Yesterday, "Cruzcampo" surprise us with a beautiful advert in where the iconic Lola Flores is brought to live by computer to talk about the importance of accents.
I never thought I could have an accent. I am from Castilla y León, which is usually accepted as a standard Spanish / Castillian accent. In Spain, I never had to worry about my diction or the use of local words as I speak "proper Castillian". Being able to imitate accents was, in fact, one of my acting skills, and in the past, I've been able to perform characters from different areas and countries. All good, right? I was one of those lucky actors that don't need to hide their real voice to fit in the requirements of an industry that usually prefers their characters to speak with a neutral accent, I didn't need to work eliminating part of my identity to fit in. Such a relief.
And... then I moved to the UK. And I could not escape my accent and the limitations within it.
"Almost 10 million people in the UK were born abroad. That is 14% or 1 in 7. In London, it is a staggering 37% or more than 1 in 3. Despite some very encouraging progress in the industry on diversity overall, non-UK-born talent both on- and off-stage and -screen remain vastly underrepresented, experience a wide range of discriminatory practices and are virtually never mentioned in any equality efforts.
In order to support the campaign, a working group collected some initial data in early 2020 by reviewing the main casts of all continuing dramas as listed on the broadcasters’ websites. As an example, 29% of doctors and 18% of nurses in the NHS England were non-British nationals, compared to only 4% of the main casts across medical dramas, while 0% were non-English native speakers." - Explains Equity's Non-UK-Born Artists Network (NUKBA).
Just in case you read that quickly, I'll repeat: 0% were non-English native speakers. Meaning there are 0 roles to represent me and the 6.2 million people with non-British nationality living in the UK.
Of course, things are getting better. Nowadays, the representation of BAME actors make up 22% of actors and presenters, but still sound like the accent is lost. It kinda feels like, until you haven't got rid of the accent that makes clear that you are not born British, you are not acceptable in the industry. I even feel that still reinforce the idea that 1st generation immigrants are still on a "trial period" and that they don't deserve to be represented until they have completely get rid of their immigrant identity.
Not to mention another strange accent situation that happens inside the UK (and in Spain, and probably in every country). Actors faking an accent of another region within their country or withing their language... I am not saying we should stop doing this, because the job of an actor is to be able to portray characters with different circumstances to theirs, and we all love to work on accents (give me two beers and I promise you I can handle an Argentinian accent all night!). But again, to erase local actors from getting into the real opportunities is just wrong. Local communities feel erased every time that a bunch of foreign actors mimics their accent when the actors on their area can't find those opportunities as often. As I said, it is not about forbidding actors to act and mimic accents, is about creating projects and opportunities for actors that live in areas less likely to be represented.
And how can we create all those opportunities for actors? Supporting directors, scriptwriters, producers, theatre-makers and creatives that are also Non- the UK born, amplifying our networks so that British and immigrants creators find a place to work together, and of course, the first step is to put in value our origins, our culture and our stories.
" Do you know why everyone understood me around the world? Because of my accent. And I am not talking about the way of talking, that too. I am talking about the touch, the way you fill your chest with joy, the way you dip in a fried egg, the way you do your eyeliner. Accent means that your seams and hems are shown, that they can even hear your whispers.
And It doesn't matter if you're from La Linea de la Concepción or from China, If you are a cashier, an academic or a minister. Get in touch with your roots, because from there there are always good things to get. All this is now called... Empowerment?
- Yes, Lola, but you always called it poderío. "
And what about you? Do you also have an accent? Do you work on it? Are you learning about others?
Let me know in the comment section! I would love to open here a place for dialogue.
See you next time!
To have an accent.
22 Jan, 2021
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Thoughts, opinions and memories of what we called "the entertainment industry".