Actress Spotlight: Aubrey Plaza

Aubrey-Plaza-Life-After-Beth-Interview

Photo Credit: Popsugar.com

Ever since the turn of the century, deadpan has been the most popular comedic device in critically acclaimed movies and television shows. (Deadpan is a comedic strategy in which an actor delivers a joke in the most emotionless way. Also known as dry humor or dry wit.) There is one half-Latina actress that is perfecting the art of deadpan, mostly known for her work as the bad-mannered intern April Ludgate in Parks and Recreation, Aubrey Plaza. She has become one of the internet’s most loved comedians.

This comedian was born on June 26, 1984, in the state of Delaware. Her father is Puerto Rican and her mother is of Irish-English descent. She can speak Spanish and has family living in Puerto Rico. Coming from Delaware/Catholic roots, she has described her experience as the only ethnically diverse student in her class. She even won the “Hispanic Teenager of the Year” award.

After high school, Aubrey Plaza attended the Tisch School of Arts in New York and majored in film and television production. While in college, she took improvisational classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, which was ironically founded by her future co-star Amy Poehler. After graduating, Aubrey did a lot internships, including the prestigious NBC page internship. (Later reprising the role for a small cameo in 30 Rock.)

She got her big break by posting funny videos of herself with her friends on the internet. Eventually she was discovered by the director of Freaks and Geeks and Anchorman, Judd Apatow. He cast Aubrey as an up-and-coming stand up comedian in the 2009 dramedy Funny People. From there followed subsequent roles in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Parks and Recreation.

 

Aubrey Plaza’s part on Parks and Recreation was specially crafted to fit her “weirdness”. In six years and seven seasons, April Ludgate’s role as an uninterested intern dramatically blossomed into one of an ambitious young woman with her witty one-liners, intense observations, and the help of the Parks and Recreation Department from Pawnee, Indiana. Within the early seasons of the show, Aubrey Plaza, got to show off her Spanish-speaking skills. In the “Sister City” episode of Season two, April Ludgate’s explained her reason for knowing Spanish and “being so lively and colorful” was because she is Puerto Rican on her mother’s side. Aubrey Plaza’s role on Parks and Recreation has increased the amount of Latina representation in comedy as it is seen on the FOX show, Brooklyn Nine Nine.

In between seasons of her Parks and Rec, Aubrey Plaza has acted in a couple independent movies. Her most critically acclaimed role being that of the disillusioned intern, Darius Britt, in Safety Not Guaranteed. Other independent movies that she has starred in include Life After Beth, About Alex, and The To Do List.

Aubrey Plaza is loved by the internet. Her attitude and roles have let others to identify with her personality. She has also been known to gracefully embrace her status as “internet royalty” by bringing to life some of the internet’s favorites. For example, she collaborated with College Humor to create a fake live action trailer follow-up to the 1990s animated television show Daria in “Daria: The Movie”. In addition, Plaza was chosen to voice the internet meme’s Grumpy Cat in the 2014 Lifetime movie, “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas”.

Latinas in Brooklyn Nine Nine

Screen-Shot-2014-08-16-at-5.45.26-pm-1There has not been a large variety of leading Latinas in television shows. If a show has a Latina actress, one assumes she is there for diversity instead of representation. And shows having two leading Latina actresses are even more rarer. Suddenly in the fall of 2013, FOX unveiled its new comedy about the crazy antics of police detectives working for a fictional Brooklyn Precinct, Brooklyn Nine Nine. Created by two writers who had previously worked for The Office and Parks and Recreation, Dan Goor and Michael Shur. Brooklyn Nine Nine has won two Golden Globes so far due to its witty script, character development, and all star cast. The cast has a variety of actors with different ethnic and career backgrounds. Including comedy veterans like Andy Samberg, Chelsea Peretti, Joe Lo Truglio, and Terry Crews or dramatic actors like Andre Braugher. However, Brooklyn Nine Nine‘s most representational casting choice came when they cast two up-and-coming Latina actresses, Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz.

Melissa Fumero, or formerly known as Melissa Gallo, was born on August 19, 1982 in New Jersey to Cuban parents. Her parents are first generation Cuban immigrants. She was formally trained to become an actress, receiving her Bachelors degree in Drama from New York University in 2003. Fumero is mostly known for her role of “Adriana Cramer” in the Soap Opera One Life to Live from 2004-2011. While working for the soap opera she met David Fumero whom Melissa Fumero married in 2007. She also has had a small supporting role in Gossip Girl. It wasn’t until 2013 when she proved that her acting range was not solely dramatic.

 Stephanie Beatriz was born on February 10, 1981, in Argentina to a Bolivian-American mother and a Columbian-American father. Even though she has a large variety of Latino roots in her, she was raised in Webster, Texas. She graduated from Stephens College in 2002. It wasn’t until 2010 when she got her big break with a small role in the independent movie “Short Term 12”. From there she was attained a small role in Modern Family and eventually was able to get her current role as the short-tempered yet tough Rosa Diaz in Brooklyn Nine Nine.

In an interview with Front Row Live Entertainment, Stephanie Beatriz was asked about what it feels to be a successful Latina actress within Brooklyn Nine Nine. She exclaimed. “I’m not doing an accent of any kind, I’m playing this great strong woman character, and there is another Latina on the show too. It’s not just one of us. That felt like a success to me.”

Remembering El Chavo Del Ocho

It’s difficult trying to describe the nostalgic bliss that comes whenever I hear the “El Chavo’s” theme song on TV. The appropriately titled song, “The Elephant Never Forgets” by Jean Jacques Perrey, can take whoever grew up with the series back to their childhood. Forty years after El Chavo Del Ocho’s inception, it continues to warm the hearts of Spanish-speakers. Following the recent death of Roberto Gómez Bolaños, the creator of El Chavo Del Ocho, we decided to review the different aspects that make this show so magical.

The History of the Show:

El Chavo Del Ocho was a Televisa-produced thirty minute sitcom that aired from 1973-1980. The show featured the antics of the orphan El Chavo and company in their fictional home of the “vecendida,” which was a low-income housing unit. El Chavo was an eight-year-old boy that liked to hang out inside a barrel. Around him, the characters would have their storylines. The composition of the El Chavo Del Ocho differed from other family-oriented shows because the children were impersonated by adults. Regardless of acting choices, the actors were wonderfully over the top. The kids would throw throw tantrums, act out, act envious, etc.. The adults would fall in love, teach the children a lesson, or annoy the children.

The character “El Chavo” was first introduced in 1971 on The Chespirito Show. The series and character was created by Roberto Gómez Bolaños (A.K.A. “Chespirito”). Even though the other characters that Chespirito had created were popular, the first sketch that featured El Chavo, La Chilindrina, and Don Ramón was revolutionary. The sketch used a low-income fictional housing unit, the vecendidad, as its stage. This scene resonated more with underprivileged families than the popular soap-operas of the day did because soap operas were often portrayed Anglo-Saxon actors whose struggles were solely exclusive to the upper class.

When Bolaños was offered the chance to introduce “El Chavo” as a thirty-minute television show to the public in 1973, he ended his variety show. El Chavo Del Ocho was then made into the well-known sitcom. From there Chespirito (as El Chavo) produced the show’s content alongside Florinda Diaz (Doña Florinda), Ramón Valdés (Don Ramón), Carlos Villagrán (Quico), María Antonieta de las Nieves (La Chilindrina), Rubén Aguirre (Señor Jirafeles), Édgar Viva (El Señor Barrage), and Angelines Fernández (Doña Clotilde).

Over the course of seven years, eight seasons, and two hundred and ninety episodes El Chavo Del Ocho ended it’s television run. However it to continued to exist within Latino popular culture by syndication, that means it was put on reruns. The show has been syndicated since 1992 and according to Forbes Magazine the show has earned an estimated $1.7 Billion in syndication fees as of 2012.

Animated for a New Generation:

El Chavo Del Ocho’s magic was also brought into the new millennial by it’s animated spin-off, El Chavo Animado. The show started in 2006 and has produced seven seasons and 139 episodes. It featured all the characters animated, with the exception of la Chilindrina. The reason for this is that María Antonieta de las Nieves, the actress who portrayed the character, believed that she had a legal claim to the character. Since this dispute couldn’t be settled, Chespirito replaced her with Popis, Quico’s cousin who is portrayed by Florida Díaz.

There are many fans of El Chavo Del Ocho throughout the world. It was a large hit within the Spanish-speaking countries from Latin America, South America, Mexico, Spain, and some parts of the United States with predominately Hispanic roots.

Growing Up with El Chavo:

Even though I haven’t taken the time to watch an episode of El Chavo Del Ocho recently, I can bust out the lyrics to “Que. Bonita Vecindad” on cue. This show has had a large effect on me while growing up. I used to try to imitate Quico’s or the Chilindrina’s brattiness just for fun. That is what happens when you’re raised in a Mexican-American household in the 1990s. My first language was Spanish. I watched dubbed versions of cartoons in Spanish. El Chavo Del Ocho was one of the few shows that I watched that was made for the language that I was used to. It was also the first show that made me interested in satire.

It’s crazy that even though I was born in 1995, fifteen years after the show had ended, reruns of the show caused me to have a similar connection that my parents had with the show. I asked my mom to comment on the show’s effect on her life and she said this.

“I was raised with this show as it was going on. There have been people in my life whom I’ve related to Don Ramón, or Quico. When I was ten, I dressed up as la Chilindrina, and won the best costume award. This show is loved in Mexico. It might be called the Mexican-version of The Brady Bunch except that it is still applicable to other Spanish-speaking generations.

El Chavo Del Ocho is one of the most wonderful shows of all time. Regardless of generational gaps, Spanish-speakers continue to love this show by it’s running gags, quirky characters, and emotional stories. It’s a shame that Roberto Gómez Bolaños passed away on November 28, 2014, at the age of 85. His art as a comedian influenced many generations of Spanish-speaking individuals. When it was first shown, this show practically raised my parents. Through syndication, people like me got to experience the magic for themselves. And, through creation of the animated version of the show these characters will continue to amuse more generations of Latinos. El Chavo Del Ocho will always be able to can make us feel like kids again.

Latina Authors You Should Know About

Julia de Burgos was a Puerto Rican poet who lived from February 17, 1914 to July 6, 1953. In addition to being a poet she was an advocate of Puerto Rico Independence and a civil rights activist for women and Afro-Caribbean writers. A celebrated poet, her most famous poem was “El Río Grande de Loíza” in where she personifies the river as a liberator. Julia de Burgos even had a position of power as the Secretary General of the Daughters of Liberty within the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.

 

Pat Mora is a writer of poetry, nonfiction and children’s books and an advocate of childhood literacy in Spanish speaking communities. She was born in January 19, 1942 in El Paso, TX. She got a a Master of Arts from The University of Texas at El Paso and has obtained two Honorary Doctorates from North Carolina State University and the University of Buffalo. Her works are often themed at addressing Mexican American border relations.

 

Julia Alvarez is a Dominican-American writer who has received critical acclaim by her memoire book, “How the García Girls Lost their Accents” (1991). She was born in New York on March 27, 1950, however she was raised in Dominican Republic for the first ten years of her life. She came from a wealthy family and was forced to relocate when her family participated in a failed attempt to overthrow the dictator Rafael Trujillo. She received her Masters from Syracuse University in 1975. Her writing style includes a hybrid of English and Spanish words and her literary works are themed of assimilation and incorporation. For this she is highly regarded as one of the most important Latina writers from the 20th century.

 

Sandra Cisneros is a Mexican-American writer who is mostly known for her critically acclaimed coming-of-age novel, “The House on Mango Street” (1984). She was born on December 20, 1964 in Chicago, Illinois. While growing up, her family kept close transnational ties with family members from Mexico, for this reason she always found it hard to assimilate or to connect with one sole culture. She received her Bachelors from Loyola University in 1976 and her Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa in 1978. Her books have helped young Mexican-Americans find the best cultural identification in a world that only allows them to pick one.

 

Isabel Allende is a Chilean-American novelist and short-story writer who is well-known for her magic-realist themed books like “The House of the Spirits” (1982) and “City of Beasts” (2002). She was born on August 2, 1942 in Lima, Peru to Chilean parents. Her father was at the time of her birth the second Secretary of the Chilean Embassy. When she was three, her father was kidnapped. Her mother then moved Allende’s siblings and her to Santiago, Chile. Her mother then remarried a future Chilean ambassador of Argentina. Isabel Allende was a well-read woman who knew how to speak English and Spanish. She married young and had two children. Isabel Allende’s daughter passed away in 1992 due to rare enzyme disorder. She wrote her heartbreaking narrative “Paula” in her daughter’s honor.

 

Gabriela Mistral was a Chilean poet, diplomat, educator and feminist. She was born Lucila Godoy Alcayaga on April 7, 1889. She was raised in a small and poor Andean village in Montegrande, and was taught at school by her oldest sister. After the formal education was completely she was allowed to become a teacher in 1900. At fifteen years old, she fell in love with a railway worker who later killed himself. This affected the nature of her poetry for the rest of her life. She climbed up the latter as an educator and poet and in 1921, she defeated the incumbent of the Radical Party, Josefina Dey del Castillo. Mistral was then named Director of Santiago’s Liceo. In addition to her time in public service she wrote two Poetry anthologies. She was the first Latin-American and fifth woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Gabriela Mistral passed away in January 10, 1957.

 

Denise Chavez is an Mexican-American playwright. She was born on November 8, 1953 in Las Cruces, NM. She received her Bachelors from New Mexico State University and Masters of Fine Arts from Trinity University. Her most notable play is Novitiates (1971). Denise Chavez received the Rockefeller Playwright Fellowship in 1985.

 

Ana Castillo is a Chicana writer. She was born to Mexican-American parents on June 15, 1953 in Chicago, Illinois. Her works often depict Socio-Political commentary on race and gender. Ana Castillo’s first book “The Mixquiahuala Letters”, received critical acclaim with a Carl Sandburg Award and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in fiction and poetry.

 

Esmeralda Santiago is a Puerto Rican novelist, activist, and former actress. She was born on May 17, 1948 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Esmeralda Santiago’s book “When I was Puerto Rican” (1993) which detailed her home life in Puerto Rico.

Latinas in Government & Law

March is Women’s History Month. sonia-sotomayorTo celebrate, Latinitas has decided to feature the wonderful and revolutionary women in history who have increased the representation of Latinas in government, politics and law.

Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina Justice appointed to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. She was born on June 25, 1954 in Bronx, New York. She is a descendent of Puerto Rican parents. She graduated summa com laude from Princeton University in 1976. She  went to Yale Law School where she attained her J.D. in 1979. Aside from working as an Assistant to the Attorney General, she was an avid participant for fundraising for funds that benefited the Puerto Rican society in New York. From 1992-1998, she served as a Federal Judge for the Southern District of New York. In 1998, she got promoted to as Court of Appeals Judge for the Second Circuit. That was until 2009, when President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court Justice for the United States. From there, Congress confirmed the president’s request at a  vote of 68–31.

Hilda Solis
Hilda Solis is a politician who has membership in the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. She was born on October 20, 1957, in Los Angeles, California to a Nicaraguan mother and a Mexican father. She obtained her Bachelors of Arts in Political Science from the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. Solis later received her Masters of Public Administration from the University of Southern California. She kept on climbing up the political later until in 2000 Hilda Solis defeated the Democratic incumbent and she won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is the first Latina to have ever serve for the U.S. Senate. From 2009-2013 she was the United States Secretary of Labor, meaning that she took care of any laws involving worker unions.

Linda Chavez-Thompson
Linda Chavez-Thompson is an Mexican-American radio personality and commentator. She was born on June 17, 1947 to American parents. She is a descendant of Mexican immigrants who had moved to New Mexico in the 17th century. In 1975, she was employed as an editor for the publications of one of the largest Education Unions in the United States, “American Federation of Teachers”. Chavez is a Republican and during President Ronald Reagan’s administration she became the highest-ranking woman serving as Staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. During George W. H. Bush’s administration, she became the first Latina to ever be nominated to the United States Cabinet as the Secretary of Labor. After her time as a politician, she has become a FOX News analyst.