Hilaria Baldwin speaks out on her Spanish identity controversy: 'There is not something I'm doing wrong'

Erin Donnelly
·7 min read

After telling social media followers on Sunday that she had “said my piece” about claims she’s pretended to be Spanish despite hailing from Boston, HIliara Baldwin is giving her first interview about the controversy to the New York Times.

Hilaria Baldwin (pictured with now-husband Alec Baldwin in 2012) is defending herself against claims she's misrepresented her Spanish identity. (Photo: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
Hilaria Baldwin (pictured with now-husband Alec Baldwin in 2012) is defending herself against claims she's misrepresented her Spanish identity. (Photo: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)

“It’s very surreal,” the 36-year-old author and wife of Alec Baldwin told the newspaper of the speculation surrounding her Spanish accent, which went viral last week before prompting a response from Hilaria on Sunday. “There is not something I’m doing wrong, and I think there is a difference between hiding and creating a boundary.”

She added, “Today we have an opportunity to clarify for people who have been confused — and have been confused in some ways by people misrepresenting me.”

According to the yoga studio owner, she was indeed born Hilary Hayward-Thomas in Boston but has long been called “Hilaria” by loved ones. She was known as Hilary until at least 2009, and says she switched to HIlaria out of a growing desire to have just one version of her name. She took on Baldwin’s last name after they wed in 2012, though she’s quoted as telling Vanity Fair España at the time — in an article whose title translates to “The Spanish Woman Who Seduced the Seducer” — that her family struggled to pronounce her new name.

She clarified to the Times that she tends to speak colloquially when she references her family, referring not to her American parents and brother, who all now live in Mallorca, Spain, but to close friends who happen to be Spanish.

“These people who I call my family, I am learning in this particular situation, I have to say, ‘People who we have considered to be our family,’” she said.

Hilaria added that she was alerted to the chatter about her Spanish identity — originating from a Twitter thread by user “Leni Briscoe” (a nod to the wise-cracking detective played by the late Jerry Orbach on Law & Order, Lennie Briscoe) — when she “started seeing comments on my Instagram” alluding to her alleged “grift.” (Speaking anonymously to the Times out of concern that Hilaria’s actor husband would “punch her,” the woman behind the “Leni Briscoe” account explained her decision to call out confusion over the so-called Spanish roots: “We’re all bored and it’s just seemed so strange to me that no one had ever come out and said it, especially for someone who gets so much media attention.”)

The “Leni Briscoe” thread pointed to clips of Hilaria slipping in and out of a Spanish accent, and in one Today cooking segment, struggling to remember the English word for cucumber. Hilaria calls that moment a “brain fart” and says it’s “very disappointing” that her talent agency, Creative Artists Agency, which she now “rarely” works with, cited her birthplace as Mallorca in her online bio.

Hilaria told the Times that part of the confusion over her American background stems from her decision to not share too many details about her family or upbringing. Though she acknowledged that she’s sometimes accused of “oversharing” about her personal life by posting, for instance, footage of her nursing the youngest of her five children with Baldwin, or sharing selfies of her posing in her underwear, setting boundaries about how she talks about her background is valid, she said.

“You are entitled to your privacy,” she explained. “I am entitled to my privacy. People say, ‘No, you’re not entitled to your privacy because you married a famous person and you have Instagram.’ Well, that’s not really true."

She maintained that the things she herself have disclosed about her background are “very clear.”

“I was born in Boston,” she said. “I spent time in Boston and in Spain. My family now lives in Spain. I moved to New York when I was 19 years old and I have lived here ever since. For me, I feel like I have spent 10 years sharing that story over and over again. And now it seems like it’s not enough.”

Though she told the newspaper it “would be maddening to do such a tight timeline of everything” in regards to her ties to Spain — “You know, sometimes there was school involved. Sometimes it was vacation. It was such a mix, mishmash, is that the right word? Like a mix of different things.” — she first visited the country as a baby. Hilaria says her father, real estate lawyer David L. Thomas Jr., has long had a deep love for Spain, which he then introduced to her mother, retired internal medicine specialist and Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Kathryn Hayward.

In addition to spending time in Madrid, Seville and Valencia, the Hayward-Thomases spoke Spanish, cooked Spanish dishes and entertained guests from Spain while back in Boston.

“When we weren’t in Spain, we called it ‘we brought Spain into our home,’” she shared.

While she hasn’t joined her parents or brother in moving to Mallorca, Hilaria says she does send her five children to a bilingual school and speaks Spanish to them at home. She and husband Alec Baldwin also plan to spend more time in Spain once the pandemic ends.

“My family, this is where they’ve decided to spend their lives,” she said. “I guarantee you they are going to live there and they are going to die there. That’s their home and that’s because this is not something new, no one put a map up on the wall and threw a dart at it and said, ‘Oh, Spain sounds good.’”

She also disputes charges that she’s appropriating Spanish culture, which stepdaughter Ireland Baldwin — Alec’s grown daughter with first wife Kim Basinger — referenced in a social media post after coming to Hilaria’s defense. Ireland said friends had reached out to her about “cultural appropriation [and] the right terms to address their communities,” but the model continued to express support for her stepmom.

“Who is to say what you’re allowed to absorb and not absorb growing up?” Hilaria, who had a Spanish-themed wedding when she married Baldwin, said of the impact she says Spanish culture has had on her.

“This has been a part of my whole life, and I can’t make it go away just because some people don’t understand it.”

While she acknowledged that “these are important conversations to have” (in terms of discussing cultural identity), she resisted claims that her image isn’t authentic.

“Where is the smoking gun?” she asked. “My intentions are I’m living my life and my life is created by my parents, my different experiences, my languages, my culture and, yeah, my kids do have very Spanish-influenced names.

“You want to know what? Their names are after people who were important to me, they’re not names that we pulled out of a hat. All my kids’ given names, the first names, are all from people in my life, and they have my husband’s last name. And we were very thoughtful about it. Especially the second name, sometimes the first name is something that sounds for me, good in both languages.”

Baldwin — who has called his wife Spanish in interviews despite Hilaria telling the Times that she identified herself as being from Boston when they first met — declined to comment on the article, but has previously lashed out at his wife’s critics.

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