Becky G profile for Rolling Stone’s New Latin Hot List Issue


FOTO (Fresh Out The Oven)!

Yours truly wrote a profile on 16-year-old Becky G for Rolling Stone‘s new #LatinHotList issue, on stands November 8. I saw something special in her when I first met her two years ago in the RCA offices. She told me about her musical idols growing up (Left Eye, Selena), how her ‘Lita (grandma) taught her Spanish and always reminded her how important it is to honor her Mexican heritage, her plans to build a movement and take over the world, among other things. Somehow it didn’t come across as over-confident; I always believed she’d make it. Ask Dr. Luke what it is that he first noticed about her and he’ll say the same thing: her confidence and charisma. Because if you don’t believe in yourself, who will?

Then I collaborated with her on her blog, “Being Becky G,” for Fusion (ABC/Univision) late last year and that was super fun. It’s great to see how far she’s come in that short amount of time. She’s now CoverGirl’s youngest spokesperson and her #Beaster following on social media just keeps growing. In other words, she’s a marketer’s dream.

The RS cover line says it all and this is only the beginning…read the article here.

Happy Halloween! From La Llorona to Paranormal Activity, Latinos love a good scare

A still from Paranormal Activity 4.

A still from Paranormal Activity 4.

When I was a little girl, I used to play a darker version of hide and seek with my older cousins in Ecuador. In our little game, whomever was the seeker would role play as La Llorona, and do the trademark wail of the mythical Weeping Woman: “Donde estan mis hijos?” (“Where are my children?”).

It was all innocent fun, but now that I think about it, it’s a creepy concept, and not something I’ll be passing onto my own children one day.

My experience growing up with this mythical figure as part of my consciousness was not uncommon. In homes all across Mexico, the southwestern U.S., certain parts of the Caribbean, and most countries in Latin America, La Llorona is collectively known and feared.

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Exclusive: behind the scenes with Juanes at his ‘Loud & Unplugged’ tour


There was only one good reason to trek it from Los Angeles to Bakersfield, CA this past Friday night: I got a backstage VIP pass to the kick-off concert to Juanes’ highly anticipated 2013 “Loud and Unplugged” summer tour.

Without exaggerating, I can say that Juanes and his bandmates – Rafael Sandoval on the sax, Edilberto Lievano on the trombone, Orlando Barreda on the trumpet, Juan Pablo Daza and Fernando Tobon on guitar, Felipe Navia on bass, Felipe Alzate and Richard Bravo on percussion, Waldo Madera on drums, and Emmanuel Briceño on the keyboard – have never sounded tighter.

For one, Juanes has never toured with a full horn section. Then again, if you’ve listened to Juanes’ MTV Unplugged album you know that he has strived for (and undoubtedly reached) a new level of musicianship. El maestro Juan Luis Guerra (who executive produced the Unplugged album) had a little something to do with that.

Whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to check Juanes out when he comes your way (peep the tour dates here).

And if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to experience a Juanes show from the inside, this should give you an idea …

Check out the photos on Fusion (ABC/Univision), where this story was originally published. 

What’s the one accent Gael Garcia Bernal can’t do?


Since Almodovar’s Bad Education we know Gael García Bernal can credibly and enthusiastically curse like a Spaniard. Motorcycle Diaries had him doing a young Che Guevara’s subtle Argentine accent. In Rudo y Cursi, he’s the sexiest naco ever. In his latest, NO, out February 15, 2013, Gael García Bernal tried his hand at a not-so-easy accent, that of a native Chilean from Santiago.

Pablo Larraín’s film, nominated this year in the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars, was inspired by actual events. García Bernal plays Rene Saavedra, a brash young ad man spearheading a campaign aimed at ending the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet during the country’s 1988 referendum. Riding on the slogan “Chile: Happiness is coming!” this opposition campaign emerges victorious, setting Chile free from a rule defined by human rights abuses, and “desaparecidos.” As García Bernal notes: “The campaign appealed to optimism and to happiness in a country submerged in the painful shock of its recent politics.”

Putting his brilliant performance aside, how did he fare with the Chilean accent? On a scale of 1 to 10, we’d say he sits comfortably at an 8. But what happens when we challenge him to do other, tougher Latin American accents? Let’s just say he needs a little practice…

Watch the video interview on Fusion (ABC/Univision), where it was originally posted.

2012 was Miguel’s year & 2013 will be even bigger


If you’re a music journalist and you’ve written about R&B dynamo Miguel in 2012, chances are you’ve put the 27-year-old and Prince in the same sentence, as I have. And that’s cool, says Miguel. Just don’t get used to it.

“I’m offended for Prince because I’m such a huge fan of his and you can’t compare anyone to Prince,” says Miguel. “But if I’m associated with any ounce of greatness then that’s a huge compliment – and that’s what I think of when I think of Prince; I think of greatness, I think of timelessness, creativity, longevity, just unapologetic and unwavering sense of self. I can only hope to remind people of greatness.”

There’s no doubt that 2012 was Miguel’s breakout year. True, he had shown promise on his 2010 debut album All I Want Is You, but it was this year’s follow-up, Kaleidoscope Dream, that earned high praise from critics and fans alike, who unanimously seemed to agree that Miguel was part of an exciting crop of artists intent on saving a dying genre. “[Frank Ocean’s] Channel Orange, [Miguel’s] Kaleidoscope Dream, and [The Weeknd’s] Trilogy rescued the art form from the monotony of ‘baby, baby please’ as Ocean, Miguel and Weeknd casually re-created it in their own images,” wrote Rebecca Thomas at MTV.

In many ways, that monotony Thomas writes of began when the self-proclaimed Pied Piper of R&B himself, R. Kelly, committed career suicide circa 2002. The game was just never the same – until now. As music journalist Erik Parker puts it, “Miguel’s music came at a time when there was a wide open lane. He split the difference between Trey Songz’ sex appeal and Frank Ocean’s exotic and left-field style. He’s pushing the boundaries in an artistic way that is not too much in the clouds. He’s stretching R&B but it doesn’t feel forced or too self-aware.”

With five Grammy nominations, including Song of the Year and Best R&B Performance for “Adorn,” and Best Urban Contemporary Vocal Album and a spring tour with Alicia Keys coming up, 2013 is looking even better for Miguel.

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What all the death in 2012 taught me about life


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?

It’s a little bit of everything, I think.

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How John Ortiz stole scenes from Bradley Cooper in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’


It’s hard to steal scenes from Bradley Cooper, but that’s exactly what John Ortiz does in Silver Linings Playbook, one of the clear frontrunners this awards season, with an avalanche of nominations, including Best Picture at the 2013 Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, and the Independent Spirit Awards.

The movie, based on the novel by Matthew Quick, is not a romantic comedy or a romantic drama; it’s something in between, with characters so crazy they make you feel good about yourself while you laugh so hard you almost cry. And then you actually cry.

That the film does family dysfunction so well is not surprising — David O. Russell (Spanking The MonkeyFlirting With DisasterThe Fighter) wrote and directed it. The Hollywood Reporter recently chronicled the filmmaker’s evolution from 90s indie darling to Oscar contender.

But Russell could not have created one of the year’s best movies without this stellar cast, led by Cooper as Pat Solitano, a former teacher who does a brief stint at a mental institution and then tries desperately to reconcile with his ex-wife. Robert De Niro plays Pat’s father, a man struggling to keep his family from financial ruin and failing miserably at relating to his son. Jennifer Lawrence further complicates things when she enters the picture as Pat’s love interest with her own set of mental issues. But a lot can be forgiven when you look like that. Even Chris Tucker comes out of hiding for this one.

Ortiz (Ronnie) is one of the few people in the world who doesn’t judge Pat when he comes out of the loony bin. The moments in which Ronnie – whose life in suburbia is seemingly perfect with a house, car, job, wife (Julia Stiles) – and Pat bond are some of the movie’s most memorable ones.

If the Puerto Rican actor, 43, looks familiar it’s because he’s been steadily working in Hollywood for the last 20 years, ever since he played Al Pacino’s young cousin Guajiro in 1993’s Carlito’s Way. As artistic director and co-founder of the LAByrinth Theater Company in his hometown of New York City, Ortiz also has a long-standing love affair with the stage.

Ask Ortiz for a Pacino story and he’ll happily oblige, offering the one where he kept blinking in a scene in which he was supposed to be dead. It’s one of the movie’s first scenes and a critical one, setting the tone for one of Pacino’s best gangster flicks.

“I guess I was nervous and had had a lot of coffee, but every time we’d do the scene, [the director] Brian De Palma would yell, ‘Cut!’ says Ortiz.

“This happened so many times,” he adds, “I felt so bad and it was starting to get kind of tense because Pacino had to get on a plane to get to L.A. for the Oscars – he was twice nominated that year – and here we were, having to do this scene over and over again because of me, the new guy. After the director yells ‘Dead man blinking!’ Pacino asks everyone to leave the room except me. He sits down, tells me he’s going to have an espresso, and asks me if I want one. I’m so jittery at this point but how do you say no to Al Pacino? I don’t even remember what was said between us, if anything, but when we’re done with the espresso, he asks everyone to come back in, we do the scene, and De Palma yells, ‘That’s it, we got it!’ People start clapping and Pacino is walking out and getting all these good wishes from everyone. On his way out, Pacino jokes, ‘If I win ’em both, I ain’t coming back!’ It was one of the most generous, empathetic things an actor of his stature could have done,” says Ortiz.

I called Ortiz up while he was in Chicago, rehearsing for the play The Motherfucker With the Hat, co-starring Jimmy Smits and opening January 6, 2013, to tell us more stories.

Did you know this movie would be as special as it is when you first read the script?

No, but I never know how a movie is going to turn out, no matter how good a script is. I knew it was going to be something I had never experienced before, mainly because of David [O. Russell, the director]. He’s such a visionary, such his own person and artist, and there are few of those now. I’m so proud to be a part of this movie. I’ve had a lot of instances where I feel proud of my work but it doesn’t really get out there, or it does get out there and nobody likes it [laughs], so it’s really gratifying and humbling to hear the news that it’s being received so well.

How did you make your character, Ronnie, so relatable and so memorable?

On paper, Ronnie signifies someone who has moved on with his life and has matured in relation to Bradley’s character. So I asked David, ‘Do you think he’s happy?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, kind of.’ I could have talked myself out of a job by saying the next thing that I said, but I go, ‘Well, what if I said the opposite: what if he’s not happy? He seemingly has moved on but he’s actually stuck, and he needs as much help as Pat. What if the unhappiness is stemming out of the idea that he had of marriage and all these other expectations that follow, and he’s at a point right now where he’s just not sure what choices he really made and for what reasons.’ And David was so great – he completely went with it. A lot of directors might have said, ‘We don’t have the time to rewrite the script’ or ‘this movie is not about Ronnie,’ but he really loved the idea of Pat helping Ronnie, and that proving to everyone that he’s capable of giving back, and being helpful to someone else who’s in pain because of what he’s been through.

What was it like working with Bradley Cooper?

We kind of knew of each other in our younger years doing theater, but it was our first time working together. He wasn’t just lead actor on this; he acted like he was part of the ensemble, and he was also a producer on it. From eating with the crew to going over a scene to never being late, he was always very present. He’s definitely made me a better person because of the example that he set. I learned pretty early on that it’s really about the people that you work with. I feel like he and Robert De Niro, who’s the exact same way, are like artistic angels.

Do you think he’s going to be around as long as De Niro?

No doubt. His priorities are set in such a way that there’s no question that he’s in it for the long-haul. He has a tremendous amount of respect for acting.

You once played Willie Colon in El Cantante. What’s your favorite Fania album?

That movie was such a dream for me, it really was. I’m a huge research guy in anything that I do and so even though I was a fan of the music and I grew up with it [in Brooklyn] I didn’t really know the history of it and the impact it truly had until I was able to see a lot of that footage and read stories and just listen to so many of the songs. I had albums all over my trailer and pictures. If I had to pick a favorite album, El Malo would be one of them. That music is good old-fashioned medicine. I actually need a dose of that right now – maybe the Christmas albums.

This story was originally published on Fusion (ABC/Univision).

Fans, family and friends celebrate Jenni Rivera at her memorial service


Jenni Rivera’s fans, friends, and family bid farewell to La Diva de la Banda today from the Gibson Amphitheater in Los Angeles in a memorial service led by her brother, Rev. Pedro Rivera Jr.

The ceremony was not open to the press, only fans with tickets were able to attend, although a livestream was made available by several media outlets. Tickets, which were $1, appear to have sold out within the hour after they were made available on Tuesday. Even fans who didn’t get tickets found a place outside the theater to honor their idol, like Lisseth De Paz, 13, who watched the ceremony from a giant screen and held a Jenni Rivera poster and a white rose. “I love her,” she said. “I grew up listening to her music. My mom introduced me. I’ll always remember who she was and how she turned her stories into songs.”

Xochitl Rosas, 36, also had to watch from the outside. “I liked her trajectory, her life was meaningful to me,” she said. “Her songs gave me strength. She overcame domestic violence. It didn’t hold her back. She pushed forward. That helped me as a single mom to help my children and have them excel at anything.”

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Interview with Jenni Rivera from Sundance Film Festival 2012 (VIDEO)


Jenni Rivera was never just a singer. She was a savvy businesswoman with her own real estate company, her own line of jeans, cosmetics, fragrances, and more. Recently, she had begun to build an impressive TV resume, as producer of several reality shows on mun2, including one centered on her own life, I Love Jenni. Her next TV project was to be a scripted comedy series in development for ABC, based loosely on her life.

Film was the next frontier for Rivera, and judging by her performance in the hip-hop driven indie drama Filly Brown, there’s no telling how far she could have gone as an actress.

Edward James Olmos, who served as executive producer on the film – which was written and directed by his son Michael D. Olmos and Youssef Delara – calls Rivera’s performance “Oscar-worthy.”

Rivera is hardly recognizable in the film, having shed her usual glammed up hair and make-up for the chola-inspired look of a drug-addicted, imprisoned mother whose daughter (Gina Rodriguez) turns to rapping to help bust her out of jail.

I had the chance to interview Rivera in January during the Sundance Film Festival, where the movie premiered to critical praise. She talked about going the Mariah Carey route in Precious, and how she managed to bring her character to life. It was such an honor to meet her in person and I will always be grateful for that opportunity.

Watch the video interview on Fusion (ABC/Univision), where it was originally posted.


Tego Calderon weighs in on Puerto Rican statehood


He was never flashy, even when reggaeton exploded into the mainstream circa 2005 with Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina.” While Yankee, Don Omar, and Wisin y Yandel were basking in the spotlight, Tego Calderon stayed in the background, experimenting with a sound that was never solely reggaeton or rap. It was poetry, informed by the rhythms and circumstances of his island.

Calderon’s sense of responsibility to make music with a message was handed down. From his late father Esteban, he inherited an appreciation for the older, socially conscious salseros like Ismael Rivera, who exposed racism in Puerto Rican society. Since the early days, when he released 2004’s El Enemy de los Guasibiri up until his most recent work like “Robin Hood,” off his latest album, The Original Gallo del Pais, Calderon has tackled topics like corruption and inequality. And as Puerto Rico continues to grapple with issues like skyrocketing crime, Calderon continues to stay true to that urban vigilante persona.

At 40, Calderon continues to perform for loyal fans all throughout Latin America, dabbles in acting (Illegal TenderFast Five), and commands the respect of his peers and the music industry as a whole. The Original Gallo del Pais was nominated for a 2012 Latin Grammy in the Best Urban Album category (the award went to Don Omar).

A recent phone conversation while he was promoting his latest album reveals that these days, Calderon seems content with his life and fulfilled as an artist and a family man. Whether people buy his music or not almost doesn’t matter, because on any given day, you’ll find Tego Calderon in “El Sitio,” his home and recording studio in Santurce, P.R. – doing what he does best.

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