Before Carolina Gaitán was belting out the hit song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” in Disney’s Encanto, the Colombian actress spent lots of time on the opposite side of the screen, watching animated Disney films like Beauty and the Beast and Alice in Wonderland on repeat.
“I totally understand little babies who finish movies and want to watch them again and again,” she admits. “I was exactly that girl growing up.”
Now, Gaitán is part of Disney animation history, having voiced Maribel Madrigal’s weather-controlling aunt, Pepa, in Encanto, a colorful story packed with songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Gaitán says when she learned about a casting call for the film, she knew she had to go.
“I didn’t know it was a movie about Colombia but I knew it was a Disney movie and they were looking for a Latina,” she recalls. “I prepared Don’t Rain on my Parade, the Barbra Streisand song, and I just went.”
“I didn’t know it was going to be the beginning of a beautiful story,” she adds. “I just remember I sang my song and after my singing, the casting director was clapping and I thought, ‘OK, let’s see if this means something.’ The rest is history.”
Gaitán says she’s honored to represent her country as part of the film, which has continued to soar in popularity since its release in November 2021. “Colombians really deserved for our story to be told in this way,” she tells Yahoo Entertainment. “And finally someone — Disney — is telling a story about us: about our food, our dancing, our people, our super strong women and our people who are multi-race. It’s about so many important things nowadays — not only for the Latino community but also for all people to feel represented no matter the race or the color of their skin.”
In her own character, Pepa, Gaitán says she found a sense of belonging.
“I think I’m not like the stereotype of a Latina woman,” she says of her appearance. “I look kind of different and then I see Pepa and she’s red-haired and super white-skinned. I feel so represented with her, and I know that it’s not just me, it’s a lot of people.”
Gaitán, who studied at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute in New York before moving to Los Angeles, calls Encanto a “masterpiece.” And, although “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” was not nominated for an Oscar like its counterpart “Dos Oruguitas,” the 37-year-old actor says the song’s over 100 million streams on Spotify and position as the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 is all the appreciation she needs.