Fierce

How Afro-Latinas Are Turning Out To Be Marvel And The Sci-Fi Genre’s Secret Weapon

Well before Nichelle Nichols gained acclaim for “Star Trek” as the first Black woman on TV that wasn’t a servant, speculative fiction was mostly a white man’s game. Sci-Fi, fantasy and action films were a genre where Black guys always died first and white men always saved the day. There was little room for women, let alone Afro-Latinas.

These days, the lack of diversity in modern speculative fiction remains a problem. White men still run the show on and off the screen, and Black men still die first. But, slowly, the playing field is changing. As Marvel gears up for the release of some of its most promising blockbuster hits, “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” among them, I couldn’t help but notice the significant roles Afro-Latinas like Lupita Nyong’o and Tessa Thompson were playing in these films. In fact, from my numbers, it’s not just through Marvel and it’s not just in recent years that Afro-Latinas have lit up the sc-fi/ fantasy screen.

Afro-Latina actresses have been taking Black girl magic to the stars and beyond for a minute, y’all.

Strap in, and I’ll take you on one hell of a nerdy ride to review.

Gina Torres’ role in Space Western drama helped push a show to cult status.

Gina Torres as Zoë Alleyne Washburne in “Firefly” / FOX

Long before she took up the torch as Zoë Washburne of “Firefly,” the Cubana had established herself as a veteran of a number of science fiction/fantasy projects. There was “Cleopatra 2525,” “Alias” and “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.” After “Firefly,” she went on to star in “The Matrix: Reloaded” and appeared in  last year’s breakthrough HBO show “Westworld.”

But, for me, “Firefly” became the role I knew her for and loved most about her. Mostly because she changed my attitude about the sci-fi shows my dad and brother watched. Torres’ role on “Firefly” was my first positive introduction to a genre I would ultimately go on to love. Sure, sci-fi was nerdy, but put a Black woman at the center of one of those plots, and it could be cool as hell.

Zoë Washburne was the show’s deadly fighter who could kick your ass and make you want to be her all at the same time. She was whip-smart, loyal and a warrior. Oh yeah, and she was a Black woman encompassing all of these things to boot.

Zoe Saldana taught Hollywood that Black women could help feed their franchises.

Zoe Saldana as Neytiri in “Avatar” / 20th Century Fox

We’re living in a world where nearly every Hollywood studio is looking to flip a sequel and make it a franchise. Look up any major Hollywood actress today, and I’ll wager that she has a franchise or two under her belt. (Emma Stone has “Spiderman,” Jennifer Lawrence has “Hunger Games,” Kiera Knightly has “Pirates of the Caribbean” and even Cate Blanchett has a franchise in “Lord of The Rings.”) But few actresses have managed to take on three of the most popular sci-fi action franchises at the same time.

Currently, Saldana headlines lead acting roles in “Star Trek,” “Avatar” and “Guardians of The Galaxy.” In interviews, she has described how taking on the parts of sci-fi characters whose skin tones were as colorful as a Crayola box helped her to kick down doors for herself in the genre.

“It’s hard when you go and fight for a role because they’re like, ‘I don’t know, man, you mean, it’s like the blue girl from Avatar? I don’t know, I want to go down a different route,'” the Puerto Rican-Dominican actress told The Independent. “I feel like a little bit of an underdog because I live in space, nobody wants me here on earth.”

Saldana’s portrayal of both Gamora in “Guardians” and Neytiri in “Avatar” has spawned a trend that can be seen consistently at any Comic Con event. Legions of women wearing blue and green makeup show up to the once primarily male-dominated events to celebrate Saldana’s characters.

Lupita Nyong’o pried open the sci-fi door and made herself seen.

Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia in “Black Panther” / Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures

I’ll be honest, when Lupita Nyong’o graced the Academy Awards show for the first time four years ago, I feared that she was doomed to be forgotten. After all, Black women who both rock their dark skin and natural hair are a rare thing to be seen in Hollywood. When these rare treasures finally do get a chance to shine, they’re either stereotyped, given smaller supporting roles or faded out completely. Fortunately for us, the Kenyan-Mexicana has managed to carve out a massive place for herself in both the industry and its sci-fi genre.

When her role in “Star Wars” was announced, many fans were less than pleased to find the talented actress’s appearance would be covered up with computer animation. But she made do, and her role as Maz Kanata quickly became a fan favorite. Now Nyong’o is set to star in the 18th film of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe as Nakia in “Black Panther,” and in the months before the film, she has inspired young girls and women to embrace their African roots and culture.

Tessa Thompson jumped into sci-fi- and gave it a reboot.

Tessa Thompson as “Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok “/ Marvel Studios

With recent projects such as “Westworld,” “Annihilation,” “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Avengers: Infinity Waralready under her belt, it feels like Thompson didn’t get much of a chance to get her feet wet before doing the sci-fi movie deep-dive. And yet, the Panamanian-Mexican has already paved the opportunity for more diverse characters on screen and in the genre — particularly when it comes to the role she took on for Marvel.

Thompson’s part as Valkyrie was an exciting one to see in a box-office film in general, but her role as a queer POC Marvel character was momentous. Her Valkyrie was as complex and multifaceted as onscreen female characters come: she has might, weaknesses, a sense of her sexuality, a whole heck of a lot of bite and can handle her alcohol. Oh, and never once was her character made to fulfill the role of the leading actor’s love-interest.

Afro-Latinas of Hollywood have had a significant part to play in the beloved genre that is speculative fiction. The characters and roles they play continue to widely influence the way women and Afro-Latinas, in particular, see themselves. Like us, these characters and the actresses that portray them are strong, fiercely independent and up for challenges. Here’s hoping production studios keep doing the smart thing and cast more Black women in these gravity-defying roles. Because while the characters these leading ladies of color have played has been significant, there’s no doubting Hollywood needs a whole heck of a lot more.

Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie Becomes Marvel’s First Bisexual Superhero And It’s About Damn Time

Entertainment

Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie Becomes Marvel’s First Bisexual Superhero And It’s About Damn Time

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Over the weekend, at Comic-Con in San Diego, our queen Tessa Thompson dropped some huge news about Valkyrie –– the character she plays in the Thor films. Are you ready?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe will get its first LGBTQ superhero in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder

“First of all, as new King  [of Asgard], she needs to find her queen,” Thompson said during a panel at Comic-Con. “So that will be her first order of business. She has some ideas. Keep you posted.”

Thompson alluding to the LGBTQ storyline was met with roaring applause and left many MCU fans wondering about her role as Valkyrie. Marvel president confirmed Thompson’s statement, making Valkyrie the first openly LGBTQ superhero in MCU history. 

“The answer is yes,” Feige told io9 of the LGBTQ character and storyline. “How that impacts the story remains to be seen with that level of representation you’ll see across our films, not in just Thor 4.” 

For diehard MCU fans, this should come as no surprise because the comic books depict Valkyrie as bisexual.

However, the films were notorious for only glossing over this backstory and simply flirting with the fact that Thompson’s Valkyrie is bisexual. 

“In the canon, [Valkyrie] is bisexual. You see her with women and men, so that was my intention in playing her,” Thompson told Variety earlier this year. “Obviously, at the forefront of most of these stories is not typically their romantic life. They have big stakes, like saving the world, so that tends to sort of trump.”

According to Entertainment Weekly, it’s also important to emphasize the fact that Valkyrie is the first “openly” LGBTQ superhero

“The ‘openly’ matters when it comes to visibility. Valkyrie in the comics is bisexual and Thompson has been vocal about that fact on social media. However, when it came to Thor: Ragnarok, a scene was cut in which a woman would’ve been seen sneaking out of Valkyrie’s bedroom and the film, instead, flirted with sexual tension between Valkyrie and Hemsworth’s Thor,” writes Nick Romano for Entertainment Weekly

Aside from Thompson’s Valkyrie becoming MCU’s first openly bisexual superhero, Marvel made other important announcements showing the latest efforts to diversify their films a lot more.

52-year-old Salma Hayek becomes the first Arab and Mexican actress with a main role in the MCU. It was also announced this weekend at Comic-Con that she’s set to star as Ajak in The Eternals. The Lebanese-Mexican actress will star alongside Angelina Jolie talk about a dynamic duo. 

She announced her latest role in the new Marvel film on Instagram, saying: “I’m so excited to join the Marvel family as Ajak, the mother of all Eternals. It used to be the father of all Eternals, but girls… this is OUR time!!!!!” The film is set to release on November 6, 2020.  

Basically, Lena Waithe summed it up for us. “Captain America is black. Thor is a woman. the new Blade got two Oscars. 007 is a black woman. And The Little Mermaid bout to have locs. Shit. Just. Got. Real,” she tweeted. 

In case you missed it, in Avengers: Endgame, Thor passed down the mantle of King of New Asgard to Valkyrie. Now, in Marvel’s Phase Four lineup, we’ll follow her journey as King in Thor: Love and Thunder. The latest Thor installment will also see the return of Natalie Portman as Jane Foster to wield Mjolnir. Although it won’t hit theaters until November 2021, these latest teases and updates are enough to hold us over. 

Of course, Twitter went wild with the news that Thompson becomes the first LGBTQ superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Last year in a profile from Net-a-Porter, published toward the end of Pride Month, Thompson also subtly came out and put rumors to rest surrounding her sexuality. “I can take things for granted because of my family –– it’s so free and you can be anything that you want to be. I’m attracted to men and also to women. If I bring a woman home, [or] a man, we don’t even have to have a discussion.” 

And don’t think for a minute that any of us missed the big MCU switch up.

The new movies are set to be packed with a whole lot of women.

And literally, everyone has an idea of who Valkyrie’s queen will be.

Literally, we’ve been stanning this relationship for too long.

We can’t wait to see Thompson’s Valkyrie also have that type of freedom in the upcoming Thor movie –– especially given the fact that there’s been a lack of LGBTQ representation in comic book movies. 

According to Entertainment Weekly, Joe Russo portrayed the first openly gay character in the MCU with his appearance in Endgame and Zach Barack became the first trans actor to appear in a Marvel movie (Spider-Man: Far From Home). 

It’s about time for this long-overdue representation.

Oh, and who will play Thompson’s queen? We can’t wait to find out. 

Selena Gomez Is Fighting To Make Sure That Everyone Can Speak Openly And Honestly About Getting Help For Their Mental Health

Entertainment

Selena Gomez Is Fighting To Make Sure That Everyone Can Speak Openly And Honestly About Getting Help For Their Mental Health

selenagomez / Instagram

Selena Marie Gomez (born in Texas in 1992) has been in the public eye for as long as she can remember. She has been a role model for young girls as a singer and an actress and now is involved in more risqué films such as Spring Breakers, a delirious film by indie filmmaker Harmony Korine. Besides having a strong onscreen persona, Gomez has been in relationships with the likes of Justin Bieber, which of course turned the paparazzi attention and cameras to her. Suddenly, when she was barely a teenager her every move was being followed. Her life was sort of predestined to be great when she was named after the great late Selena Quintanilla. However, she has had to deal with divorce (her parents separated when she was five-years-old) and with weak health, as she was diagnosed with lupus, an auto-immune disease, which ultimately forced her to get a kidney transplant. She found strength in her mom. Gomez has said that her mother “was really strong around me. Having me at 16 had to have been a big responsibility. She gave up everything for me, had three jobs, supported me, sacrificed her life for me.” That must provide so much strength for a woman of barely 26 but who has gone through more in her lifetime than many 50-year-olds.

This must not be easy for anyone, even more so for a Latino woman. Gomez knows that she has a microphone and that she can get to other girls and women. “The older I get, the prouder I am to be a woman in the industry. When I was younger and running around all the time on tour, I don’t think I took the time to notice how being a woman in my position is really a gift. I want to make sure I utilize all that power,” the young Latina star told Into the GlossShe has used this position of privilege to raise awareness on mental health issues, including suicide prevention, both as a celebrity and as a producer. She is also a supporter of associations such as Make A Wish (which grants children diagnosed with life-threatening conditions), the Alliance for Children’s Rights and the Ryan Seacrest Foundation. 

Selena Gomez fights for friendships above anything else: girl power.

Credit: selenagomez / Instagram

Gomez values friendship and spreads the word. She has such loyal friends that one even donated a kidney when Gomez needed a transplant. She says: “People are put into your life for seasons, for different reasons, and to teach you lessons”: Selena, we couldn’t agree more.

She gets politically enraged when it matters.

Credit: selenagomez / Instagram

Gomez knows that a lot of mental health issues concerning young women are related to the policing of their sexuality and reproductive rights. She gets political when she feels the need to, particularly with issues concerning the mental health and general wellbeing of young women like herself. 

She asks her fans to be strong, but to also look for help when needed.

Credit: selenagomez / Instagram

Her advice: “I’ve learned there’s power deep down inside yourself, and you can find it when you don’t give up on yourself and when you ask for help.” This is so real it hurts: even someone like her, who in the eyes of her fans might seem to have it all, needs to be humble and honest in reaching out to others when the world seems bleak. There is always someone who cares if you are OK. 

She stands up for migrants.

Credit: selenagomez / Instagram

Gomez doesn’t get political often, but when she does she always stands up for the minority communities. She has been a vocal advocate for migrant rights and the rights of women. She even wore a 1973 necklace as one of very few Latina celebs speaking up for abortion rights.

She even takes a stand from DACA recipients and Dreamers.

Credit: selenagomez / Instagram

She has used her social media accounts, which have followers in the millions, to call her fans to action. She is clearly showing the world that she does care and she is paying attention. 

She delivers a message of self-acceptance, which led her to produce 13 Reasons Why.

Credit: selenagomez / Instagram

Gomez’s mother, Amanda, had her when she was just 16, and then raised her by herself. She was also the one that gave Gomez the book on which the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why is based. The show was controversial because it spoke about mental health issues and suicide, topics that are fundamental to discuss with young vulnerable populations but that remain a taboo. However, Gomez’s message is optimistic. She has said: “I promise you that each and every one of you is made to be who you are and that’s what’s so attractive and beautiful.” Preach! 

13 Reasons Why put mental health issues at the forefront of public media debate.

Credit: selenagomez / Instagram

“I get it all day, every day, that I’m not sexy enough, or I’m not cool enough, or if I did this I would be accepted… I promise you that each and every one of you is made to be who you are and that’s what’s so attractive and beautiful. Please don’t forget that, even when it gets hard,” she said in an interview for the Huffington PostAnd this is exactly the message that she conveys in her project. Taking on Jay Asher’s literary world, she and the series creative team were able to show mental health and suicide from all possible angles. 

She takes fame with a grain of salt.

Credit: selenagomez / Instagram

She has been famous for a big portion of her life, but she knows that todo es pasajero, and that at the end who you are does not depend merely on adulation: “You are not defined by an Instagram photo, by a ‘Like,’ by a comment. That does not define you.”

Body positivity is her mantra.

Credit: selenagomez / Instagram

“I feel very empowered and confident and comfortable with where I am. And I think it took me a long time to get there because, you know, the past year was so interesting because I’ve never been body-shamed before… I did gain weight, but I don’t care,” she said at On Air with Ryan SeacrestThis is a great, positive message for someone who is followed by millions of young women throughout the world, particularly in a day and age when standards of beauty are twisted and self-love is hard to achieve. 

She is an active advocate of girl power.

Credit: selenagomez / Instagram

Perhaps following the example of her mother, who basically raised her alone while holding down as many jobs as necessary to make ends meet, Gomez says: “I don’t want to become little or hurt or a victim. I want to be strong for girls…I just want them to know that there is an option of standing up for yourself.” Additionally, she was named a United Nations Ambassador in 2009, and in this role, she has worked particularly in empowering vulnerable children by helping provide clean water, education, and medical services. 

You learn from your mistakes.

Credit: selenagomez / Instagram

Perhaps most importantly, she knows that many see her as a role model and that this brings a huge deal of responsibility. “I’m human, I’m not perfect. I make mistakes all the time, but I guess my job is to keep those mistakes to myself, which I’m already fine doing and just try to be the best I can be for those kids,” she told E! Online.

READ: “13 Reasons Why” Does Much More Than Glorify Suicide, Selena Gomez Explained

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