Last week, Twitter user @lenibriscoe set tongues wagging with a thread that rather convincingly alleged that Hilaria Baldwin, Alec Baldwin’s second wife, has spent the past decade posing as a Spanish woman when, in fact, she was born into a very American family and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, not Spain.
You have to admire Hilaria Baldwin’s commitment to her decade long grift where she impersonates a Spanish person
— elena ilana alana alina elana (not) (@lenibriscoe) December 21, 2020
It became the story that gripped social media all holiday weekend when Tracie Egan Morrissey, host of the podcast Pot Psychology, broke it all down on Instagram.
So, what’s the deal with Hilaria and her potentially fudged origin story? Let’s dive in.
Who is Hilaria Baldwin?
She’s Alec Baldwin’s second wife and mother of five of his children. She was 28 and a yoga instructor when they got engaged in 2012; she’s now 36. Her real name, at least according to an old MySpace page and numerous people who say they went to high school with her, is Hillary Hayward-Thomas.
Hillary Hayward-Thomas doesn’t sound Spanish.
It doesn’t. On her artist page on CAA’s website, it states she was born in “Mallorca, Spain and raised in Boston, Massachusetts.” An article on the Baldwin family that appeared in Hola! magazine in 2018 states that she was born in Spain and grew up speaking Spanish. On the #MOMSTRUTH podcast, she said she moved to America from Spain when she was 19 to attend NYU. In past interviews, she often had a Spanish accent. She even struggled to find the word for cucumber in one interview. But recently, after she got into a weird Instagram feud with comedian Amy Schumer, her accent was suddenly gone.
OK, where was she actually born and raised?
Well, now according to Hilaria, she was born in Boston. That’s what she says in an Instagram video addressing all of this. But she says she spent a lot of time in Spain growing up. People who claim to be former classmates have started tweeting and saying she was fully a white girl from Boston when they went to high school with her. Furthermore, the Cambridge School of Weston, a high school in Massachusetts, named her as an alumnae on its website. And former classmates are saying her name wasn’t even Hilaria.
What’s her name?
Hillary. This is something she confirms in a new Instagram video. “When I was growing up in this country, I would use the name Hillary and in Spain, I would use the name Hilaria and my family, like my parents, would call me Hilaria—my whole family would call me Hilaria.” She says that right before she met Alec, she decided to go by Hilaria.
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Where are her parents from?
Not Spain. According to a bio of Hilaria’s dad, he and his wife have lived in Spain since 2011. According to one Masslive.com, Hilaria’s mom, Dr. Kathryn Hayward, had been working in Massachusetts for 20 years. Her dad ran a business in Boston for four decades. Hilaria’s paternal grandfather was born in Iowa, according to his obituary. Hilaria’s maternal grandfather is a Springfield, Massachusetts, native, according to Masslive.com. Hilaria’s maternal grandmother is also from Massachusetts, according to her obituary.
She posted on Instagram again. “My thing is about being authentic and if people say I’m not being authentic, it hurts my feelings.” She says people and the press want to label her because it’s more convenient for them. But she’s “proud” that she speaks two languages and has two cultures.
Does Alec have anything to say?
Of course. He posted on Instagram, too. He started the eight-minute video going on and on about Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and wandered off into something about coasters and Pizzagate and Jeffrey Epstein. “Consider the source,” he says. “We live in a world now where we’re hidden behind the anonymity of social media. People feel they can say anything.” He never says Hilaria’s name in the video, but at the end, he says, “When you love somebody, you wanna defend them.”
Hilaria’s stepdaughter and Alec’s oldest daughter (with Kim Basinger), Ireland, defended her stepmom, calling the whole controversy “sad and pathetic” in her Instagram stories.
Oh! And Amy Schumer, who kind of started this whole thing, posted on Instagram, “I get it. I went to Spain a couple of times and loved it too” with a cucumber emoji. Because, you know, Hilaria couldn’t think of the word for cucumber. (Schumer has since taken down the post.)
Why does any of this matter?
Cultural appropriation—especially when it appears a person is trying to seem more “exotic”—is problematic for a number of reasons. In particular, pretending to be a native Spanish speaker when actual native Spanish speakers are discriminated against in the U.S. has rubbed people the wrong way. Mostly, though, it’s just sort of weird, amusing, and confusing—and perhaps not all that uncommon.
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