NBC Correspondent Claims She Was Told Not to Dress 'Too Latina,' More Like Ivanka Trump, to WHCA Dinner
Mariana Atencio, an NBC/MSNBC correspondent, claimed in her new book that an unnamed female manager told her not to dress "too Latina" for the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2017. Instead, the manager said, she should appear more like Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and adviser.
In Perfectly You: Embracing the Power of Being Real, Atencio writes about the encounter when she was selected to be part of the network's presence at the annual White House gathering.
She wrote how thrilled she was to "represent our people, proud of having a seat at the table, literally and figuratively." In an effort to honor her heritage, she planned on wearing something prominently featuring the colors yellow, blue and red, the colors featured on many South American nations' flags. Just before she was about to leave, she got the call from a manager at NBC.
"'Mariana, I just wanted to make sure you're prepared for such a prestigious gathering,'" the manager said, according to Atencio's book. She said the manager then asked her what she planned on wearing, and then suggests, "'Please don't look too Latina.'" Offended and outraged, Atencio said she asked the manager to explain what she meant. "'Why don't you go to Saks Fifth Avenue and have someone help you out... Have them pick out something demure. Not too colorful or tight. Think Ivanka Trump, okay?'"
"This person was making me feel smaller and smaller with each word," Atencio writes about how the encounter made her feel. "Can you imagine someone in your field asking you to please not look so African American? Or Asian? Or white? Don't look so Muslim or Christian? How do you change who you are?"
Atencio spoke of the incident in an interview with Daniela Pierre-Bravo for the NBC News series Know Your Value.
"I wanted to tell the anecdote [in the book] not to harp on the negative, but to remind readers that these things still happen and that we have to call them out and have conversations as adults about how we can get past them."
Atencio immigrated to the United States from Venezuela in 2008. She initially struggled to find work as a journalist, but eventually found success at Univision and Fusion before joining NBC in 2016.
"The message of my book is that you, too (readers) can make it. By sharing my journey, I hope to inspire (others) on their journey," Atencio told NBC News.
Atencio covered Latino voters for NBC during the 2016 election and was one of the network's lead reporters covering the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.