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Melissa Villaseñor had been on the SNL cast since 2016. Photo Credit: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images
Melissa Villaseñor had been on the SNL cast since 2016. Photo Credit: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

Melissa Villaseñor departs from Saturday Night Live

She was the only Latina on the cast, and one of 7 members from last season to announce their departure.

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The upcoming 48th season of Saturday Night Live will look much different from past seasons, as one-third of last season’s cast members will not be returning.

Among those cast members is Melissa Villaseñor. 

It was announced on Sept. 1 that Villasenor, along with Alex Moffat and Aristotle Athari were all leaving the show ahead of next season’s premiere.

The news came less than four months after four other members of the cast — Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant and Kyle Mooney — revealed their plans to depart the show. The latter four each said their respective goodbyes during the show’s season finale on May 21. 

Villaseñor confirmed the news of her SNL departure in a Tweet during the early hours of Sunday, Sept. 4. 

In another tweet, she detailed what she will do next, noting “I am gonna be proud for a while, travel, enjoy life, do more volunteer work, spend time with my family,” she said. “From there art blooms.”

Villaseñor was the only Latina on the SNL cast and had been a part of the show since 2016, joining at the start of Season 42. She was promoted as a repertory player on the cast in 2018, becoming the first Latina to be promoted to such a role.

She became known for her impressions of figures such as Dolly Parton, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.

It was reported after her hire in 2016 that she previously auditioned for the late night sketch comedy show in 2009, but was not selected to join the cast. 

A comedienne, actress and impressionist, Villaseñor is also an artist, singer and musician. She first burst onto the scene auditioning on America’s Got Talent where she was a semifinalist during the show’s sixth season in 2011. 

Since then, she has racked up voice acting credits including Adventure Time, Toy Story 4, Wreck It Ralph 2, OK K.O.!, American Dad and Family Guy and others, and also released her debut album in October 2019.

Born in Whittier, California, Villaseñor is of Spanish, Basque and indigenous Mexican descent, with roots in Jalisco and Aguascalientes, Mexico.

At age 15, she began performing stand-up comedy at the Factory Comedy Camp in Hollywood, having since headlined more than 100 clubs and colleges around the country.

Throughout its 47-year history, Villaseñor is just the fourth SNL cast member of Latino descent. 

The list consists of Horatio Sanz, who was born in Chile; Fred Armisen, whose mother is of Venezuelan descent; and Noël Wells, who is one-quarter Mexican.

In 2016, an NBC News article questioned SNL’s motives in “Latino erasure,” when a skit involving cast members portraying nine Democratic candidates for that year’s presidential election was notably missing Julián Castro.

The skit was aired just months after then-presidential candidate Donald Trump hosted the show shortly after he announced his candidacy and made offensive and derogatory comments toward Mexicans and revealing plans to build a wall between the US-Mexico border. 

In the article, Isabel Molina Guzmán, a professor in Latinx Studies at the University of Illinois was quoted as saying, “to erase us from the public consciousness while we are being politically vilified is dangerous and destructive.”

"The omission of Castro is compounded by the fact that it’s coming while we have a president whose policies and rhetoric have had a negative impact on Latino and Latin American communities,” the professor continued. 

With Villaseñor’s departure, the show is back at square one, with zero Latino representation on its cast. It is unclear if the show will look to bring more Latino representation ahead of the upcoming season.

SNL's 48th season will be a part of the NBC Fall lineup, with the premiere date yet to be announced. 

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