Twenty Years After The Sexist 1998 Interview Covering Jennifer Lopez, Journalists Still Sexualize Latinas
Women of the world have been shouting for years that men in journalism need to do a better job in how they conduct themselves while interviewing women, particularly when it comes to covering women in the limelight. In 1995, Rich Cohen conducted a profile on “Clueless” star Alicia Silverstone for Rollingstone in which he described her as a kittenish 18-year-old movie star whom lots of men want to sleep with” in his opening line. In 2015, Tom Chiarella went into detail about his struggle to avoid looking at Scarlett Johansson’s rear in an interview “I didn’t look at her ass… I don’t know that she wanted me to. Probably not. Surely not. In any case, I didn’t.”
Male journalists have failed to talk about women and give them credit for their talents and work while writing them for features. When it comes to Latinas, who in media are more sexualized and than most, it gets worse.
Here’s a look at some of the worst journalistic crimes against Latina stars committed in print.
Jennifer Lopez’s 1998 interview with Movieline in an era where no one could stop talking about her butt.superbvibez / Instagram
Anyone present and alive for the years 1998 and onwards likely already know about the media’s obsession with Jennifer Lopez and her caboose. It’s an asset that, of course, many of us have appreciated and even envied after, but the media’s focus on Jennifer Lopez’s body and sensuality had been out of control for years. Undoubtedly it was the media’s excessive coverage of her butt that created a pretty troubling trend. It’s one that can be easily seen in the opening paragraph for a profile on the star published by Movieline back in 1998.
“I find all 66 caramel-colored inches of Jennifer Lopez lying face down on a poolside chaise. Her bikini top is slightly loosened, her nether regions are towel-draped, and a masseuse is kneading oil into the precipitous peaks and valleys of her formidable body. Her skin glints as if it were flecked with 24-karat gold. I park myself on a nearby chaise, and Lopez greets me with the slow, languid smile and half-mast gaze of someone not entirely anxious to surface from a better-than-life dream. ‘Hi, Stephen,’ she says. ‘I’ll be with you in a second.’ Then, responding to the masseuse’s skillful ministrations, her lips part in sensual abandon, and she turns her head away, sending her hair cascading over the side of the chaise.”
Yes, ICK. But the interview get’s worse.
“Issuing one last, voluptuous “Mmmm,” she rises slowly from her chaise, grins at me, adjusts her bikini top, tightens the towel around her midsection, rakes her fingers through her hair, and slides onto an adjacent lounge chair for our chat.”
The interview conducted by a woman that crept on Sofia Vergara and othered her.theacademyawards.oscars / Instagram
As an actress, Sofia Vergara often creates controversy over the Latinas she decides to play on screen. In a strongly worded article reflecting Colombiana’s 2014 stint at the Emmy Awards, Latino Rebels called the Latina a “minstrel on a pedestal.” Still, as a woman with a career, who has every right in the world to portray whatever characters she wants to, Vergara is arguably one of today’s most consistently sexualized actresses in Hollywood when she’s on the job. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that she’s Latina. This unbearable interview between Bill Cosby and Vergara in which the now disgraced comedian tells her “men look at you, and they only think of sin,” acts as one of many bullet points of proof. In a profile headlined “Sofia Vergara: Dangerous Curves” featuring the actress, Vanity Fair commits some similar offensives.
“Sofía Vergara is hubba-hubba incarnate. She walks into a room, and all of a sudden, heads are on swivels, and jaws are on floors, tongues unrolling from mouths like so many pink red carpets.” The reporter, Vicki Woods writes. “There’s something outrageous about her good looks. Something exaggerated, gaudy, blatant, preposterous. Something borderline indecent even.”
Selena Gomez’s interview infantilized her in one of the worst of ways.Vogue / Instagram
Last year digital media sites erupted in frustration when Selena Gomez’s Vogue cover story finally hit stands. Rob Haskell described the actress as “doll-like and startled in pictures” and royally creeped us all out with this description of his interview with Gomez who agreed to do it while cooking.
“As I slip an apron over her mane of chocolate-brown hair, for which Pantene has paid her millions, and tie it around her tiny waist, I wonder whether her legions have felt for years the same sharp pang of protectiveness that I’m feeling at present.”
The time LA Weekly didn’t even try to hide its shame in its sexualization of Sky Ferreira.@skyferreira / Instagram
In 2016, LA Weekly was forced to issue a public apology after publishing a feature story on the singer of Brazilian and Portuguese descent that solely focused on her “sex appeal.” The article, written with the headline “Sky Ferreira’s Sex Appeal Is What Pop Music Needs Right Now,” described the singer as a “turbo-charged Italian sports car” and also touched on her “killer tits” at length.
“Ferreira looks like a dirtier Madonna: square jaw, strong eyebrows, lulled green eyes, crucifix, bleached blond hair, translucently pale skin and killer tits,” music columnist Art Tavana wrote in the article. “Even in the candid photo of her nude in the shower, [the cover of Ferreira’s latest album, Night Time, My Time] soaking wet, she looks natural, like she’s shooting a home video, rather than being photographed by a creeper. She looks like a more cherubic Sharon Stone, icy but also sweet, like a freshly licked lollipop.”
Justifiably, Ferreira’s response to the article that only reflected on her talent as an artist at the very end, was of complete outrage. ‘I’m not a think piece,’ she wrote on Twitter. ‘I’m not a fucking example. I’m glad that this is making people think & conversation is happening.”
Maybe next time, though, writers and editors could just do more to avoid publishing such sexist snark in the first place.
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