Don’t Look the Part . . .

Don’t look the part.
Play the part.
And the part will look like YOU.

Margarita Diaz

Stereotypes and Representation

Representation is about presence without inviting an expectation that we symbolize others.

👀 You don’t “look” 40.
You ARE 40.
Now 40 also looks like you.

👀 You don’t “look” like a mathematician.
You ARE a mathematician.
Now mathematicians also look like you.

👀 You don’t “look” Latina.
You ARE Latina.
Now Latinas also look like you.

‼️ We don’t represent a group by being representative of that group.

‼️ We represent a group by being ourselves, which contributes to the emerging and expanding image of that group.

⚠️ But this isn’t always how people talk about representation.

As a Latina myself, I’ll use Latina representation as an example.

I often see praise for “Latinas representing Latinas.”

❗️Now, if one or a few of us are to represent the whole of Latinidad in any setting, we risk inviting stereotyping.

”What?  We don’t all look and sound like Sofia Vergara?”


I’m not here to represent Latinas anywhere.

I don’t represent Latinas in whatever room I walk into.

I represent ME.

❗️And by being, sounding and looking like me, I just contributed to YOUR conception of what a Latina might look like.

🙅🏻‍♀️ We are also not Latina doctors, Latina engineers, Latina entrepreneurs, Latina lawyers, Latina writers, Latina professionals, etc. UNLESS our work focuses on issues specific to Latinas.

✅ We ARE doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, writers, professionals, etc. AND Latinas.

✅ And we are contributing to defining and expanding the images of what ALL those industries look like, just by showing up as ourselves.

▪️That’s thinking beyond spaces for like to find like;

▪️beyond spaces for Latinas to seek out other Latinas;

▪️beyond promoting the very separateness we criticize when it DOESN’T include us.

▪️THAT’S thinking big.

Big enough to break stereotypes.

And big enough to make representation matter.

👀 We don’t “look like” something.

👀 We contribute to defining what “it” looks like, one person at a time.

For reflection:

❓Have you been told you don’t “look like” or “act like” something?

❓Do you feel an expectation or desire to “represent” for a particular social group?


  1. A very thought-provoking post. I’m loving the AND – I am this AND this, we can’t all just be one thing because of part of our identity. I suppose I can think of an example where I was told I didn’t act like a typical lecturer. This is so stereotypical – I think I was more of a facilitator in the classroom and this student was implying I wasn’t “strict” or not managing the classroom top-down. Another time I was told the way I handled my divorce was very British – this was supposed to be a compliment (the person meant I was gracious and displayed dignity) but I felt it had more to do with ME than being British. I love the way you’ve used your own examples here, Margarita. I think this is the best way to make this topic accessible to people.

    1. diverseinthecity says:

      Thank you, Vanessa! And thank you for your examples. I personally love that you might have expanded that participant’s conception of what a lecturer acts like. And so true – sometimes a cultural generalization takes more credit than it should, for things we did that were much more a reflection of our personal selves. And absolutely agree on illustrating through examples as much as possible. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

Leave a Reply