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‘It Was a Struggle.’ Roma’s Yalitza Aparicio on Overcoming Her Fear of the Spotlight

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Yalitza Aparicio‘s emotionally rich performance in the Netflix darling Roma may have been critically acclaimed, but as the awards and public appearances came rolling it, she wasn’t exactly ready for the spotlight.

“Speaking in public, speaking in front of the camera and being fearful of not being able to express myself correctly,” she told TIME via her translator at the 2019 TIME 100 Gala when asked about her greatest fears.

Aparicio played Cleo, a character based on the director Alfonso Cuarón’s childhood nanny, who was far more than a caretaker to a family in Mexico. And in the process, she became the first indigenous woman nominated for best actress at this year’s Oscars.

Because Aparicio had no acting experience prior to Roma, getting used to the spotlight took some time.

“It was a long process. And it took me time at the beginning when we were shooting the film. It was day by day, and [it was the] same with the red carpets. At the beginning, it was a struggle and after I got used to it, it got better,” she said.

Roma led the 2019 Oscar ballot with 10 nominations. Alfonso Cuarón, who won the Oscar for Best Director this year penned a tribute to her for this year’s TIME 100 list, writing that he deeply admires her.

“From the start, that honesty has been the greatest quality in Yalitza. She’s incredibly grounded in her truth and not easily swept away by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. She focuses on being a force of change and empowerment for indigenous women, embracing the symbolic value of what she has done and carrying that responsibility with dignity and grace,” Cuarón wrote for TIME.

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