Edith was pregnant at the time and sent Yalitza in her place, telling her just “to do everything the film people wanted.” The budding teacher was curious and agreed to go along. The producers asked her a few simple questions. “Answer them all,” Edith had said. Do you believe in God, Yalitza? Are you currently in love? Are you lovesick?
They were all bowled over by Yalitza’s straightforwardness, says Cuarón. “She’s so sincere and down-to-earth, she’s not at all taken in by all the glamour of Hollywood.” Because 60 per cent of “Roma” is just images of Yalitza’s face, it’s no wonder she is now one of the most famous people in Mexico. With her enchanting air of innocence, she now advertises shampoos, smartphones and a Mexican film festival, leads calls in social media adverts for cancer treatment, and speaks out against violence against women. Unlike the soap opera divas from her country, Aparicio, who has two million followers on Instagram, is not just a star: she is a political force. Since her Oscar nomination and a front-page feature in Mexican Vogue, she has brought a minority people into the limelight. This task has not always been easy for Yalitza; some of the comments made about her Vogue photos were so nasty they had to be deleted by the editors.
And she is no stranger to such contempt. Long before she became famous, Yalitza applied for a job as a sales assistant in her hometown of Tlaxiaco. She was rejected because of her skin colour. “I’m the darkest in my family,” she says with a shrug. “As a child I always said it was because I’m made of chocolate! You can’t let anyone get to you.”
She is proud to be one of the Cloud People. And proud that her role in “Roma” has started a debate. Her own mother was once a poor maid just like Cleo. This made Yalitza’s father upset when he saw the film. His daughter was scrubbing the patios of the rich people! “‘But Papa,’ I said to him, ‘it’s just a film.’ He was still angry.”