Lin-Manuel Miranda Responded to "In the Heights" Colorism Discourse

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After years of anticipation, the film adaptation of In The Heights, the beloved Broadway musical penned by Lin-Manuel Miranda, finally hit select theaters and HBO Max on June 11 — but its arrival was not without fair criticism. 

Upon its premiere, many criticized the film for its lack of diverse Afro-Latinx representation, especially given the area it is set in, which, in turn, opened up a bigger conversation around the colorism rampant in the Latinx community. On June 14, Lin-Manuel Miranda – who wrote the adaptation alongside Quiara Alegría Hudes and also acted as el Piragüero in the film – took to Twitter to address the concerns with an apologetic note. 

“I started writing In The Heights because I didn't feel seen. And over the past 20 years all I wanted was for us—ALL of us—to feel seen. I'm seeing the discussion around Afro-Latino representation in our film this weekend and it is clear that many in our dark-skinned Afro-Latino community don't feel sufficiently represented within it, particularly among the leading roles,” his post, which was shared as an image file, reads. “I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling still unseen in the feedback. I hear that without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the work feels extractive of the community we wanted so much to represent with pride and joy.”

“In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short. I'm truly sorry. I'm learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I'm listening,” Lin-Manuel’s statement continues. “I'm trying to hold space for both the incredible pride in the movie we made and be accountable for our shortcomings. Thanks for your honest feedback. I promise to do better in my future projects, and I'm dedicated to the learning and evolving we all have to do to make sure we are honoring our diverse and vibrant community. Siempre [Always], LMM.” 

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On June 9, The Root published an interview with the cast and crew of the film titled “In the Heights and the Erasure of Dark-Skinned Afro-Latinxs,” which sparked larger conversation around colorism within the Latinx community and, particularly, in big-budget productions. In the four-minute segment – which quickly went viral on Twitter, amassing over two million views at the time of writing – host Felice León asked why the film favored white or white-passing Latinx actors in its leading roles in lieu of dark-skinned Afro-Latinxs when the film is set in a predominantly Afro-Dominican neighborhood. (Corey Hawkins, who plays Benny, is the film’s only dark-skinned Black lead and plays a non-Latinx character.)

“Congratulations on In the Heights, it was a lovely musical. But as a Black woman of Cuban descent, specifically from New York City, it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge the fact that most of your principal actors were light-skinned or white-passing Latinx people,” León tells director Jon M. Chu, later also highlighting the “long history of colorism and pigmentocracy in Latin America.”

The director promptly admitted this was a topic he “needed to be educated about” but conceded that it was “a really good conversation to have.” Actor Leslie Grace, who plays Nina Rosario and is Afro-Latina, also chimed in. “I didn't realize until making this movie that I didn't really get to see myself or people that look like my siblings that are darker than me on screen. And I didn't realize how much that affected the limitations that I put on myself, being someone who wanted to be an artist and be an actress and, you know, even be in the Latin music industry, being Afro-Latina,” she said. 

“I feel so blessed that we get to express the diversity that is within the Latinx community in a way that we haven't been able to see on screen because so many times we're put on-screen in one particular way, and since we get so little opportunities, everyone wants to claim that one story because it's all we got,” Leslie continued. Regarding the lack of dark-skinned Latinxs present as leading characters in the film, Leslie expressed that she “hoped” the film would at least serve as a start because she does “hope to see my brothers and sisters that are darker than me lead these movies.”

Watch the full segment below:

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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue

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