This week Catalina Ruiz-Navarro, a member of the Mexican feminist collective Estereotipas, ripped open an old, cruddy, and ugly scab in the Latin American psyche. She did so by publishing a picture of Alejandra Guzmán and Gloria Trevi, two Mexican popstars who are currently on a joint tour, and adding the following caption: “Together they’re the most feminist and encouraging thing that’s happened this year. Queens, goddesses, humans, everything.”
Trevi, 49, served jail time almost 20 years ago after being accused of child trafficking, among other crimes, so a lot of people are understandably upset about crowning the “Pelo suelto” singer a feminist, even if her song is considered a groundbreaking feminist song.
For the uninitiated, there’s a lot of history to unpack here, but let’s start with Alejandra Guzmán, who’s also 49. Ever since she launched her pop-rock career in the late ‘80s, Alejandra has been considered a wildchild. But for all her sexy videos and scandalous, floor-rolling performances, “La Guzmán” has been relatively harmless, is well-liked, and – trivia time – was born from artistic royalty. Her mother, Silvia Pinal, is an accomplished actress, and her father, Enrique Guzmán, used to be the Justin Bieber of the ‘50s in Latin America. I’m bringing up the latter because, sadly, we’re all about lineage in Latin America.
So Alejandra can proudly wear a feminist tiara, if she pleases, and I doubt many would contest her right to do so. Maybe not because she’s overtly radical, but definitely because she’s endured the youth-obsessed, misogynist music industry, and that’s no easy task.
Gloria Trevi, on the other hand, used to be on another level. In the mid-’90s, at the peak of her career, Inside Edition ran a segment on the dazzling regiomontana, calling her “the Mexican Madonna.” But not without caution:
“She may deserve an R rating, because sometimes Gloria makes the real Madonna look shy.”
She was not the Mexican Madonna, she was Gloria Trevi, but it’s easy to see why the American show made the comparison. Back then, both women were considered rebellious, unabashedly sexual, became idols to millions of girls, and were the most-popular popstars within their demographic.
Madonna’s numbers obviously eclipsed Trevi’s, but in Latin America Gloria had little to no competition. Her contemporaries, such as Thalía, Paulina Rubio, and even Alejandra Guzmán, were prissy Catholic schoolgirls when compared to Gloria’s punk rock looks and attitude. Her music didn’t actually sound punk rock, per se, and that can be traced back to Sergio Andrade, her producer, manager, and soon-to-be worst nightmare. Andrade, a middle-aged man with mostly blues and oddball synthpop influences, was in fact a talented songwriter, but he didn’t have his ear on the ground when it came to musical trends.
None of that mattered much, really, since the Thalías, Paulinas and Alejandras of the world mostly sang about conventional relationships with men. Gloria, on the other hand, screamed about HIV, teenage pregnancy, dirty politics, and the patriarchy. Once on Televisa, Mexico’s most-viewed, most-conservative TV station, Trevi famously got into a tiff with Verónica Castro, back then the most-popular TV host, by calmly defending prostitution. The singer was still a teenager and her politics were, to say the least, extremely liberal for the time and the place.
So if Alejandra had the right to wear a feminist tiara, in the mid ’90s Gloria made herself the undisputed heir of the feminist crown. That is, until shit hit the fan, and then la más turbada que nunca was revealed to be a fraud, a criminal, or a victim, depending on your personal politics.
In the mid to late ’90s, the Monterrey-native, along with Andrade, her manager-turned-husband, both stood accused of many disturbing charges: child trafficking, molestation, and running a sex ring, among other illicit crimes. Gloria, Sergio, and a harem of underage girls fugitives of the law. In early 2000 they were imprisoned in Brazil, where Trevi became pregnant in an all-female prison. (Christopher McDougall’s Girl Trouble is highly-recommended reading, if care to dig deep into the best rock n’ roll biographies in existence.)
The underage abductees were handed over to their families and, after the ordeal, they revealed the various abuses they’d suffered at the hands of Andrade. Some of the teenagers, working as Gloria’s backup dancers and singers, accused the superstar of being complicit. Years later, the singer wrote a tell-all book and called her accusers “liars” and “greedy.” Gloria claimed to be just as much as a victim as the rest of her entourage.
While Andrade was left behind, the superstar was eventually extradited to Mexico, acquitted, and released in September of 2004. To the shock, glee, and dismay of many, Trevi managed to rebuild her career, and is still one of the best-selling female popstars in Latin America. Perhaps even more shocking, Sergio Andrade was quietly released from jail in 2007 after also being extradited to Mexico. The Mexican media, which for years had whipped its consumers into a frenzy with constant coverage of case, barely mentioned Andrade’s suspicious release.
This incredible saga happened almost 20 years ago, yet younger generations seem to give little thought to Gloria’s dark ordeal. But, as evidenced by the reactions to Catalina Ruiz-Navarro’s picture, not everybody has forgiven the popstar.
Is Gloria truly beyond redemption? Two arguments have sprung up when it comes to defending – and demonizing – the divisive singer.
The most popular pro-Trevi argument generally boils down to the fact that she herself was a barely a teenager when she was thrown into the wolf’s den. Tamara de Anda, a Twitter personality and self-proclaimed feminist, told Verne the following:
“It’s not like she used to be a human rights activist and suddenly decided, with a clear conscience, to start kidnapping girls. She never had the tools. Like in any abusive relationship, it’s easy to say ‘Why didn’t she get out? Why did she let it happen?’”
But the anti-Gloria camp is not ready to give the could-have-been-the-most-feminist-Mexican-singer-ever a pass. Diana Hoyos, another Twitter user, had a hot take on the matter:
“In a world where women such as Gloria Steinem are still alive, you peddle these pseudo ‘artists’ as feminist icons? One used to manage a child traffick ring, and the other has more oil in her body than a cooking pan from a cheap restaurant. You need to read up, little lady”.
“I get no hope from perfect women. I get hope from fallen, beaten women who find a way to move forward despite their reputation,” said Catalina in a video where she defended her argument. Gloria Trevi retweeted Catalina’s video before expressing her own take:
“A real woman backs up her words, bases herself on facts, and criticisms do not shake her conviction. Ignorance gives certainty to those who criticize us.”
— Catalinapordiós (@catalinapordios) November 23, 2017
Here’s my personal take: Before she was busted for all sorts of unsavory accusations, Gloria’s music was incredibly positive for a group of highly-repressed women. Spanish-speaking teens from Latin American didn’t always have access to other progressive musicians, such as Madonna, or Bikini Kill. Gloria sung in Spanish, did not come from artistic royalty or money, which made her accessible, and was genuinely creative (She wrote her own lyrics, made her own outfits). Trevi also made it her business to constantly bust conservative balls, which was extremely risky when compared to her counterparts.
Then she fell, and she fell really hard. Considering Gloria was just a kid when she got into the business, it’s not hard to believe she was genuinely gaslighted. She lived a very distorted reality, and was ultimately too deep in the hole to see any sort of guiding light. Under those conditions, no one can be expected to think or act rationally.
One can’t ignore there were a lot of victims, either. To me, however, one of the most disappointing aspects of Gloria Trevi’s career has to do with her tepid comeback. The Mexican masses essentially awarded her a second chance, which is no small feat for such a conservative country, but Trevi’s new tunes lazily oscillate between generic diva club music, and awkward self-referential power ballads, songs which are not only of character for somebody who used write dark tunes about possessed dolls, but just plain bad.
But considering the emotional strain Trevi went through, it may be unrealistic to expect her to retain the edginess, nonconformity, and uniqueness she was beloved for. Gloria paid a heavy price for being outspoken, and pulling her old ‘90s antics after being released jail, such as pouring Cokes down her undies and stripping men, her chance for redemption would have been immediately revoked. So Trevi is just a run-of-the-mill popstar now, the kind she used to make fun of, and it’s a little disappointing.
I think it’s fair to say that being a working female musician – especially one who’s Latina, close to her fifties, and is capable of selling out Time Square while only singing in Spanish – can make you highly admired among other people, specifically other women that perhaps have certain career aspirations that don’t involve being stay-at-home baby factories.
Trevi’s incredible predicament won’t be forgotten any time soon, and it shouldn’t be. It’s a sobering reminder that opportunistic assholes are always looking exercise their, to quote Divine, “assholism.” And, sure, there will always be more feminist glory in being Gloria Steinem than Gloria Trevi, but the empowerment la Trevi has given – and continues to give, even in a diluted form – to other women can never be denied.
María Rubio was so good as Catalina Creel, an iconic telenovela villain, the role ruined her career
According to sources on Twitter, and also TvNotas, the holy bible of Mexican gossip, María Rubio, the legendary actress best known for her role as Catalina Creel de Larios in Cuna de lobos, has passed away. She was 83 years old.
Thanks to her role as Soraya Montenegro in María la del Barrio, Itati Cantoral has been dominating the internet with an insane amount of memes, gifs, and even a House of Cards promo special. Itati blew up in the mid ’90s, when older millennials were still teens, and she’s that generation’s go-to character when it comes to Mexican telenovela villains.
Yes, Cantoral was great as Soraya, but the top dog in the telenovela villain game was — and has always been — María Rubio. The Tijuana-born actress was so good in Cuna de lobos that, according to an interview she did with Cristina Saralegui, the role ruined her career:
“[Catalina Creel] was a difficult, beloved character. I enjoyed playing her, but she also hurt me a lot. People completely forgot about María Rubio and now it seems that, after 40 years of being an actress, I’ve only done Catalina Creel.”
Catalina, a murderous matriarch, was known for having some of the best one-liners in telenovela history. But in the same interview with Saralegui, which was filmed over 20 years ago, María proved to be just as cunning and smart as her infamous character, but also incredibly funny:
“[Although I played a villain], I’ve received nothing but compliments, love, and admiration. Never aggression. I think viewers do attack the bad ones — bad actresses, that is.”
If you understand Spanish, check out the hilarious interview below. Watch María viciously own everyone in a panel of full of young telenovela villains:
Traumatic advice from aunt Rosa: “Don’t torture your Care Bear, Mijo. Or else.”
I was 6 years old when I yelled at Tugs, my Care Bear. I put him in time-out for not agreeing to the rules of an imaginary game I had just created.
I built a little time-out fortress for him to stay in while I played with my other toys. Coincidentally my tía Rosa was visiting that day. I urged her to see all my toys when she came into the house. I also explained to her that Tugs was in time-out, to which she replied in shock, “Mijo, mira, You have to be nice to your toys.”
I replied, “Tía, I am nice to my toys, but I’m teaching him a lesson.”
She contested nervously, “No, Mijo, you have to be nice to your toys or they might not be nice to you.”
I wasn’t following her logic.
“Mijo, if you’re not nice to your toys, then at night time they might wake up and crawl into your bed to cut your toes with tiny razors,” she said slowly while staring at my imprisoned Care Bear.
“What?!” I whispered to her while looking at Tugs from the corner of my eye.
“Yes, your toys might do very bad things to you if you don’t treat them good.”
I stared at her in disbelief.
She stood up and walked towards the doorway.
“Mijo, I brought you some tortillas. Come in the kitchen and let’s warm them up,” Rosa said casually.
From then on, Tugs sat on a tufted pillow on my dresser while I slept in velcro shoes for the next year. Growing up in my Mexican-American family meant that everything was possibly alive and watching you.