By Kathryn Doorey
“Intro to Feminism” students were treated to a guest speaker Oct. 24: Josefina Lopez, who co-wrote the 2002 indie film “Real Women Have Curves.”
An artist, lecturer and advocate for women’s rights — particularly Latinas’ — Lopez first wrote “Curves” as a play at the age of 19. Her plays have inspired over 80 productions throughout the United States, but the 2002 film, starring “Ugly Betty’s” America Ferrera, received critical acclaim, including two top awards at 2002’s Sundance Film Festival.
Ferrera’s role is loosely based on Lopez’s own experiences and spotlights women’s struggles with identity, sexuality, and class. Lopez has earned many artist and film awards. She is also the founder of Casa 0101, a program located in Lopez’s hometown of Boyle Heights that focuses on providing artistic and educational programs for Latina youth to help nurture artistic expression.
Lopez has also just received an artist grant, which she will use to teach dramatic arts to young women in San Francisco this November.
After speaking to students during an “Intro to Feminism” lecture, Lopez sat down with City on a Hill Press.
City on a Hill Press: Tell me a little about yourself, your family, and your work.
Josefina Lopez: I was born in Mexico, I have seven brothers and sisters. I am the only one who pursued the arts. I grew up in East LA, and we were undocumented [immigrants] for many years, until we got legal residence.
CHP: How does your family feel about your career?
JL: It was very difficult. They were unable to imagine how their child could pursue the arts because they couldn’t see how she could make a living. My other sister is in fashion, and another is a stay-at-home mom. They’ve tried to be as supportive as they can. Sometimes they understand, sometimes they don’t.
CHP: You mentioned in your talk last Wednesday that in art, there are the most -isms: sexism, racism, etc., particularly with films. How do you persevere in such a field?
JL: [The arts are intended for] bringing about transformations in people. [Film industries] can program our minds to believe things. Yet they are the most sexist, racist, ageist, industries. It’s so profitable to exploit women, why change? It’s very hard for people to say ‘lets do movies that will glorify women, respect women’.
[To be a part of this industry] is like going into the mouth of the wolf. [Curves was just] one movie but it’s had a real effect on women.
CHP: What’s a way for women to get their voices heard, especially minorities like Latinas?
JL: There’s that saying: when you educate a man, you educate an individual; when you educate a woman, you educate a family, a community. [Women need to feel] empowered, to know that they have a voice in everything.
CHP: How do you feel Latina women are represented now, compared to 10 years ago in the media? Are changes happening? How can female artists make them happen?
JL: People think things are better. [But then I see] most Latina women have the same roles as white women, are really skinny, tiny, and [there are] very few Latina women who are competing, and I don’t think there is a lot of progress. Latina lovers. Hot senoritas. It’s the same roles except new women, new players. Nothing has changed.
Maybe [what’s different] is that Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek now have production companies and are starting to produce. When we [make] Latina roles â€¦ more than the virgin or the whore, then that’s true progress.
CHP: What are your feelings toward the show “Ugly Betty”?
JL: I’m just happy there’s a [Latina] show. The creator is Latina. It’s very generic. It’s not what Latinas would like it to be.
But I’m just happy that America [Ferrera] has done so well. I want the show to succeed so they can say, “Let’s create more Latina roles and shows.”