Entertainment

‘To Wong Foo’ Is An Undeniable Gay Cult Classic And John Leguizamo’s Role As A Drag Queen Is Still One Of The Best Performances

To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar / Universal Pictures

“To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Juli Newmar” is one of the greatest gay cult classics of the 20th century. The movie follows three drag queens, played by John Leguizamo, Patrick Swayze, and Wesley Snipes as they make their way from New York to California for a drag queen pageant. The movie, released in 1995, gave the drag queen and LGBTQ+ community a diverse and exceptionally rare moment of representation during the 1990s. Now, since the movie is being release in Blu-Ray, John Leguizamo sat down and told Shout! Factory what he did to get into the character of Chi Chi Rodriguez.

John Leguizamo gave Latina drag queens rare and exceptional representation during the 1995 gay cult classic “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.”

Credit: @mathewrodriguez / Twitter

For so many Latino fans of the movie, it is the first time they ever saw themselves represented in media. Chi Chi Rodriguez was a major moment for queer Latino representation in the 1990s when being gay was still taboo in mainstream media. Alongside co-stars Wesley Snipes and Patrick Swayze, Leguizamo was able to bring a Latina drag queen to a larger audience.

Now that the movie is being released on Blu-Ray, Leguizamo sat down with Shout! Factory and discussed what it took to be Chi Chi Rodriguez.

“I was just like, ‘Oh my God. Let me sink my teeth into this Chi Chi Rodriguez. I know how to bring her to life,” Leguizamo told Shout! Factory. “‘I know I can just ramp it up, man. Like, Chi Chi Rodriguez on steroids.’”

Leguizamo wanted to make sure that he truly captured what it meant to be a Latino drag queen.

“I’m a writer so I look at the three-act structure of a screenplay and I always want to have an arc to my character. If you’re the lead, you have a large arch, and that’s incredible,” Leguizamo explains. “But, you know, I was the third lead so my arc was a little smaller but it was good enough for me to go from being sort of rough around the edges to being this polished drag queen. That was my journey, you know, and it was all about accepting my ethnicity.”

Chi Chi Rodriguez’s story arc was hyper-focused on coming to terms with her identity.

“I had my face done really light all the time because I have family members who [have] issues with self-hate and race,” Leguizamo says. “So their face skin will be like five times lighter than the color of their neck. So, that always tripped me out so I wanted to put a little bit of that into it.”

Leguizamo brought his authentic experience to the role and it centered around makeup and colorism that is toxic within the Latino community.

“At the end of the movie, my neck and my face matched,” Leguizamo explains. “My face is much darker. So, that was the arc. Chi Chi becomes polished but accepting of herself, mature, romantically grows. She just becomes instead of a taker, she becomes a giver.”

You can watch Joh Leguizamo’s full interview below.

Check out “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar” and get your pride celebrations started off right.

READ: The 24 Slayingest Latina Queens From ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’

Disney Is Debuting Their First Jewish Princess And Surprise! She’s Also Latina

Entertainment

Disney Is Debuting Their First Jewish Princess And Surprise! She’s Also Latina

We all know by now that is no “one way” to be Latinx. Latinos come in a variety of forms, from Black to white, tall to short, descended from Indigenous, African, and European populations. And while Roman Catholicism may be the dominant religion in most of Latinidad, it goes without saying that Latino culture is not a monolith. Latinos practice a variety of religions, from Islam to Buddhism to, yes, Judaism. 

And while most people don’t necessarily think of Judaism when they think of Latin America, there is, in fact, a small but proud population of Jewish Latinos who keep their culture alive through tradition and a strong sense of community. But being a part of such a small community within an already-marginalized community can feel isolating at times. Especially when there are no public role models to see yourself reflected in.

That’s why Tuesday’s news that Disney is debuting a Jewish-Latinx princess sent shock-waves through the internet. 

Walt Disney Television Animation News announced via Twitter that an upcoming Elena of Avalon episode in December would be featuring a “visiting princess” from a “Latino Jewish kingdom”.The as-yet-unnamed princess will be voiced by Jamie-Lynn Sigler, the actress famous for her portrayal of Meadow Soprano on HBO’s seminal masterpiece, “The Sopranos”. 

The Tweet also revealed that the princess would also make an appearance in Elana’s “royal coronation special” next year. Although we do not know any further details of Sigler’s character or her storyline, “Elena of Avalor” writer Rachel Ruderman gave a small preview of what’s to come. “A little over a year ago, I had the honor of writing an Elena of Avalor episode featuring Disney’s first Jewish princess,” Ruderman said via Twitter. She continued: “Jamie Lynn Sigler knocks the role out of the park (wait ’till you hear her song!) Can’t wait to share this one”.

In a move of conscious-casting on Disney’s part, Jamie Lynn Sigler herself happens to be both Latina and Jewish–a giant step for a media giant that can sometimes miss the mark with casting.

Raised by a Jewish father and a Cuban mother, Sigler grew up in New York City as part of a multicultural family.In the past, Sigler has talked about being raised Jewish–attending Hebrew school, having a Bat Mitzvah, and even going on a Birth Right trip to Israel in 2008. 

This episode can serve as an educational experience for many people (including those of Latinx descent) who are unaware that Jewish Latinos even exist. In fact, what some people might not even know, is that the term “Sephardic” (a term used to describe Jewish people of European descent) literally means “of Spain or Portuguese descent” in old Hebrew. In other words, it’s not a stretch to imagine a character of both Latin and Jewish roots on our TV screens. In fact, it’s completely historically plausible!

Naturally, both the Latinx and Jewish Twitter population is super excited at this groundbreaking news.

As we mentioned before, the acknowledgment of Jewish Latinos in popular culture is such a rarity. When the media shines a spotlight on such a marginalized group of people, the advent is worth celebrating. And even though changes are slow in the making, any progress on the representation front is a step in the right direction.

Jamie Lynn Sigler herself expressed her excitement at the news, calling to attention the novelty of her position:

Yes, it’s exciting that the Jewish Latinx population has finally gotten some princess representation, but it’s still a little bit frustrating that we had to wait until 2019 for a Jewish princess. We have a long way to go.

This Latina Jew was incredibly excited at the prospect of having the chance to see her own unique lifestyle reflected onscreen:

The self-styled “Jewyorican” is one of many New York-based Puerto-Rican Jews who identify fully with both cultures. It’s not as rare as people think.

Some Latinx Jews took to Twitter to give some suggestions on how Disney could go about bringing the new character to life:

This Hispanic Linguistics Professor suggested incorporating the ancient Judeo-Spanish language of Ladino into the show. 

This multi-cultural woman celebrated the inclusion of multiple cultures in one character:

Families like hers are the way of the future–at least according to statistics. Although many media outlets still see American families in black and white, the rest of us living our lives know that our identities are increasingly a hodgepodge of cultures. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Samantha Barbash Said Jennifer Lopez Should Not Have Played Her In ‘Hustlers,’ It Would Have Been Better With Cardi B

Entertainment

Samantha Barbash Said Jennifer Lopez Should Not Have Played Her In ‘Hustlers,’ It Would Have Been Better With Cardi B

Jennifer Lopez cannot believe the incredibly positive reviews she’s getting over her lead role in the film “Hustlers.” She was so moved that she cried on national TV. Last week while being interviewed by Hoda Kotb, Lopez expressed her emotional reaction over the surprising reviews for her role, which some critics say could get her an Acadamy Award nomination. Here’s just a snippet of what film critics are saying about the film that made a big debut this weekend. “Hustlers asks what a movie like Goodfellas looks like with women at the center of the story,” one film critic said. “If nothing else, we get to see Jennifer Lopez command the screen as easily as Ramona does the stage, offering up a seductive awards-worthy performance that makes us remember why she became a movie star in the first place,” another said

There is at least one person who isn’t raving about Lopez’s role, and that’s the one who inspired the film. 

Samantha Barbash, the woman who inspired “Hustlers,” said she would have liked to have seen Cardi B in the lead role instead of Jennifer Lopez. 

Credit: Instagram/@iam_missfoxita

The 45-year-old said in an interview with Hollywood Life that rapper Cardi B should have portrayed her instead of the veteran actress, even though this is Cardi’s first film. “I said it from day one, even to the producer. Cardi doesn’t have the acting skills that Jennifer does, but Cardi could relate more to who I was because even though she wasn’t in the same club, we were in the same industry,” she told the lifestyle website. “If Cardi took some acting lessons and shadowed me, I’m sure that she would have played a better role for my character.”

Barbash goes on to say that she is flattered that Lopez wanted to play her in a movie but stresses that the film got several things wrong about her. 

Credit: Instagram/@iam_missfoxita

For starters, Barbash wasn’t a stripper at all. The film, based on a 2015 New York magazine article, shows Lopez as a stripper who ends up drugging wealthy bankers and robs them of their money. However, Barbash said she was never a stripper. Barbash actually worked at a strip club in New York City as a hostess. Yes, the other stuff about the drugs and taking their money is correct, but seeing Lopez play her a stripper didn’t sit well with her. Barbash also said that Lopez never reached out to her in order to learn about her mannerisms, which is what actors do when they’re portraying real-life characters. Even when the real-life character is deceased, actors still study old footage to learn more about the role they are playing. You may recall the extensive research Lopez said she did to portray Selena Quintanilla. She even slept in her bed to get into deep character.  

Earlier this year, Barbash said she would release her own memoir about the ordeal (which she did) that got her 5 years probation and said she planned to sue the filmmakers. 

Credit: Instagram/@iam_missfoxita

“This is a living nightmare,” Barbash said in April in the New York Post after videos leaked of Lopez on a stripper pole. “So now I’m going to have to do a lawsuit. I’m getting a gag order.” Bruno Gioffre, also said back then, that Barbash was “considering all legal avenues with the possibility injunctive relief, including a lawsuit.” The movie was made despite her legal threats. Today, Barbash is an entrepreneur and owns her own spa business. 

We can see why she would have preferred to see Cardi B in the title role. 

Credit: Instagram/@iamcardib

The Bronx rapper did admit to drugging men and robbing them, just like the characters did in the movie “Hustlers.” In 2017, Barbash was charged for conspiracy, assault, and grand larceny in exchange for five years probation

In March, Card admitted on social media that during her stint as a stripper in New York she too did what the “Hustlers” did in the movie. “I had to go strip, I had to go, ‘Oh yeah, you want to f*ck me? Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s go to this hotel,’ and I drugged n*****s up and I robbed them. That’s what I used to do.” 

Soon after that post, Cardi said she it was wrong of her to do that and has since tried to make a better life for herself. 

READ: Critics Think Jennifer Lopez Gave An Oscar-Worthy Performance In ‘Hustlers’