Hi and welcome back! It’s barely even news anymore, what happened with Hilaria Baldwin this past week. But it illustrates a point I wanted to address: it might be getting harder to fake one’s ethnicity these days. Today, Lord Snow Presides over the mediocre white people faking their ethnicity — and getting caught.
Hilaria Baldwin and the Audacity of This Twit.
This past week, Hilaria Baldwin (wife of award-winning actor Alec Baldwin) sort-of-confessed to lying to her large audience. The fitness-and-wellness-mommy influencer turns out not to be of Spanish blood, as she’s been claiming up and down for about a decade, but to be a plain ole white girl from Massachusetts. She’s about as Spanish as “chop suey” is Chinese, and in the exact same ways and for the exact same reasons.
For years now, Hilaria Baldwin pretended to have been born in Mallorca, Spain and to have spent much of her life there, only moving to the United States at the age of 19 to attend university. In one cooking video, she even pretends to have forgotten a common English word:
“Remember when Hilaria Baldwin (nee Hilary Hayward-Thomas) was like “how you say in English, uh, ‘cucumber’”?” shared US-based writer Sophie Ross.
(See more about the cucumber thing here.) Her accent went over-the-top into Charo territory, as you might guess from the above statement, even if it sometimes utterly disappeared if she wasn’t focusing on producing it. And she gave all of her children Spanish names.
But her whole life seems to have been a lie, even if we give her a sorta-pass on the accent thing.
It’s not just her name.
Her real name is Hillary Hayward-Thomas. She was born in the Boston area and has spent most of her life in America, with frequent vacations to Spain. Despite claiming before her marriage that she’d never owned a television and was clueless about pop culture, she’s always seemed very well-acquainted with that topic.
Some of her high school classmates have come forward to out her, even. Not one of them ever thought of her or knew her as anything but a basic white girl who really liked ballroom dancing. Ouch.
Seriously: she’s as American as chop suey.
A Growing Liars’ Club.
Hilaria Baldwin joins a multitude of other white people who pretended to be people of color (POC) to get benefits they saw going to POC over white people:
- Rachel Dolezal. She pretended to be Black and still thinks of herself as “culturally” Black, and she seems very sad that the actual Black community wants nothing to do with her.
- Michael Derrick Hudson. He pretended to be a Chinese man named Yi-Fen Chou to get one of his poems accepted for publication. The worst part: apparently, it’s good poetry.
- BethAnn McLaughlin. For a while, she ran the Twitter account sciencing_bi. On that account, she pretended she was a bisexual Native American science professor fighting sex-abuse allegations and an uncaring university administration. She only got caught when she decided to kill off her fake professor with COVID-19.
- Senator Elizabeth Warren. She pretended for a while to be Native American. In this pretense, she joins a slew of other white people clamoring for extra credit this exact way.
- Jessica Krug. This white, self-described “culture leech” pretended to be Black and from a variety of countries. No, she’s just plain ole white. She’s also one of our most recent entries to the trope.
Almost all of these people did not come forward to confess, any more than Hilaria Baldwin did. Instead, they generally got caught and outed.
(I think Hudson’s the only one who volunteered his real ethnicity to his publishers before his work reached publication.)
It’s not enough to be born six inches from the finish line. No, instead our white folks decided to game the system they saw benefiting others.
In the case of Hilaria Baldwin, just imagine how many aspiring social-media influencers there are in the world. Instagram estimates their number at half a million. That’s just on Instagram.
Even for an ambitious young woman boasting an award-winning actor for a husband, that number must look daunting. It’s increasingly hard for any new influencer to stand out from that pack of young, glossy, well-groomed, perfectly-toned women.
An interesting backstory will do the trick, though. And Hilaria Baldwin, who lacked anything like that, simply made one up. She exaggerated details of her family’s vacations to the point of making herself unrecognizable to those who’d actually known her in her life before Instagram.
It took about ten years, but Hilaria Baldwin got caught eventually. Her own social-media posts did her in.
One Nice Thing About the Internet.
Part of me thinks that in the future, it’ll be much harder for mediocre white people to pretend to be POC. We’re just getting to be so interconnected of a world with social media that it’s hard to imagine someone’s classmates or acquaintances not outing them.
The fakers named above are middle-aged now, if not older. At 36 now, Hilaria Baldwin is one of the last generations to grow up not completely connected to the internet with every synapse, every second of the day. Attention-hungry young adults online tend to over-share anyway, but that exact tendency is going to make it increasingly difficult for them to make up new backstories for themselves out of nowhere.
Race fakers may end up becoming like prank calls: destroyed by modern technology. When I lived in Kansas in the late 1990s, kids still made prank calls (especially to a guy in town with the very unfortunate name of Richard Head). I got my last one around 2002. I know some people still make prank calls sometimes, but they’re nowhere near the same — nor as plentiful — as they used to be.
I’m hoping race fakers fade away. Being someone of color seems hard enough as it is without a race faker giving others all the wrong ideas about their culture. Until they do, it’s a good idea to be leery of influencers anyway, especially if they come with a dramatic backstory to stand out from the herd.
Today, Lord Snow Presides over yet another race faker who got caught, and what her situation might mean for the future of other race fakers.
NEXT UP: Yet another big-name evangelical leader turns out to be a sex-abuser. He withstood various abuse accusations for a sadly familiar reason that we’ll check out tomorrow. See you then!
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About Lord Snow Presides (LSP)
Lord Snow Presides is our off-topic weekly chat series. Lord Snow was my very sweet white cat. He actually knew quite a bit. Though he’s passed on, he now presides over a suggested topic for the day. Of course, please feel free to chime in with anything on your mind. We especially welcome pet pictures!
Last thought: This woman’s eyebrows are freakin’ TRAGIC. It’s a big trend on Instagram, I know, but it looks so ridiculous. I’ll be so glad when the massive-brow trend goes away.