niche drama

Unpacking the Drama Around Hilaria Baldwin’s Accent

Hillary “Hilaria” Baldwin. Photo: Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

On Sunday morning, I opened Twitter for the first time in like nine days, cringing in anticipation of the chaos that had doubtless accrued in my week of internet avoidance. I expected the usual deluge of presidential garbage and dismal coronavirus news; I did not expect an armchair investigation into the life and times of Hilaria Baldwin, yoga instructor and podcaster. Before today, I knew next to nothing about Hilaria Baldwin, outside the fact of her marriage to actor Alec Baldwin. I had no idea that she was potentially faking a Spanish heritage and accent, as her detractors currently allege, despite having been born in Boston. How did we get here? What is happening? A Lindsay Lohan–style case of accent by osmosis? Just a regular example of linguistic convergence? Who is Hilaria Baldwin? Is that even her real name? What is the truth??

Please, join me on this wild ride.

Our story begins with … Amy Schumer?

That’s right, it appears a little joke by comedian Amy Schumer inadvertently tipped the first domino, reposting a photo Baldwin had just shared on Instagram. In the pic, Baldwin is holding her 3-month-old son, Eduardo “Edu” Pao Lucas, and wearing lingerie. According to People, Schumer re-grammed (and subsequently deleted) the shot with the following caption: “Gene and I wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday season. Enjoy it with whatever family members are talking to you this year.” Hm! Okay! Sure!

But Baldwin did not appear to appreciate Schumer’s little witticism, responding in a video calling for “body inclusivity.”

“There’s like the whole thing of ‘Oh, moms don’t look like that’ — some moms do. This mom does. And I am included in the inclusivity,” she insisted. For some observers, it was not the substance of Baldwin’s address that piqued attention, but the accent in which she delivered it. Conspicuously American, which — as certain internet detectives have since noted — marks a change from the Spanish accent she has adopted in past interviews.

“You have to admire Hilaria Baldwin’s commitment to her decade-long grift where she impersonates a Spanish person,” Twitter user @lenibriscoe remarked on Monday, beginning of a long thread that has since gone viral.

There are a few discrepancies in Hilaria Baldwin’s bio.

As “Page Six” notes, Baldwin’s bio on her agency’s speaker site states: “Baldwin was born in Mallorca, Spain and raised in Boston, Massachusetts.” In a 2018 profile, Hola! magazine describes her as “born in Spain” speaking Spanish as her native language. Interviews from the earlier days of her marriage to Alec — unearthed and tweeted by @lenibriscoe — feature Baldwin speaking in a Spanish accent and, in one case, seemingly forgetting the English word for “cucumber.”

Furthermore, in an April interview with Cat and Nat of the MomTruths podcast, Baldwin said that she “moved here when [she] was 19 to go to NYU.” Asked where she’d moved from, Baldwin answered: “From — my family lives in Spain, they live in Mallorca.”

Which is actually true: Baldwin’s family — at least her parents, Dr. Kathryn Hayward and David Thomas — do live in Mallorca, and per “Page Six,” have since 2011. But before that, they appeared to have lived in Massachusetts. Our Twitter sleuth dug up the following footage of Kathryn Hayward (“formerly an internist at the Massachusetts General Hospital”) on what looks like her website, speaking about her upbringing in Longmeadow, as well as Baldwin’s paternal grandfather’s obituary, which states that the Thomas “family presence in … Vermont predated the American Revolution.” Baldwin’s grandfather’s professional travel to Argentina reportedly inspired his children to “become proficient in the Spanish language.”

But Baldwin’s parents do not appear to have been Spanish, and the Cambridge School of Weston (a private high school in Cambridge, Massachusetts) names Hilaria Baldwin as an alumnus, which would suggest that she lived in the U.S. prior to turning 19. According to people who claim to have gone to school with Baldwin — some of whom, per “Page Six,” have tweeted that she was “fully a white girl from Cambridge” and “did not have her current accent” at that time — attest that Baldwin used to go by a different name: Hillary.

Odd, then, that if you ask Google “where was Hilaria Baldwin born,” it furnishes a map of Mallorca, and that her IMDb bio states: “Hilaria Baldwin was born on January 6, 1984 in Mallorca, Spain as Hilaria Lynn Thomas.” Huh!

How has Hilaria-Hillary Baldwin responded to all of this?

In an Instagram video posted on Sunday, Baldwin admitted that “there’s some stuff that needs to be clarified,” and suggested that her words had been twisted in previous media appearances. Although she was “born in Boston,” she stated, she is also “a different kind of Bostonian,” one who spent “some of [her] childhood in Spain.”

“There was a lot of back-and-forth my entire life, and I’m really lucky that I grew up speaking two languages,” she explained, adding that her accent tends to vary depending on which language she’s been speaking more often. “When I tried to work, I try to enunciate a little bit more, but when I get nervous or upset, then I start to mix the two.”

As to her name, Baldwin said that she used the name Hillary in the U.S. and Hilaria in Spain. “My parents, they call me Hilaria, my whole family call me Hilaria,” she noted, and eventually she decided to “consolidate” under Hilaria to minimize confusion. “It’s the same name, just a few letters different, so I think we shouldn’t be so upset about it,” she said. “And whatever you guys want to call me, I will respond to both.”

Then, addressing criticism about claiming a cultural identity that isn’t hers to claim, Baldwin continued: “Yes I am a white girl … Europe has a lot of white people in there. My family is white. Ethnically I am a mix of many, many, many things; culturally, I grew up with the two cultures. So it’s really as simple as that.”

But that was not the end of it. In a follow-up video posted a few hours later, Baldwin attempted to break it down “by the numbers.”

“First thing I told my husband is that I was born in Boston,” she said. “I spent a lot of my childhood in Spain. My nuclear family lives in Spain and has lived there for a long time. And I came here — I was moving around a lot, but I came here when I was 19 years old to go to college.”

“I’ve never said that my mother was Spanish, my family is a big mix of so many different things,” she continued. “My thing is about being authentic and when people say I’m not being authentic, it hurts my feelings … I don’t really understand why this is turning into such a big thing. I want to take it seriously, but I also don’t want it to be all of a sudden I’m apologizing for who I am. Because at this point, I’m starting to feel that I’m being attacked for who I am, and that no answer is the right answer.”

“I’m not doing anything wrong by being me,” Baldwin added. And with that, it she logged off for what she said would be “a long time.” (Though three hours later, she was back.)

Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin has logged on.

But to what end, I can’t really say. If you clicked the video that actor Alec Baldwin posted to his Instagram on Sunday, I bet you expected a stirring defense of his wife’s character. I bet you waited tensely through the whole bit for his hissing whisper to escalate to a punishing shout. Weirdly, though, Alec does not attempt to clear Hilaria’s name in his eight-plus minutes of camera time; in fact, he does not mention her name at all.

Instead, he rants about various other topics, including Facebook (“a corporation you should avoid if you could”); Twitter (“a vast orchard of crap”); Jeffrey Epstein (“I never met Epstein in my life”) and the fake phone number Alec maybe gave him (“That’s what we call the Dummy Line”); the media outlets he distrusts (TMZ and the New York Post are “sewage treatment plants” in our host’s estimation); and other things, too, but none that route directly back to the Hilaria affair. The closest he comes to addressing the situation is his aside about how people love to lie about celebrities, or perhaps his closing line: “When you love somebody, you wanna defend them. Consider the source.” (The source in the case of Hilaria Baldwin’s origin story is ultimately Hilaria Baldwin. Or should we say, Hillary?)

So, not exactly a vehement defense! To locate such a defense, you’ll have to check his Twitter replies, where he’s fired off a few furious tweets at journalists. Or venture over to any one of the quotes that Alec has since posted to Instagram — including one, notably, from Mark Twain — where he directs his ire at random users in the comments sections. To an antagonistic user who wrote, “I take it her accent is fake as well? FRAUDS!”, he instructed them to “go fuck yourself.” Under a comment that asked Alec to “please stop insulting people who can see clear facts,” he wrote, “She was born in Boston but grew up in Spain. You got it?”

Well, we think we’ve got it now? Maybe?

This story has been updated.

What’s All This Drama About Hilaria Baldwin’s Accent?