Melissa Villaseñor is the first Latina woman ever to be appointed to the popular US sketch show
When the long-running US sketch show Saturday Night Live announced its new cast members for its forthcoming season, the show made history when it named Melissa Villaseñor on the roster. The comedian, an impressionist who was a runner-up on America’s Got Talent was the first Latina woman ever cast on the show, with SNL praised for bringing more diversity to its cast. But now 2,000 tweets scrubbed from Villaseñor’s Twitter profile have landed her in hot water, with claims of racism surfacing.
Villaseñor made her Twitter account private in the days leading up to the announcement from the NBC comedy show, and only returned to a public profile after she had gone through her history of tweets, deleting the more than 2,000 offending ones. When her fans were made aware of what was going on, some of them found and took screenshots of the kind of tweets Villaseñor was scrubbing from her history before she could delete them:
Villaseñor’s strategy comes at a time when comedians and other public figures whose careers are in the ascendency suffer a backlash for comments they once made on social media; last year, SNL faced a similar situation when cast member Jon Rudnitsky was criticised for tweets littered with sexist and homophobic language, and was not invited to return to the show. Less than 24 hours after he was named the new host of The Daily Show, South African comedian Trevor Noah’s off colour jokes Jewish people and overweight women saw him field a short-lived media storm about his sense of humour.
Reacting to Villaseñor’s now deleted tweets, the pop-culture writer Aura Bogado questioned whether or not they were jokes to begin with over on Buzzfeed. “If you’re trying to make a joke, I can try and critique the joke if it merits a critique, but those kinds of statements are essentially saying, ‘I’m scared to go on a date with a black man.’ I don’t find it humorous and honestly, with some of those tweets, maybe not all of them, but those two, in particular, I don’t think it was meant to be funny.
“I think she was just indicating her sentiment – her problematic sentiment.”