There was a great deal of excitement, understandably so, around Disney’s announcement of a new princess, Elena of Avalor, this week. An olive-skinned, gorgeous babe who looks like she goes to Jasmine’s same hair salon to get blow-outs, Elena was widely celebrated in the media because, well, it’s crazy that there still hasn’t been a Latina royal in the Disney family.
We came close about a year ago with Sofia The First, whom many also assumed was Latina. But it wasn’t long before the backlash started, mostly consisting of “She’s too white!” comments. All of which caused Disney to clarify — or perhaps backpedal — and state that Sofia was “a mixed-heritage princess in a fairy-tale world. Her mother is originally from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Spain (Galdiz) and her birth father hailed from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Scandinavia.”
Disney Junior’s VP Nancy Kanter further clarified: “What’s important to know is that Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world. All our characters come from fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities but none are meant to specifically represent those real world cultures. The writers have wisely chosen to write stories that include elements that will be familiar and relatable to kids from many different backgrounds including Spain and Latin America.”
Following that uncomfortable PR moment for Disney, Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, had a direct conversation with Kanter in which he apparently pressed, “When are we going to have a real Latina, not a counterfeit?’”
Idris and I at the “No Good Deed” press junket earlier this year
It’s not unusual for Rush Limbaugh to say racist things. It is unusual for the right-wing commentator to admit that he’s being racist.
On Tuesday, Limbaugh brought up the idea of Idris Elba as James Bond on his syndicated radio show (a topic in one of the thousands of leaked Sony emails) and declared the 42-year-old London-born actor unfit for the role based on his skin color.
“James Bond is a total concept put together by Ian Fleming. He was white and Scottish. Period. That is who James Bond is,” Limbaugh said. “But now [they are] suggesting that the next James Bond should be Idris Elba, a black Briton, rather than a white from Scotland. But that’s not who James Bond is…I know it’s racist to probably point this out.”
*This original story which I wrote in reaction to Elizabeth Peña’s death for Variety Latino has been generously shared online, so I’m posting it here too.
Elizabeth Peña was a rare breed. The kind of actress that didn’t seek or crave the limelight, but rather focused on “the craft.” You’d have to, in order to enjoy the type of career she had.
Prolific is an understatement. Peña amassed around 100 acting credits, starting with her first role in León Ichaso’s “El Super” in 1979. Fittingly, it was the story of Cuban exiles adjusting to their life in Spanish Harlem. When she died, on October 14, 2014, she had wrapped the first season of “Matador” on Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network, and had a couple of projects in development.
You interview enough actors in this business and eventually those two words (“the work,” “the craft,” or any variation thereof), start to sound clichéd, and quite honestly, rehearsed. But in Peña’s case, she never, in her almost 40 years of working in showbiz, got to the point of being overexposed, so all you had to go by was “the work.” Continue reading →
I know how this sounds, but it’s an honest question: doesn’t it seem like death and devastation were all up in the news in 2012? I think it started with Whitney Houston – a high-profile death that was not entirely shocking but nevertheless tragic.
There will never ever be another Whitney, just as there will never be another Jenni Rivera. These are women who left the world different than when they entered it. They inspired people. They opened doors for other artists after them. And many, many will mourn them – from those who knew them personally to those who felt extremely connected to them through their music.
I admit I did not sleep all that well in the days following the news of Jenni Rivera’s death. Following and covering the story of someone’s tragic and untimely death 24/7 will do something to you, will make you wonder things, like: What does looking at death mean to your own life? Is it a chance to make all your wrongs right? A chance to be grateful for what you take for granted? A chance to really start living?
There are great performers, and then there are game-changers. Jenni Rivera, who died at age 43 in a plane crash outside of Monterrey, Mexico early Sunday morning, was that rare breed of artist who will be remembered not only for her success, but for all the rules she re-wrote.
As the undisputed queen of banda music, her professional achievements within a male-dominated genre run deep – among her many feats, La Diva de la Banda sold some 1.2 million albums in the United States alone and sold out arenas like the Staples Center in Los Angeles, something no other female regional Mexican artist had done before. But make no mistake: nothing was ever handed to this woman.
Rivera was born in Long Beach, California on July 2, 1969, one of six siblings. The daughter of bartender-turned-music mogul Pedro Rivera, who launched his own record label, Cintas Acuario, in 1987 to produce the music of narcocorrido legend Chalino Sanchez, among others, and launch the career of his own son Lupillo, Jenni was a straight A student in high school. When she got pregnant with her first child as a sophomore, instead of dropping out, she earned her GED at a continuation school in 1987 – as the class valedictorian, no less – before going on to earn a college business degree in 1991.