This is a weird story by all accounts. Actor Alec Baldwin’s wife, Hilaria, is in the spotlight with a clarification about her personal background. Her alleged identification as Spanish is being called into question.
As with many controversial stories, this one began with a tweet.
The user, who goes by the handle @lenibriscoe, shared a number of damning videos of “Hilaria,” from a Good Morning America appearance where she employed a Spanish accent to a Today show stop in which she supposedly could not remember the English word for “cucumber.”
Let me begin by saying I had no idea this story was a thing until this morning. I don’t pay much attention to Alec Baldwin or his family unless I’m covering a television show in which he’s performing because he usually doesn’t come off well. The only thing I’ve read about his wife is that she’s much younger, a yoga instructor and Instagram influencer, and she is a mother of five very young children. By coincidence, yesterday I remember looking at a cute family Christmas photo of them on social media and noting that all five children have Spanish names, which I thought was odd. But, whatever. Today it makes sense. Hilaria identifies as a Spanish and American person.
After reading several articles about Hilaria and her story, beginning with the one by the Daily Beast, it looks like Hilaria was born Hillary Hayward-Thomas in Boston. She attended the private Cambridge School of Weston, in Massachusetts and her senior yearbook lists her with that name. However, as she pursued a professional career, her life story changed, at least on paper.
Hilaria Baldwin’s CAA speaker page claims that she was born in Mallorca, Spain, as does her IMDb bio and Wikipedia page. She said on a podcast earlier this year: “I moved here [to America] when I was 19 to go to NYU from… my family lives in Spain, they live in Mallorca,” adding, “I knew no pop culture.” She has graced the cover of Hola! magazine, a Spanish-language publication based out of Madrid, where she was identified as a Spanish person in both the interview and its press release. Alec Baldwin has repeatedly referred to her as “Spanish” online. And she’s made a number of appearances in Latina magazine, which she’s enthusiastically promoted (Spain is not a part of Latin America, by the way), and has referred to Spain as her “home.”
If that weren’t enough, her five young children with Baldwin all have Spanish names.
A Nexis search disclosed that her New York voter registration is under both the names “Hilaria L. Baldwin” and “Hillary Hayward-Thomas.”
An article in Vanity Fair tells a similar story. She’s an American.
However, in response to the viral tweet calling her Spanish ancestry into questions, a number of people claiming to be Hilaria’s former high school classmates came forward to clarify that her name is, in fact, Hillary Hayword-Thomas, she grew up in Massachusetts, and while she’s a very nice girl, she is not Spanish. Hilaria told the podcast “Motherhood, Marriage & Miscarriages” in April that she moved to New York from Spain when she was 19 to attend NYU. However, she is also listed as a notable alumnus on the Wikipedia page for the Cambridge School of Weston in Weston, Massachusetts. Both her parents, Dr. Kathryn Hayword and David Thomas, do currently reside in Mallorca after moving there in 2011. One Twitter user, who describes herself as a professional genealogist, claimed that after doing a “quick and dirty tree” of Baldwin’s maternal ancestry, she “found English, Irish, French Canadian, German, and Slovak. Some deep New England roots. No Spain in sight.” The obituary for Hilaria’s paternal grandfather, David Thomas Sr., also states that his “family presence in that part of Vermont pre-dated the American Revolution.”
Her parents both worked in the Boston area their entire professional careers. Her mother practiced medicine in Massachusetts. She served as “an associate physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School”. Then they retired to Spain. Clearly, there is a family connection to Spain. Maybe Hilaria did spend a lot of time there growing up. Families travel. Her American classmates, though, say she didn’t have an accent and wasn’t Spanish. If Hilaria was “grifting” on her alleged Spanish heritage, as the Twitter user describes it, for ten years, why haven’t any of her former friends and classmates in Boston spoken up until now? Surely they kept an eye on what she was up to, especially after she married Alec Baldwin. The Twitter user claimed Hilaria perpetrated “a decade long grift where she impersonates a Spanish person.”
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
So, Alec Baldwin posted an eight-minute-long video on Instagram. It was a long ramble about social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. He mentioned he likes Instagram, which I’m sure he does, given his wife makes money as an influencer. He describes Facebook, which owns Instagram, as a dark and bad operation, though. He said he defends those he loves but didn’t actually name his wife. His message was that when something is on social media, it is imperative to consider the source. He called out TMZ and the New York Post, specifically, as “giant sewage treatment plants”, so there’s that.
Hilaria posted her own video on Instagram and it’s a plea to her followers to show she’s being transparent about her life story. She says she a white girl from Boston. She explains changing her name and being of two cultures.
On Sunday, Hilaria addressed the speculation over her ancestry on Instagram, posting a video in which she explains, “I spent some of my childhood in Boston, some of my childhood in Spain, my family, my brother, my parents, my nephew, everybody is over there in Spain now, I’m here.” She added that she grew up speaking both English and Spanish in the home and her changing accent is because “I am that person, if I’ve been speaking a lot of Spanish, I tend to mix them or if I’m speaking a lot of English, I mix that, it’s one of those things I’ve always been a bit insecure about.” As for her name, “When I was growing up, in this country I would use the name Hillary, and in Spain I would use Hilaria and my family, my parents, call me Hilaria,” she says. After meeting her husband, she decided to “consolidate” things under the name Hilaria. “Yes I am a white girl, my family is white…Europe has a lot of white people in them. Ethnically I am a mix of many, many things.” She added, “I care because my thing is about being authentic and then if people say I’m not being authentic, it hurts my feelings…I don’t really understand why it’s turning into such a big thing…I’m getting attacked for being who I am…people wanting to label me Spanish or America, can’t it be both? It’s frustrating that is my story.”
It’s hard to understand what she is really doing. Is it cultural appropriation like the Rachel Dolezal story that the woke left rails against? Is it a social media influencer making up a life story that may seem more interesting than being a white girl from Boston? It is not at all unusual for social media influencers to present themselves and their lives as perfect. It looks like Alec goes along with her story. He’s an actor who works in an imaginary world so he obviously doesn’t mind playing along and even defending her publicly. Maybe she really thinks she’s Spanish now, having presented a Spanish background for so long. What a mess.