Saturday Night Live is finally breaking another glass ceiling; they have finally hired their first Latina cast member. The question is: Why did it take so long?
According to Complex, the NBC staple has added three new castmembers, Alex Moffat, Mikey Day, and Melissa Villaseñor. Villaseñor, the first Latina SNL cast member, is a multi-talent; she’s a stand-up comedian as well as an actor, musician, graphic designer, and voice actor, which credits such as Family Guy and Adventure Time.
Naturally, to be on SNL, you have to be pretty funny. She certainly is: she made it to the finals of Season 6 of America’s Got Talent doing amazing celebrity impressions. Take a look:
Flama has more of her impressions:
NBC News goes into more depth, stating that Villaseñor “has over 10 years of comedy experience [and] has headlined over 100 clubs and colleges around the country.”
So with all of that, the question remains: Why did it take so doggone long?
The clear reason is that Saturday Night Live, and by extension, Lorne Michaels, didn’t think it pertinent enough to find a Latina comedian to join the ranks.
Saturday Night Live has been in the news for being less-than-diverse before, which led to the hiring of black women comedians like Leslie Jones, Sasheer Zamata and LaKendra Tookes. But the show has also been in the news for disrespecting its Latino and Hispanic audiences. Last year, the show ignored the protests of outraged citizens and allowed for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to host, despite his then-recent comments stating that Latino and Hispanic immigrants were rapists and murderers.
Turning a blind eye to the needs of part of its demographic is something that the show has had to grapple with, especially since inclusionary casting has become more and more of a necessity. The Guardian‘s Luis Miguel Echegaray gets at some of this new reality:
Despite the fact that this [casting] is less about show boss Lorne Michaels’s rebellious ingenuity and more about an inevitable decision to diversify, the hiring of Villaseñor is cause for celebration for the Hispanic community, because it opens a door which was once presumed locked. It’s difficult to comprehend the value of diversity when you’re not directly affected by it, but the issue is particularly acute in entertainment.
Despite a slight upswing this year, Hispanics are the least represented speaking roles in film and television. Earlier this year, meanwhile, a study by Media, Diversity and Social Change initiative noted that out of more than 11,000 speaking characters in film and TV, a mere 5.8% were Hispanic.
Villaseñor’s introduction to the late-night schedule might not answer everything, but SNL’s huge influence on today’s millennial and digital culture is a platform that can help her (consciously or not) inspire other young Latinas who are struggling just to get in the door.
Lorne Michaels does have to be given credit, though, for partnering with NBC Universal Telemundo to find new talent. With NBC Universal Telemundo and his Broadway Video, the online comedy channel Más Mejor was born. As Echegaray writes, Villaseñor was a huge part of the channel, and that playing ground gave her the foot in the door to Saturday Night Live.
Hopefully, Villaseñor’s hiring will mean that Saturday Night Live will hire more people of Latino and Hispanic background. It’s past time for there to be more meaningful representation, and Villaseñor is just the beginning.
What do you think of Villaseñor becoming part of Saturday Night Live? Give your opinions in the comments section below!