rivals Maya Rudolph's, and it's even better because Villaseñor is actually Latina.

Get ready for J Lo! @masmejor "Daily ItinerAries" @jonshefsky @kamellowtail @carastyle @missvint

A photo posted by Melissa Villaseñor (@melissavcomedy) on

Villaseñor's been more than ready to take SNL by storm for years, but the show's much-discussed lack of diversity in casting likely got in her way.

According to Splitsider, since SNL's inception in 1975, only 15 black performers have been cast, and only four of them have been women. Currently, with the addition of Villaseñor, there are only five cast members of color on the show. So while it's great there are steps being taken in the right direction, it's still an agonizingly slow uphill battle, especially for women.

Leslie Jones at the "Ghostbusters" premiere. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.

SNL's producers keep their reasons for maintaining a predominantly white cast closely guarded, for obvious reasons, though when asked about it by WNPR in December 2015, Lorne Michaels defended the show's casting decisions, saying, "It didn't come from any place of intent or meanness; it came from looking every year for the best people we can find."

As diversity in media has become part of a more mainstream conversation, however, the show's noticeable lack of it has created more and more controversy and raised questions among viewers and cast members. On Twitter, people even joked that SNL stood for #StillNoLatinos and it became a popular hashtag in recent years.

Bringing Villaseñor into the SNL family is a huge win for Latinas in the entertainment industry — and viewers at home.

According to a 2014 study, Latinas only make up 4% of female characters on television. Of that small percentage, many end up playing hyper-stereotypical Latina characters like Sofía Vergara's Gloria on "Modern Family."

Based on Villaseñor's wide spectrum of awesome impressions, however, she will likely open the floodgates for a wider variety of roles for Latina comedians and actresses on screens big and small.

This is an important milestone because representation in media matters. It has an impact in the real world, beyond the screen.

For example, Whoopi Goldberg credits Nichelle Nichols' portrayal of Uhura on "Star Trek" for inspiring her to pursue a career in entertainment. When Goldberg was little, she was so excited to see someone like her on TV that she immediately jumped up calling for her family, shouting, "Everybody come quick, come quick, there's a black lady on television, and she ain't no maid!"

Earlier this year, SNL and "Ghostbusters" star Leslie Jones appeared on "The View" where she personally thanked Whoopi, saying, "I love you for what you've done for black women. I love you for what you'd done for black comedians, and I love you."

Leslie Watching a clip of Whoopi. Photo via The View/YouTube.

Jones told Goldberg that seeing her on TV was an eye-opening experience. Like Goldberg reacting to Nichols before her, Jones said she immediately jumped up, calling for her dad to come see, "There's somebody on TV who looks like me! She looks like me! Daddy! I can be on TV."

There have been even fewer Latino performers on SNL and even fewer opportunities for young Latino kids to see themselves reflected in the media. Villaseñor's addition to the SNL cast in the upcoming season is a huge opportunity for her and for all the young viewers who will see her beaming onto their screens every Saturday night. It won't be long before an up-and-coming Latina comedian tells Villaseñor what her historic start on the show meant to her.

After all, a dream can be born out of five little words: "Hey, I can do that."

Pexels.com
True

June 26, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter. Think of the Charter as the U.N.'s wedding vows, in which the institution solemnly promises to love and protect not one person, but the world. It's a union most of us can get behind, especially in light of recent history. We're less than seven months into 2020, and already it's established itself as a year of reckoning. The events of this year—ecological disaster, economic collapse, political division, racial injustice, and a pandemic—the complex ways those events feed into and amplify each other—have distressed and disoriented most of us, altering our very experience of time. Every passing month creaks under the weight of a decade's worth of history. Every quarantined day seems to bleed into the next.

But the U.N. was founded on the principles of peace, dignity, and equality (the exact opposite of the chaos, degradation, and inequality that seem to have become this year's ringing theme). Perhaps that's why, in its 75th year, the institution feels all the more precious and indispensable. When the U.N. proposed a "global conversation" in January 2020 (feels like thousands of years ago), many leapt to participate—200,000 within three months. The responses to surveys and polls, in addition to research mapping and media analysis, helped the U.N. pierce through the clamor—the roar of bushfire, the thunder of armed conflict, the ceaseless babble of talking heads—to actually hear what matters: our collective human voice.

Keep Reading Show less
Lauren-Ashley Howard/Twitter, Wikimedia Commons

The lengths people will go to discredit a political figure—especially a Black female politician—is pretty astounding. Since Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden's running mate, we've seen "birther" claims that she wasn't really born in the U.S. (she was), alternating claims that she's too moderate or too radical (which can't both be true), and a claim apparently designed to be a "gotcha"—that her ancestor in Jamaica was a slave owner.

According to Politifact, the claim that Harris descends from a slave owners is likely true. In their rather lengthy fact check on her lineage, which has not revealed any definitive answers, they conclude, "It seems possible that Kamala Harris is as likely a descendant of a slave-owner as she is an enslaved person." But that doesn't mean what the folks who are using that potential descencency as a weapon seem to think it means.

Keep Reading Show less
Mozilla
True
Firefox

When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

Keep Reading Show less

I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Sometimes a boycott succeeds when it fails.

Although the general aim of a boycott is to hurt profits, there are times when the symbolism of a boycott gives birth to a constant, overt and irreversible new optic for a company to nurse.

When the boycott of Facebook began in June and reached its peak in July, it gathered thousands of brands who vocalized their dissatisfaction with the platform.

The boycott, under the hashtag #StopHateForProfit, was launched by civil rights groups. By July brands were fully behind removing their ad spending - resulting in a small financial dent for the social media juggernaut, but a forceful bludgeoning in the press.


Keep Reading Show less