‘I am a white girl,’ Hilaria Baldwin responds to doubts about Spanish heritage
Hilaria Baldwin, a New York wellness personality and yoga studio owner who’s married to actor Alec Baldwin, came under fire on social media over the weekend for misrepresenting her heritage and nationality over several years.
Baldwin admitted Sunday that she is not half Spanish, that she was not born in Spain and that her given name is Hillary. Although she had claimed her place of birth was the Spanish island of Mallorca, Baldwin was born in Boston, internet sleuths found, which she later confirmed.
“I’ve seen chatter online questioning my identity and culture,” the 36-year-old Baldwin wrote below an Instagram video Sunday. “I was born in Boston and grew up spending time with my family between Massachusetts and Spain.”
The incident has sparked yet another broad discussion in the United States about cultural “colonization” and the abuses of white privilege. And it came near the end of a year that began with allegations of Latina appropriation against Jeanine Cummins, bestselling author of “American Dirt.”
For her part, Baldwin has over the years garnered favorable magazine appearances in which she is described as Latina or Hispanic or is implicitly grouped with the demographic. (Reminder: “Hispanic” can refer to someone from Spain; “Latina” describes people from Latin America.)
“My parents and sibling live in Spain, and I chose to live here, in the USA,” Baldwin explained Sunday. “We celebrate both cultures in our home — Alec and I are raising our children bilingual, just as I was raised.”
In the clip, Baldwin said that she “mixes” English and Spanish when she gets “upset” and that at one point in her life before she met Alec Baldwin, she decided to “consolidate” her two names, Hillary and Hilaria.
“I am a white girl. Let’s be very clear that Europe has a lot of white people in there,” she also said. “My family is white. Ethnically, I am a mix of many, many, many things. Culturally, I grew up with two cultures. So it’s really as simple as that.”
Baldwin did not respond to a request via email for further comment.
The scandal broke as an afterthought to a short-lived spat between comedian Amy Schumer and Baldwin.
Last week, Schumer reposted a photo that Baldwin had posted of herself in revealing underwear while holding her newborn, a common visual theme for the wellness figure known for her “Mom Brain” podcast and her openness about issues related to reproduction and miscarriage.
Defending herself against Schumer, Baldwin took to social media to condemn body shaming. But from there, some social media users took note that Baldwin’s “Spanish” accent was fluctuating and switching to standard Northeastern U.S. English.
The accent is strong in the beginning of this video pic.twitter.com/GH2M7G9qte— elena ilana alana alina elana (not) (@lenibriscoe) December 25, 2020
On Dec. 21, the Twitter account @lenibriscoe posted a thread highlighting years of clips from Baldwin’s media appearances, showing her lying about where she was born and when she moved to New York or asking how Americans pronounce “cucumber.”
On Sunday, Alec Baldwin, who has five children with Hilaria, also came to her defense by posting a nearly nine-minute video to Instagram and calling the backlash “ridiculous.”
“You have to consider the source,” the frequent “Saturday Night Live” guest star said. “We live in a world now where we’re hidden behind the anonymity of social media. People feel that they can say anything. They probably would like to do anything if they weren’t at risk of getting caught and going to prison ... just shoot it all over you and spray it all over you, their venom and their hate.”
The actor also likened news outlets such as TMZ and the New York Post to a “sewage treatment plant.”
In this case, as many social media users pointed out, the source of Hilaria’s revelation was in fact her. Elsewhere online, people who identified themselves as her ex-classmates said she was always “Hillary.”
Ireland Baldwin, 25, Alec’s daughter with ex-wife Kim Basinger, also defended her stepmom in a series of Instagram Stories. She called Hilaria Baldwin’s critics “sad and pathetic” and told people to stop sending her the viral meme about having to share her Baldwin inheritance with her half brothers and half sister.
“She’s a caring person who has always respected my relationship with my dad, and I have a great relationship with her. … Hilaria is a wonderful mother who takes great care of her kids, and she takes great care of my dad and that’s really all that matters to me.”
Still, the flap pushed Hilaria Baldwin to say she would be taking a break from social media.
“I’ve said my piece. I’m so tired,” she said Sunday in a second Instagram video. “I’m gonna go back to my family because I’ve been not a very good mommy, spending a lot of time focusing on this, and I just want to be left alone. I love you and I’m going to sign off for a long time.”
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The mockery rained down all weekend.
On TikTok, user Anna Roisman mocked Baldwin by casually pronouncing “Boston” as a Spanish person might, with a hard “th” sound replacing the “st.” “I too am a different kind of Botttthonian,” Roisman said on the app.
Comedian Suni Reyes did a complete parody sketch video: “Culturally, I’m a mix of two cultures, rich-white-girl-from-Boston culture, and rich-white-girl-from-Boston-who-vacations-in-Spain,” she quipped.
Another user on Twitter mused jokingly: “I think Hilaria Baldwin did the sitcom thing of telling a big lie to get Alec to notice her. And her friends were like ‘this will never work out, Hilaria, are you going to pretend to be Spanish forever?’ And she was like ‘I guess.’”
It was not clear when Baldwin decided to become “Hilaria.”
A Twitter post by a professor in North Carolina who said she is partnered with one of Baldwin’s high school classmates shows what appears to be a yearbook page for Hillary Hayward-Thomas, in a dramatic dancing photo with her hair pulled back and wearing ballroom heels. In her video explainer, Baldwin hints that she began using “Hilaria” while dancing at the private Cambridge School of Weston in Massachusetts.
Later, @lenibriscoe, the Twitter user who threaded out Hilaria Baldwin’s media miscues, shot down a critique suggesting Baldwin’s behavior is bizarre but otherwise innocent.
“I don’t think it’s harmless,” @lenibriscoe wrote. “She’s pretending to have the experience of an immigrant who doesn’t speak fluent English and is leaning into a sexy Hispanic stereotype that harms Hispanic and Latina women.”
Times staff writer Nardine Saad contributed to this story.
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