Rita Moreno apologises for defending Lin-Manuel Miranda amid controversy over In The Heights’ Afro-Latinx erasure

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Lauren Geall
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Rita Moreno

Taking to Twitter last night (16 June), Rita Moreno said she was “incredibly disappointed” by herself for her “dismissive” comments about the criticism being levelled at In The Heights for its lack of Afro-Latinx representation.

Ever since the movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In The Heights hit screens in the US at the beginning of the month, there’s been a lot of controversy over the film’s failure to represent the dark-skinned Afro-Latinx community.

The subject was first brought up by Afro-Cuban video journalist Felice León in an interview for The Root, in which she asked the film’s director Jon M Chu (and a number of the film’s leading actors) about the lack of representation in the cast, and what they would say to those who believe the film “privileges white-passing and light-skinned Latinx people.” 

Since then, there’s been a lot of discussion about the issue, including from Rita Moreno, who defended Miranda and the film’s lack of representation during an appearance on The Late Show earlier this week. However, since then, the iconic West Side Story star has issued an apology for her comments. 

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Taking to Twitter last night (16 June) to address her initial comments, Moreno said she was “incredibly disappointed” with herself for failing to acknowledge how the film’s lack of representation might have affected the Afro-Latinx community.

“While making a statement in defense of Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Colbert Show last night, I was clearly dismissive of Black lives that matter in our Latin community,” she wrote. “It is so easy to forget how celebration for some is lament for others.” 

Moreno’s comments come after Miranda himself apologised for the lack of dark-skinned Afro-Latinx representation in his work. In a statement posted to Twitter, the Hamilton creator acknowledged that the film “fell short” of representing the diversity of the Washington Heights community – and said she was “truly sorry” for his failure.

“I started writing In The Heights because I didn’t feel seen,” the statement read. “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.

“I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling unseen in the feedback. I hear that, without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the world feels extractive of the community we wanted so much to represent with pride and joy.” 

The statement continued: “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. I’m trying to hold space for both the incredible pride in the movie we made and be accountable for our shortcomings.

“Thank you 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 honouring our diverse and vibrant community.”

In The Heights will be available to watch in UK cinemas from 18 June. 

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.