The Beatdown

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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Soledad O’Brien Mourns Her Cuban Mom’s Death Just 40 Days After Her Father Passes Away


Soledad O’Brien Mourns Her Cuban Mom’s Death Just 40 Days After Her Father Passes Away

It’s been a difficult 2019 for Soledad O’Brien. On Monday, the former CNN anchor announced that her Cuban-born mother, Estela, had passed away, just 40 days after her father, Edward, died.

“She was a pretty remarkable lady,” the Afro-Latina journalist wrote on Twitter about her late mother along with a photo of her living in Cuba in the 1930s.

In the tweet, O’Brien, who is of Cuban and Irish descent, notes that her mother was an immigrant from the Caribbean country and that she once lived with the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore while she was in college.

“She always was sad about leaving Cuba — but hated how Castro had destroyed her country. She went back once to visit — and said — I’ll never go back again,” she said of Estela alongside a photo of her taken in the 1940s.

In the thread announcing both her parents’ passing, she stated that her mother grew up poor, but was able to move to the United States to receive an education. While in Maryland, she met Edward. At the time they fell in love, mixed-race marriages were outlawed.

“The year their sixth child (my little brother) was born, the US Supreme Court would overturn the ban on interracial marriage,” she said, sharing a photo of her parents together.

O’Brien, who currently anchors a weekly public-affairs talk show called Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien and is the founder and chairwoman of Starfish Media Group, a multi-platform media production, referred to her mother as “a pretty remarkable lady,” noting her accomplishments, like being fluent in three languages — Spanish, English and French — becoming an educator and sending all six of her children to college, with some also attending grad school.

While honoring her mother, O’Brien said she hoped all working women had “access to her wisdom.” The journalist then shared some of the best advice her late mother had once given her: “Everyone gets the same 24 hours. Decide how you’ll spend yours;” “Take 24 hours to sit in bed and cry … then stop complaining and make a list and plan your comeback;” “Keep ten dollars in your bra so you can leave when you want;” “People are basically full of s—, stop taking their stupidity to heart;” and lastly, “You never stop fighting for the important stuff.”

Estela’s insightful guidance has undoubtedly served in shaping her own brilliant and sensational daughter.

Read: Read Latina: 7 Cubana Writers Conveniently Left Off Your High School Required Reading Lists

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Yalitza Aparicio Brought Her Mother To The Oscars And Other Incredible Things Latinas Did Last Night


Yalitza Aparicio Brought Her Mother To The Oscars And Other Incredible Things Latinas Did Last Night

The 91st Annual Academy Awards took place Sunday night and this year, it was a night full of glitz, glamour, and, most surprisingly, a lot of Spanish language! (Diego Luna, Javier Bardem, Alfonso Cuarón, and Guillermo del Toro all spoke Spanish during their speeches.)

Heading into the night, many viewed “Roma”, Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón’s artful and semi-autobiographic film, as the Best Picture front-runner and indeed, the film racked up three Oscars. But ultimately, “Roma” lost the Best Picture award to Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book.”

Although The Oscars still woefully under-represent Latinas in almost every category, Netflix’s critical darling, ‘Roma,” has provided a major spotlight for Latinx talent and stories, employing a largely Latinx cast and crew in its production.

Latinos Win Big

Sunday night was a big night for the Latinx community, with Spanish-language film “Roma” amassing three Oscar wins out of a total of 10 nominations. “Roma” wasn’t the only winner for the Latinx community though: Cuban-American director Phil Lord’s animated feature “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” won for Best Animated Film. All in all, Latinos walked away with Oscars for Foreign Language Film, Cinematography, Directing, and Animated Film.

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, won the Best Director statue for “Roma”, marking the second year in a row that a Latino has won the award after Guillermo del Toro won last year. Cuarón also won the award for Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film–marking the first time Mexico has landed the award out of a total of ten nominations.

Cuarón began his impassioned acceptance speech Best Director first by thanking “Roma”‘s leading ladies, Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira. He then went on to thank the Academy for “recognizing a film centering around an indigenous woman–a character who has historically been relegated to the background in cinema”.

In another win for the Latinx community, “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” up-ended animation titan Disney to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. “Into the Spiderverse” revolves around the story of an Afro-Latino teenager moonlighting as Spiderman who discovers there are multiple versions of Spiderman in parallel universes.

Latino Director Phil Lord touched on the importance of representation in his acceptance speech, saying: “When we hear that a child turns to their parent and says, “[Spiderman] looks like me’ or ‘He speaks Spanish like us’, we feel like we already won”.

Latina Nominees Break New Ground

Most of the Latinx nominees for the night consisted of “Roma”‘s cast and crew, including Mexican actress Marina de Tavira for Best Supporting Actress, Yalitza Aparicio for Best Leading Actress, producer Gabriela Rodriguez for Best Picture, and set decorator Barbra Enriquez for Achievement in set design.

Yalitza Aparicio’s nomination, especially, was notable, as it was the first time in the Academy’s 90-year history that an Indigenous woman was nominated for Best Actress in a Lead Role.

Although these Latinas didn’t walk away with a gold statue, their presence alone was encouraging enough for the historically under-represented Latinx community.

“It’s possible to speak Spanish at the Oscars now”

The winners and nominees weren’t the only Latinos making a splash at this year’s Academy Awards, however. Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem veered into political territory when he presented the award for Best Foreign Language film.

In Spanish, he stated: “There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity and talent,” which many interpreted as a dig aimed at President Trump.

Actor Diego Luna began his introduction of “Roma” by stating, in Spanish:
“Ya se puede hablar español en los Oscars. Ya nos abrieron la puerta y no nos vamos a ir”. Translation: “It’s possible to speak Spanish at the Oscars now. They finally opened the door for us, and we’re not going anywhere.”

Spanish-American Chef José Andrés joined Luna in introducing “Roma”and praised the film for shining a spotlight on “all the invisible people in our lives–immigrants and women–who move humanity forward”.

As usual, Latina Twitter users had a lot to say about Hollywood’s biggest night.

Never one to beat around the bush, political commentator Ana Navarro remarked on the refreshing amount of diversity displayed onstage this year.

Other Latinas gave Alfonso Cuarón props for acknowledging domestic workers, a class of women that Hollywood often ignores:

Nuanced stories centered on domestic workers are few and far between in Hollywood.

This Latina expressed excitement at the novelty of a film featuring an Afro-Latino characters winning Best Animated Film:

Just the phrase “#WeSeeYou” says all that needs to be said about the importance of representation.

Some Latinas expressed disappointment that “Roma” was relegated to the “Foreign Film” category when its story transcended such labels:

Some members of the Latinx community were frustrated that “Roma” wasn’t awarded the Best Picture award.

Many Latinas were here for Javier Bardem condemning border walls:

He was one of the few actors of the night who dared to make a political statement–and in Spanish, no less!

And of course, Yalitza made us all fall in love with her more when she brought her mom.

The Mexican actress didn’t take home an Oscar last night, but there’s no doubting that her presence in Hollywood has changed the future of its landscape. Last night Mexican-American fans of the newcomer gushed about Aparicio’s role in bucking the light-skinned Latina stereotype that has so long been favored in Spanish-language films and TV shows.

Also, her appearance at the Oscars couldn’t have been more defining. After spending awards season turning heads in a series of dresses by Alberta Ferretti, Miu Miu and Prada, Aparicio took to the red carpet a pale tulle custom Rodarte gown designed specifically for her, the actress stepped out onto the red carpet with her mother at her side.

And finally, Latinas everywhere expressed their joy at hearing Spanish proudly spoken at the Oscars

The importance of normalizing Spanish’s presence in day to day life cannot be overstated–especially during a time when many Latinas are afraid to speak Spanish in public.

As usual, the Oscars were a night to remember. We hope that the Academy continues to support actors, producers and filmmakers of Latinx descent into the future.

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