Jessica Alba was told she 'wasn't Caucasian enough to play the leading lady' by Hollywood


Jessica Alba may have starred in films like Sin City and the original Fantastic Four franchise, but something stood in the way of her getting more lead roles: her ethnicity.

In an interview with PopSugar, Alba confessed that at the beginning of her career, her skin color made it harder for her to go up for leading roles against other Latina and white actresses.

"They couldn't figure out my ethnicity. I would always go out for 'exotic,'" Alba said. Alba grew up with her father's Mexican-American family. "They were like, 'You're not Latin enough to play a Latina, and you're not Caucasian enough to play the leading lady, so you're going to be the "exotic" one.' Whatever that was."

Alba, who owns the body care andlifestyle line Honest Co., said Hollywood's inability to deal with her skin color was a "weird thing to wrestle with."

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HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 19: Actress Jessica Alba arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere 'Sin City: A Dame To Kill For' at TCL Chinese Theatre on August 19, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 19: Actress Jessica Alba arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere 'Sin City: A Dame To Kill For' at TCL Chinese Theatre on August 19, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 17: In this handout photo provided by Los Angeles Dodgers, Jessica Alba is seen during the Los Angeles Dodgers vs Milwaukee Brewers August 17, 2014 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Alba threw out the first pitch. (Photo by Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 17: In this handout photo provided by Los Angeles Dodgers, Jessica Alba is seen during the Los Angeles Dodgers vs Milwaukee Brewers August 17, 2014 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Alba threw out the first pitch. (Photo by Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers via Getty Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Pictured: Jessica Alba -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 14: Jessica Alba seen at LAX on August 14, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by GVK/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 14: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Jessica Alba visits Sway in the Morning' with Sway Calloway on Eminem's Shade 45 at SiriusXM Studios on August 14, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 13: Actress Jessica Alba visits 106 & Park at BET studio on August 13, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images for BET)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12: Actress Jessica Alba is seen Soho on August 12, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
NEW YORK NY - AUGUST 05: Jessica Alba sighting on August 05, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Josiah Kamau/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 02: Actress Jessica Alba attends the Dimension Films' 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For' LA Press Conference at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on August 2, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)
HAIKOU, CHINA - OCTOBER 25: (CHINA OUT) Jessica Alba attends a press conference of Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-Am on October 25, 2014 in Haikou, China. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
HAIKOU, CHINA - OCTOBER 24: (CHINA OUT) Actress Jessica Alba attends the Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-Am opening ceremony at Mission Hills - Huayi Brothers - Feng Xiaogang Movie Town on October 24, 2014 in Haikou, China. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 21: Jessica Alba attends the 2015 S/S Seoul Fashion Week 'Metrocity Couture' collection at DDP on October 21, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by ilgan Sports/Multi-Bits via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14: Actress Jessica Alba speaks at SELF Joyce Chang, Jessica Alba Caley Yavorsky and Allyson Felix Luncheon on October 14, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for SELF)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 29: Jessica Alba speaks onstage during An Honest Conversation with Jessica Alba and Christopher Gavigan on September 29, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for AWXI)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 29: Jessica Alba is seen in New York City on September 29, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Ignat/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27: Jessica Alba attends VIP Lounge at the 2014 Global Citizen Festival to end extreme poverty by 2030 in Central Park on September 27, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Global Citizen Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 26: Jessica Alba is seen on September 26, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by David Krieger/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 26: Actress Jessica Alba attends the Global Citizen Festival - The Action Summit 2014 on September 26, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Jessica Alba is seen in Santa Monica on September 19, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
NEW YORK NY - SEPTEMBER 13: Jessica Alba sighting on September 13, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Josiah Kamau/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Jessica Alba attends the unveiling of The Honest Company Ultra Clean Room at The Mount Sinai Hospital on September 10, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Honest Company)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09: Actress Jessica Alba is seen in Soho on September 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 05: JESSICA ALBA attend Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), staging its fourth biennial fundraising telecast at the at the Dolby Theatre on Friday September 5, 2014 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET/PT) in Hollywood California. (Photo by Image Group LA/American Broadcasting Companies Inc via WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 19: Actress Jessica Alba arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of 'Sin City: A Dame To Kill For' at TCL Chinese Theatre on August 19, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 19: Actress Jessica Alba and Cash Warren arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of 'Sin City: A Dame To Kill For' at TCL Chinese Theatre on August 19, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
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"I never had to look at myself that way or stick myself in a bucket," she said. "So I was more determined to be a leading lady to show that girls can look like me, and we can be leading ladies."

As a Latina in Hollywood, Alba faces more than just skin color bias. In both 2015 and 2016, almost no Hollywood films were Latino-led.

On the other hand, as a light-skinned Latina in Hollywood, Alba probably gets more opportunities than darker-skinned women. While bias against Latinas is a problem, colorism in Hollywood also means light-skinned actresses get preference over dark-skinned ones, as was the case when Afro-Latina Zoe Saldana was cast as dark-skinned Nina Simone and made everyone uncomfortable.


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