Saved by the Bell Star Alycia Pascual-Pe?a on Afro-Latinx representation | Sunday Observer

Saved by the Bell Star Alycia Pascual-Pe?a on Afro-Latinx representation

27 December, 2020

Alycia Pascual-Pe?a, the 21-year-old star hit her big break last summer scoring her first film role in the Amy Poehler-directed Moxie. Only a few days after wrapping, she began work on her first series, Saved By the Bell revival. In the new series, Alycia plays Aisha Garcia, a student forced to transfer to Bayside High after governor Zack Morris controversially shuts down her underfunded high school.. Zack’s snafu gives birth to a blend of Bayside Tigers who range in identity... and household income. “I’ve been really privileged as an actress to step into a role that I so personally, naturally connected with,” Alycia tells Teen Vogue. “I’m from the Bronx, which is a lower socioeconomic status community, and most of my family immigrated from the Dominican Republic. A lot of the adversities that Aisha faces at Bayside, I just really connected to as an individual when it [came] to my own high school experience.”


Despite suddenly being thrown into the bizarre world of privilege at Bayside, within her first few days, Alycia’s character Aisha lands on her feet and heads straight for the football field. She shakes up the school by defying gender norms, challenging biases, and snatching the star quarterback spot. Aisha’s storyline is refreshing not only because the trailblazing teen acts as an agent of change, but because she is a prime example of the kind of Afro-Latinx representation that Alycia dreamed of seeing on her own television growing up.

The character of Aisha was originally written as African-American but was altered to match Alycia’s heritage after producers overheard her speaking Spanish on set. “The fact that NBC and Peacock were willing to have conversations with me and commit to creating this multidimensional [character, a] Black woman who just happens to be of Latin descent, meant the world to me,” Alycia says.

Discriminatory casting

. For years, Alycia has faced discriminatory casting, being asked to change her vernacular for Black roles and being rebuffed for her darker complexion when up for Latina roles. “For so long, people [have] wanted me to pick what I ‘truly’ am because they want me to fit in one box. I’ve had to be resilient. There have been moments where I felt like there is no space for me in this industry..

“Something that was super important for me with this character, was to show people the complexity and the beauty of the Latinx community,” Alycia shares.

Black people are in every community, and the Latinx community is not a monolith. There’s a rampant amount of colourism and racism in the Latinx community, but that changes when we [have] more people that look like me on-screen, in the boardrooms, producing, writing, and showing people that they deserve to be there.”

Denouncing anti Blackness

The actress regularly utilises her social media platform to denounce anti-Blackness. “Being a Black Latina woman from an immigrant household, for a long time, I felt like the antithesis of what America is,” Alycia says. “And I’m really committed to completely changing that.” For Alycia, taking on roles like Aisha directly contribute to that change. “I think that our show is taking a step in the right direction to have a half-hour comedy that does have silly storylines, but shows people that your [TV] screen can [accurately reflect] the world.”