Reporter says she was told to dress like Ivanka Trump, not 'look too Latina' at White House Correspondent's Dinner

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Yahoo Lifestyle
Author Mariana Atencio claims that a corporate higher-up asked her to not look "too Latina" at the 2017 White House Correspondence Dinner. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Concordia)
Author Mariana Atencio claims that a corporate higher-up asked her to not look "too Latina" at the 2017 White House Correspondence Dinner. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Concordia)

An MSNBC correspondent claims that a higher-up discouraged her from looking "too Latina" while attending the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2017 and that she should, instead, dress like Ivanka Trump.

Mariana Atencio, a Venezuela-born journalist, wrote of the incident in her June book, Perfectly You: Embracing the Power of Being Real, according to Newsweek.

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Atencio planned to "represent our people, proud of having a seat at the table, literally and figuratively" by wearing a dress that featured the colors of many Latin American nations' flags: yellow, blue, and red.

Before the event, however, Atencio received a phone call from an unnamed female manager at MNBC, who wanted to make sure she was "prepared for such a prestigious gathering," and asked what she had planned on wearing.

Atencio wrote in her book that the manager said, "Please don't look too Latina."

Offended by the request, Atencio asked the manager to explain.

"'Why don't you go to Saks Fifth Avenue and have someone help you out,’" Atencio recalled the manager saying. "'Have them pick out something demure. Not too colorful or tight. Think Ivanka Trump, okay?'"

Atencio wrote that the interaction made her "feel smaller and smaller with each word."

"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?" Atencio wrote. "How do you change who you are?"

According to NBC News, Atencio ended up changing her outfit.

Speaking on the NBC News series, Know Your Value, with Daniela Pierre-Bravo, Atencio said she included the incident in her book to remind people that internalized racism still occurs.

"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," she said.

A MSNBC representative did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment, but said in a statement to USA TODAY that the manager's comments were "highly inappropriate and unacceptable."

"More than a year and a half later, when it was first brought to a manager’s attention, immediate action was taken," the statement read. "Since this is an HR matter and there are privacy concerns, we won’t go into greater detail."

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