Here we all were, minding our own business on a Tuesday, eating our late lunches and trying to stay hydrated when Gina Rodriguez had to start some shit.
The Jane the Virgin star, whose comments about race in the past two years have raised many an eyebrow and rolled many an eye, posted an Instagram story featuring her rapping along to The Fugees’ “Ready or Not” as she sat getting her hair and makeup done.
Specifically, she rapped along to Lauryn Hill’s verse. Very specifically, enunciating the hell out of the n-word (while it should be noted, skipping a full third of the rest of the lyrics).
The candid moment went viral almost instantly, invoking a range of reactions—from incredulity to downright exuberance. But if you thought, upon catching a whiff of the shitstorm headed her way, that Rodriguez caught even a dollop of self-awareness, I have three letters for you: LOL.
Hours after the video posted (and apparently, with her hair finally done) Rodriguez followed up with an apology about as authentic as Panera’s mac and cheese.
“I just wanted to reach out and apologize. I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I offended anyone by singing along to the Fugees, to a song I love, that I grew up on. I love Lauryn Hill. And I really am sorry if I offended you,” Rodriguez said.
Look, the “I’m sorry you’re mad” celebrity apology is a genre rich in contributions. But THIS? This is a marvel in its aggressive insincerity, its tone and tenor imparting a message that’s less “I fucked up,” and more, “I am SO SORRY you angry motherfuckers can’t RESPECT my COMPLETE and TOTAL devotion to LAURYN HILL, a love SO ABSOLUTE it can only be demonstrated by emphasizing the n-word and leaving out the rest of the lyrics to a song I’ve CHERISHED since I was a wee child.”
It’s on-brand for an actress who has fielded years of criticism for making anti-black comments. As The Root’s Jay Connor summarized late last year, she “habitually makes it a point to compare her plight to other women of color—or outright erase the context and identity of her melanated contemporaries—as a fifteen-time gold medalist in the Oppression Olympics.”
Here’s the highlight reel:
When Black Panther hit theaters to wide critical and commercial acclaim, Rodriguez used it to ask, “Where are the Latinos?” Appearing alongside Yara Shahidi at a Small Foot press junket, Rodriguez interrupted a black interviewer who said Shahidi was “goals for so many young black women.”
“For so many women,” Rodriguez said, seemingly rejecting the idea that Shahidi could mean something particularly special to women who look like her.
She also claimed, at a roundtable featuring actresses Gabrielle Union, Emma Roberts, and Ellen Pompeo, that Latinas get the lowest pay of all actresses of color, a point that might have gone over better if it didn’t 1) explicitly ignore the existence of Afro-Latinas, 2) the numbers weren’t dubious and 3) didn’t appear to pit minority actresses against each other in order to advocate for Latinas.
But this is the wild thing about her latest PR debacle: Rodriguez is more than aware of her reputation. So much so that she shed Jane Villanueva-quality tears on The Breakfast Club radio show earlier this year in defense herself and her black ancestry.
“So to get ‘anti-black’ is saying that I’m anti-family,” Rodriguez said. “My father is dark-skinned, he’s Afro-Latino … If anything, the black community is my community. As Latinos, we have black Latinos. That is what we are. I am not, so I think that when I speak about Latino advocacy, people believe I only mean people of my skin color.”
“If I have hurt you, I am sorry and I will always be sorry, but you have to know that, until you know my heart, there’s no way that we can live off clickbait, you guys,” she continued. “You are allowed to feel pain and I empathize with your pain, and I’m sorry if I caused your pain because it is the last thing I want to do … We don’t need to fight each other and if I caused that notion, please forgive me because that is not my intent at all.”
Rodriguez’s energy is as exhausting as it is predictable; exhausting in part because non-black women, particularly non-black women of color, benefit greatly from the work black women do, in and outside of Hollywood. It’s not particularly hard to see the evidence of this, nor should it be hard to acknowledge it. That she seems incapable of doing so exposes Rodriguez’s performances of advocacy—usually chased by performances of victimhood—as what they are: shallow and self-interested. And if she weren’t so wholly dedicated to shooting herself in her size 24 clown shoes, she might actually learn something.
Alas, Gina. You could have just sat there and got your hair done. But you just had to be you.