Afro-Latina Comedian Aida Rodriguez On Sexism, ‘Latinidad’ And Laughter
Aida Rodriguez is an Afro-Latina who uses her personal experiences to help heal people through laughter. She sat down with KUNR reporter Stephanie Serrano to talk about her life as a female comedian.
When you look in the mirror who is Aida Rodriguez?
I like to contribute on a daily basis in my own ways where I don't feel like I need a pat on my back for being a good human. I'm a mother, I've always been a mother even before I had children. I think some people are just maternal in nature.
Most importantly, I'm that little brown girl from the block of the hood where I grew up in. I was raised by people who others would look at as undesirables and those people sacrificed themselves so that I can be my best self.
We look down at people and think that we're better because we have an education, or we have money, or we have a degree and the truth is that nature doesn't see any of that. If a hurricane comes it doesn't discriminate.
Who am I? Aidita from Allapattah, Miami.
How do you bring your lived experience to stage?
I try to bring my best self to comedy. My intention is always to help other people heal. I work with ridding people of shame and guilt. Which is why I talk about being kidnapped and being sexually assaulted because I think a lot of us live with guilt and shame especially Latinos.
To have little Latina, brown and black girls say that’s my experience, it helps me heal.
What is one memory that really made an impact on your career as a female?
Every day, comedy is one of the most sexist areas of the entertainment business. There’s vulnerability to being a female.
I was in Corpus Christi, Texas doing a show and I was staying at a Red Roof Inn. The front desk had a flyer of me on the counter and this guy wanted to know where I was, he intimated her into giving her my hotel room.
He went to my room and started banging on my door asking me to let him in and that’s when it hit me. That’s probably something that men don't have to worry about, they probably welcome people knocking on their door in the middle of the night.
I was petrified because in that moment it just reminded me of how immortal and vulnerable, I am on the road as a woman.
How did you deal with the sexism in Latino culture?
I was raised in a matriarch my grandmother ran the show and my mom was also a very dominate woman. To really understand sexism within the Latino dynamic it's so interesting because Latina women are so feminist in nature, but they don't know it because it doesn't lay under the banner of feminism.
My grandmother was a caretaker, she was a breadwinner, she was the one that carried the gun and still thought that her husband was in charge.
I've never been one to subscribe to that, I couldn't because I wouldn't have survived if I did. I never allowed anyone to tell me what I could and couldn't do.
When did your mom understand that your profession was valuable?
I think she realized it when she saw that I was making a living. That it wasn't just affecting my life but hers as well and that it was providing a life for me. At the end of the day, the fear was that I would continue to struggle and that I would be poor and broke like her, but it also inspired her.
You started a modeling career and walked away from it because you felt like you didn't have a voice. How has comedy given you the platform to be your truest self?
We are always evolving. The beauty about life is that you could never grow too much. Being Latina and so proud: modeling was something that would take that from me because they want you to meet this European standard of being narrow and not have any curves.
When I was modeling people were listening to me more than they were watching me because I was always talking, I was always funny.
I think modeling was something that needed to happen so that I could grow into the strength and pride of being curvaceous and Latina. Being Puerto Rican and Dominican and having this flavor that a lot of people try to mute.
As a Latina Woman what differences do you see between you and your colleagues?
There is a lot to talk about when it comes to ‘Latinidad’ because a lot of people don't understand it. People paint us (Latinos) with a broad stroke, if you're in California you're Mexican, if you're in New York, you're Puerto Rican, if you're in Miami, you're Cuban. It's an ignorance that sweeps through all people including our own.
We are a spectrum and I come from the ghetto and I was raised by people that were in the hood and a direct reflection of white supremacy and oppression. My children are both college graduates and did not grow up in that same dynamic that does not make them any less Latino, not any less black, not any less Afro-Latino.
When it comes to ‘Latinidad’ we have to start educating people who we are because when people understand who we are and what we are including ourselves that is where we find our power.
Why is it important for you to tell your story on stage as a Latina?
It's very important for us to tell our stories because we walk the fine line between exploitation and storytelling. For me, I don't want to be someone who is exploiting my culture, my people, my family, my gender for the sake of a laugh.
I get people who are uncomfortable with me and they get up and walk out because they want me to make them feel better about their guilt.
I am a stand-up comedian and I stand in solidarity with my fellow comedians no matter what they say. I think you should be able to say what you want to say you just have to deal with the consequences.
I am very passionate about people, so I never get on stage with the intention of hurting people.