She’s a famous redhead but she wasn’t really a redhead. And her original name was Margarita Carmen Cansino. Her star persona was completely manufactured by her Hollywood studio, who apparently loved her, except they wished she wasn’t Latina.
I’m surprised I didn’t know this — the writer of the article I’m about to reference makes it sound super well-known, plus Wikipedia — but I’m not exactly a classic film buff so maybe I just missed it somehow? But in case there’s anyone else who didn’t know and is curious, here’s an easy starter article from The Hairpin:
How do you de-Latinize a beautiful woman? Take away her widow’s peak. And get rid of her black hair. Cansino went into seclusion, underwent extensive hairline electrolysis, dyed her hair flaming red, and re-emerged as Rita Hayworth.
What’s most remarkable about this transformation isn’t how blatantly racist it is. Rather, it’s that it wasn’t a secret. Columbia didn’t try to cover up what it was doing to its star; rather, they publicized the shit out of it.