In what might be the last strange, viral drama of 2020, Hilaria Baldwin (née Hillary Hayward-Thomas) has been accused of pretending to be a Spanish person, faking an accent, and falsely implying she was born in Mallorca, Spain. Hilaria responded to the claims on Sunday, clarifying in an Instagram video that she was born in Boston, Massachusetts. “I spent a lot of my childhood in Spain. My nuclear family lives in Spain and has lived there for a long time,” she said. “I was moving around a lot, but I came here when I was 19 years old to go to college.”
The inconsistencies in Hilaria’s story were first noticed last week by Twitter user @lenibriscoe, who shared several videos of Hilaria with and without a Spanish accent (and one damning video clip from 2015 in which she forgets the English word for “cucumber”). Other users quickly found old tweets from Hilaria and her husband, Alec Baldwin, that identify her as Spanish. In 2016, she wrote in an Instagram post that she’s often mistaken for her children’s nanny because she isn’t “blonde hair, blue eyed.” And in an interview from earlier this year, Hilaria said she “knew no pop culture” because she “moved here when she was 19 to go to NYU.” When asked where she moved from, she just responded, “My family lives in Spain — they live in Mallorca.”
According to sources including her official professional bio, an Hola! Magazine cover story, and her IMDb page, Hilaria was born in Mallorca to a Spanish mother and raised in both Spain and America. However, none of this appears to be true: as the same Twitter thread pointed out, Hilaria’s mother has spoken about growing up in Massachusetts. Her father’s side of the family has also been in the United States for centuries. Her parents now live in Mallorca, but her mother said in an interview that they didn’t move to Spain until 2011, when Hilaria was 27 years old.
Some of Hilaria’s high school and college classmates have responded to the controversy. “I went to high school with her,” one person wrote on Twitter. “I knew her as Hilary Hayward-Thomas, and she didn’t have a Spanish accent. Whoever she is now, she isn’t the person she was.”
“I’ve never said that my mother was Spanish. My family is a big mix of so many different things,” Hilaria clarified on Instagram. Later, she added, “I am a white girl. Let’s be clear that Europe has a lot of white people in there. My family is white. Ethnically, I am a mix of many, many, many things. Culturally, I grew up with two cultures.” Hilaria has talked for years about raising her five children, who all have Spanish names, in a bilingual and bicultural household. She claimed that her accent goes in and out depending if she's been talking to people with a Spanish or American accent.
Over the weekend, her husband, Alec Baldwin, also shared an eight-minute video defending his wife from the “vast orchard of crap” he noticed on Twitter. “You have to consider the source,” he said. “There's things that have been said lately about people that I love, that I care about deeply, which are ridiculous. I mean, just ridiculous.”
Although the jokes are funny and the deep dives entertaining, many people — including the user behind the viral thread that started it all — have pointed out how damaging Hilaria’s behavior can be. Although she wasn’t necessarily pretending not to be white, she has made numerous appearances in Latina Magazine and been falsely identified as a Latina and native Spanish speaker. Needless to say, as an American-born white woman, Hilaria has been afforded opportunities that actual Latinx women, and people who aren’t fluent in English, are not.
In her last video on the topic, Hilaria said she was going to log off. “I have said my piece,” she said in an Instagram Story. “I just want to be left alone, so I love you, and I’m going to sign off for a long time.”
Refinery29 has reached out to Hilaria for comment.