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My identity is a superpower – not an obstacle

This study guide will help you analyze America Ferrera’s speech “My identity is a superpower – not an obstacle”. In addition to help for your analysis, you can find a summary of the text and ideas for discussing it. 

Presentation of the text

Title: “My identity is a superpower – not an obstacle” (2019)
Sender: America Ferrera
Genre: Speech

America Ferrera (b. 1984) is an award-winning American actress, who is mostly known for her role as Betty Suarez on the comedy-drama Ugly Betty. For her performance, Ferrera was awarded several prizes, including a Golden Globe and an Emmy. She is also a producer, director, and writer. Ferrera’s book, American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures, was published in 2018. Her speech “My identity is a superpower – not an obstacle” was delivered in April 2019, in Vancouver, BC, Canada, as part of the TED2019: Bigger Than Us conference. 

Extract

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Pathos

Ferrera appeals to pathos for different purposes. First of all, she appeals to feelings of frustration when she talks about how she was denied a role because she did not talk as the casting director thought a Latina was supposed to talk: “And I couldn’t figure out why the fact that I was an actual, real-life, authentic Latina didn’t really seem to matter” (ll. 20-21). Therefore, her story creates feelings of frustration and injustice.

Ferrera also tries to stir a feeling of amusement by making a joke about her manager: 

But when I dared to say that to my manager – that’s the person I pay to help me find opportunity – his response was, ‘Someone has to tell that girl she has unrealistic expectations.’ And he wasn’t wrong. I mean, I fired him, but he wasn’t wrong. (ll. 29-31)

Here, Ferrera is also ironic, as she hints that the manager was not doing his job. She does, however, admit that the manager was right.

Then, Ferrera uses pathos when she appeals to the audience’s feelings of disappointment. She first talks about her personal experience of being “the first and only Latina to ever win an Emmy in a lead category” (ll. 58-59). The story creates disappointment and frustration caused by the lack of representation. Moreover, she also appeals the feelings of disappointment when she talks about the film industry’s refusal to change: “But for the last 17 years, I’ve also heard the same excuses for why some of us can access presence in the culture and some of us can’t” (ll. 69-70).

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My identity is a superpower – not an obstacle

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