What Hilariagate Says About You

Hilaria Baldwin Alec Baldwin
Bruce Glikas/WireImage

Like so many thirsty Americans, Alec Baldwin's wife "was trying to seem fancy," writes guest columnist Joel Stein: "That's on her. If you expect more from a social media influencer, that's on you."

I was initially confused by the Hilaria Baldwin scandal because I did not know who Hilaria Baldwin was. After a lot of research, I parsed that she is the 36-year-old, yoga-instructor wife of Alec Badwin. They have five babies together, which has allowed her to master an artform in which she takes nearly naked Instagram photos while holding a baby, a fetish I do not have, although after looking at a lot of them, discovered I do not not have. More importantly, she was born in Boston to rich American parents who named her Hillary Hayward-Thomas but has spent many years pretending she grew up in Mallorca, Spain apparently, according to internet sleuths. This last fact has made her far more famous than her books, her marriage, her work as a lifestyle reporter on Extra, her parenting podcast or her Instagram photos. She has found a new way of getting people to know of her other than birthing them.

I am limited in what I can say about this situation because I’m afraid of Alec Baldwin. But as rage fomented against her, I noticed that the tribal warfare of identity politics has made us not only mean, but stupid. Sure, it’s lame and weird to grow up in Boston and speak with an accent; claim you moved from Spain to the U.S. to attend NYU when you were born in Boston and actually went to private school in Weston, Massachusetts; and name your non-Spanish kids Carmen Gabriela, Rafael Thomas, Leonardo Ángel David, Romeo Alejandro, and Eduardo Pau Lucas. The Today show segment where she made gazpacho and asked Telemundo’s Evi Sisko how to say "cucumber" in English was particularly Roseanne Rosanadana, but in all fairness "cucumber" is a ridiculous word compared to "pepino." Also, "how do you say in English? Cucumber?" is even sexier than kissing a baby's head while wearing lingerie.

Lame and attention getting, sure. But you have to be one of those Americans who can’t find other countries on a map - in other words an American - to think Hilaria Baldwin was trying to steal street cred as a brown person, which is the heart of this scandal. This is not Rachel Dolezal. Hilaria Baldwin didn’t say she grew up in San Salvador. She claimed heritage from Mallorca, one of the most expensive vacation spots in Europe. The island where Grace Kelly honeymooned, James Blunt weddinged, Michelle Obama twice summered and Hilaria Baldwin’s rich parents indeed retired and spent vacations. Her only mistake was picking Spain instead of France. Hilaria Baldwin, like so many aspirational people, was trying to seem fancy.

There are rich, white people in Spain, rich white people in Mexico City, and rich white people all over South America, but that’s too complicated for our times. Tracie Egan Morissey, the former Jezebel journalist whose Instagram posts exploded the incident by detailing what some of alleged is Hilaria Baldwin's long con, told New York magazine: "This woman pretended to be an immigrant whose second language was English, and that’s associated with certain hardships. That’s just not the case. That’s a complete fabrication. And she’s monetized that, when it turns out that she’s just a privileged woman from Boston, the daughter of a lawyer and a doctor. That’s gross to me." What’s gross to me is thinking that someone moving here from Mallorca has certain hardships, other than a lack of great nightclub options.

Should she have appeared on a best-dressed list in Latina magazine or posed for two ¡Hola! covers? Probably not. Also, even if she lived in Spain, why is ¡Hola! this desperate? Are they even more afraid of Alec Baldwin than I am? Either way, none of that is as repugnant as getting on all fours on Instagram to con people into buying water that has been charged with batteries to create "aqueous ozone" to clean pacifiers and countertops.

Our culture worships the word "authentic." But human psychology is situational. We’re different with our grandparents than with our sorority sisters; different in war than in peace; different when hungry than full; exactly the same when using regular water or aqueous ozone. I’ve never married a celebrity, worked at Extra or posted photos of myself in underwear doing exercises in my bathroom that I’m not entirely sure are exercises, but I am different on the page than in person. And I know that when people celebrate one part of me, I tend to play that up. I’m not saying Hilaria Baldwin contains multitudes, but she probably contains a half dozen of stuff.

On Sunday Hilaria Baldwin posted an accent-free video in which she somberly addressed the scandal. After being briefly distracted by "my crazy hair," she said, "we can be different parts of ourselves with different people." Her parents called her Hilaria, and she liked it and – more importantly – Alec Baldwin liked it, so she went with Hilaria. She speaks two languages and traveled between two countries. You know that kid who did a semester in Florence and came back with an accent, a ribollita recipe and a Botticelli poster? The one you avoid because you know he’s going to turn your conversation to "they do it a little differently in Firenze"? That’s her. And if you expect more from a social media influencer, that's you.

She concluded the video by giving America both what it wanted and what it needed, by saying, "Yes, I am a white girl. Europe has a lot of white people in there." That honesty and understanding made me want to support her so much that I followed her on Instagram. I swear, that’s the only reason.