Lesly Kahn, a relatively well-known acting coach based out of Los Angeles, was forced to make a very public (and embarrassing) apology after getting caught saying the unthinkable: She suggested to a Jewish woman to pose as a Latina in order to possibly get more work.
There’s actually leaked audio recorded by a former student, where you can clearly hear Kahn telling the student to pass as a “Latina” by changing her name to “Rosa Ramirez,” asking her to wear something “f*cking red,” and sparkly earrings. Yep, like it’s all some sort of costume we put on to make sure the world knows we’re not white.
Excuse me. What? Are you kidding me right now? Does this actually go on behind closed doors with the majority of us out here not trying to be an actress completely unaware? I was absolutely floored when I heard the news. My natural instinct was to loathe this person. But then I decided to take a step back and deconstruct why it was so offensive.
For one, Kahn is implying that we Latinas wear red and (sometimes) favor sparkly things because of our identity. Nope. Most of us just like a nice shade of ruby red like millions of other makeup-wearing folks around the world. It was degrading to have her say these things as if she’s describing an outfit we rely on to reinforce our identity. Like those awful “ponchos” and sombreros they sell online with big goofy mustaches on Halloween. PSA: Our “Latinidad” is not a costume.
People were quick to condemn Kohn’s advice:
Kahn eventually issued this apology:
But, how likely is it that she’s not sorry — she’s just sorry she got caught? Now, I’m all for personal accountability and owning your mistakes. She did that by issuing that statement. I give her credit for that, but it does cause me to wonder how many times she’s divvied out this kind of horribly unproductive advice to other wannabe actresses willing to pass as something they’re not in order to get their big break in the city of angels. Remember, Kahn is supposed to be a respected acting teacher.
So,let me be clear. I don’t blame the young actresses, because we all know what a cutthroat business acting can be, and they’re paying Kahn to give it to them straight. It’s on her as the instructor to divulge words of wisdom to help these girls’ careers — but not by encouraging them to be something they’re not!
In a time where we Latinas are still struggling for more representation in Hollywood, it’s infuriating to consider there may be roles available to minority actresses that may be given to others posing as minority actresses. That’s just all kinds of unfair.
I would love to know how many times Kahn has suggested these things to a non-Latina aspiring actress. How many times has she made light of switching races for purposes of landing a role?
My hope is not to put Kahn (even more) on blast. Major media outlets have already dragged her name through the mud enough. I understand people make mistakes. I just wish I could be more optimistic when it came to her changing her practices now that her questionable coaching methods have come to light. But I can't. I want her leaked audio to serve as a powerful reminder that these things are actually being said behind closed doors.
It’s shocking because she got caught. I hope people listen to this and understand that a lack of representation in Hollywood is pervasive and, on behalf of the underrepresented, we would very much like to see more women who look, act, and talk like us on the screen.