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.

Selena Gomez Says That Social Media Users Had Attacked Her When She Gained Weight: ‘Really Messed Me Up’

Entertainment

Selena Gomez Says That Social Media Users Had Attacked Her When She Gained Weight: ‘Really Messed Me Up’

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Two years ago, actress and singer Selena Gomez opened up to fans about her experience with lupus and undergoing a kidney transplant. The summer before she took a public break from her music career. The singer had been traveling her for Revival world tour when she announced her decision to take a break to focus on her health. She cited anxiety, panic attacks and depression as side effects to her lupus diagnosis and expressed her need to take care of her health. Now, Gomez has revealed why she spent so much time out of the spotlight. She was undergoing a kidney transplant.

Since her surgery, Gomez has been open about her experience and its impact on her physical and mental health.

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The singer opened up even more about the process of recovery during a recent podcast, in which she revealed that she’d experienced body shaming her health led to weight gain. During an appearance on a recent episode of “Giving Back Generation,” a video podcast by Raquelle Stevens, Gomez said criticism impacted her “big time.”

During the interview, Gomez said that after being attacked by body shamers online she decided that she needed some time away from social media. This was primarily because they were having so much of an impact on her mental health.

“I experienced [body-shaming] with my weight fluctuation for the first time,” Selena told Stevens during the podcast. “I have lupus and deal with kidney issues and high blood pressure, so I deal with a lot of health issues, and for me that’s when I really started noticing more of the body-image stuff.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that, occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus — a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks — occurs in many but not all cases of lupus. Some people are born with a tendency toward developing lupus, which may be triggered by infections, certain drugs or even sunlight. While there’s no cure for lupus, treatments can help control symptoms.” 

Speaking about how the autoimmune disease has affected her weight, Gomez said that it’s normal for her to fluctuate.

“It’s the medication I have to take for the rest of my life — it depends on even the month, to be honest. So for me, I really noticed when people started attacking me for that,” she explained. “In reality, that’s just my truth. I fluctuate. It depends what’s happening in my life.”

Gomez went onto further explain how the body shaming affected how she has chosen to interact with her fans moving forward.

“I’m very happy with living my life and being present. Because that’s it. Similar to me posting a photo and walking away. For me that’s it. I will do a red carpet, I will do whatever. I don’t need to see it. I participated. I felt wonderful and that’s where the extent of it is,” she said. “I don’t care to expose myself to everyone and hear what they have to say about it… I don’t care about that stuff but I did start gaining weight and I didn’t mind it. And that hurt…I’ve experienced people who try to control that kind of stuff before. This is my time and I want to do it the way I want to do it.”

It’s not the first time Gomez has opened up how criticism about her appearance has affected her mental health and how she chooses to include social media in her life. 

In 2018, Gomez explained that she was taking a step back from social media because she was being affected by disparaging and negative comments online.

“Update: taking a social media break,” she wrote to fans in a post on Instagram at the time. “Again. As much as I am grateful for the voice that social media gives each of us, I am equally grateful to be able to step back and live my life present to the moment I have been given. Kindness and encouragement only for a bit! Just remember— negative comments can hurt anybody’s feelings. Obvi.”

“Update: taking a social media break,” she wrote to fans in a post on Instagram at the time. “Again. As much as I am grateful for the voice that social media gives each of us, I am equally grateful to be able to step back and live my life present to the moment I have been given. Kindness and encouragement only for a bit! Just remember— negative comments can hurt anybody’s feelings. Obvi.”

Watch: Pixar’s ‘Soul’ Teaser Features It’s First Animated Film Starring A Black Character

Entertainment

Watch: Pixar’s ‘Soul’ Teaser Features It’s First Animated Film Starring A Black Character

Pixar

Breakout the tissue boxes, mi gente, Pixar has a new movie and it will totally make you lorrar.

Just when you thought the studio behind “Up” and “Inside Out” couldn’t replicate the emotions they served you when they released “Coco” they dropped a trailer that did it again within just under three minutes. The film, which is similar to “Coco” in that it will require viewers to confront their own passions and relationship with death, also presents a big time first for the production company.

It’s going to be incredibly Black. 

Pixar’s first film featuring a black lead, called “Soul,” debuted its first trailer on Thursday. 

The upcoming American fantasy adventure comedy animated film stars the voices of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Questlove, Phylicia Rashad and Daveed Diggs. Schedule to premiere in theaters on June 19 in 2020, the film will follow Foxx as Joe Gardner, a middle school music teacher, who has long been cradling a dream of being a jass performer. After impressing a set of jazz musicians during an opening act at the Half Note Club, he finally gets his chance. But when he falls through a manhole, Garner’s soul is separated from his body and taken to the “You Seminar” a center where souls develop and gain passions before being transported to newborns.Gardner’s task is to work with souls, like 22 a soul trapped in the You Seminiar, in training in order to return to Earth before time runs out.

Set for a June 2020 release date, Pixar says that the film will explore the meaning of life and what it means to have a soul.

  They may seem like big questions for a kid’s movie, but fans of Pixar will remember that is pretty much how the big time production company usually rolls.

It’s not the first time Pixar hasn’t gotten real about real issues with its audience of young and old.

In 2018, the studio produced the Oscar-winning short, “Bao,” which dived into the issues of empty nest syndrome within a Chinese-Canadian family. I n2015, it produced another short film called  “Sanjay’s Super Team” which dove into the perspective of of a first-generation Indian-American boy whose love for American super heroes conflict with the traditions and religious practices of his father. And of course, in 2017, Pixar’s Oscar-winning film “Coco” broke boundaries and our hearts with a generational tale of Día de los Muertos and Mexican culture. 

While more details about “Soul” have yet to be revealed, we’re pretty sure that if Pixar’s previous movies and shorts are any indication you’ll want a box of tissues and a trusty hand to cling to close by.

Fans of “Coco” know the movie had quite a bit of history and story packed into it. But did you know these 25 facts from behind the movie?

1. The trivia behind the movie will make you cry more than the movie.

“COCO” / WALT DISNEY PICTURES /

PIXAR ANIMATION STUDIOS

For instance: this bit of insight from the film’s co-director and screenwriter Adrian Molina, revealed that the idea behind Miguel watching the films of Ernesto de la Cruz on videotapes to learn how to play the guitar was inspired by Molina’s own experiences as a child. During his childhood in the 1990s, Molina would record the episodes of The Wonderful World of Disney television program on ABC, CBS, and The Disney Channel on videotape. The episodes made him long for a better life.

2. The title got a name change in Brazil.

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In Portuguese “cocô” means “poop.” When the word is without the accent, “coco” it refers to the coconut fruit. To avoid confusion, creators changed the name to “Viva.”

3. The movie was too touching to be banned in China.

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“Coco” has quite a few  themes and bits of content that are typically banned in China. However, reports say that Chinese censor board members were so touched by the movie they made an exception and let it run.

4. This film opened in Mexico first.

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Three and a half weeks before it’s U.S. opening, “Coco” opened first. The film surpassed “The Avengers” as the country’s highest grossing film.

5. There’s a bit of history to that Frida appearance.

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In the movie, Frida Kahlo’s spirit calls Dante “Yolo”. In real life, Frida and her husband helped to save the Xoloitzcuintli dog breed by inserting it into their art. It didn’t take long for the breed to gain popularity around the world.

6. Speaking of Easter eggs…

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One of Pixar’s biggest and most recognizable Easter eggs also makes an appearance in the movie. In  The Land of the Dead the door to the office is labelled with “A113.” It’s a nod to the California Institute of Arts classroom where many of Disney and Pixar animators studied.

7. The movie mourns old technology.

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Pay attention and you’ll see that in the Land of The Dead there’s a quite a bit of out-dated technology use. Keep an eye out for an 80s MacIntosh computer and walkie-talkie radios. It’s actually pretty fitting considering these bits of technology are, as of today, obsolete and well dead.

8. More time and effort went into this project more than another Pixar film.

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“Coco” was in production between 2011 and 2017. The filmset a Pixar record for being a Pixar animated film with the longest production schedule.

9. The animations hit the right notes

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Musicians be ware. This one pays close attention to detail. Check out the scenes where the guitars are played, you’ll find that the character’s fingers match up to the actual chords.

10. Gael García Bernal worked double time.

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Gael García Bernal is the only actor amongst the main cast to voice his character in both the film’s English and Spanish versions. All this despite the fact he isn’t the only Latino actor in the film.

Read: Here Are 25 Pieces Of ‘Coco’ Fan Art That Will Make You Want To Watch The Movie

11. The film got #1.

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The film spent more days as #1 spot at the box office than any other animated film in the 21st century.

12. “Coco” is a Pixar last.

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“Coco” will be Disney’s last original full- length animated film of the 2010s. The upcoming films to come out before 2020 are all sequels. We’re looking at you Incredibles 2 (2018), Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 (2018), Toy Story 4 (2019) and Frozen 2 (2019). Now if you were one of the characters from “Coco,” who would you be? Take this quiz to find out.

13. There’s a little bit of brown face.

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Womp womp. Guess risking Pixar’s long considered “good-luck charm” was a little too much for this studio to handle. In “Coco” John Ratzenberger plays a ghost named Juan Ortodoncia.

Read: 20 Gifts For The ‘Coco’ Fan In Your Family

14. Abuelita’s neck had some problems.

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The movie’s creators have said the one of the most difficult parts of the film to animate was Abuelita’s neck. To do her neck justice, the filmmakers flew out one of the animator’s mother-in-laws from Mexico and did their best to make her angry to see how Abuelita’s neck would move when she got upset. It took some time but eventually the movie got its material.

15. Incredibles 2 makes an appearance.

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In the scene where Miguel and Héctor arrive in Ernesto de la Cruz Plaza there is a scene of people lighting fireworks. On the right side of the screen in this scene there is a poster for Pixar’s Incredibles 2.

16. It outpaced Cars 3

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The film grossed more money worldwide in 19 days than Pixards “Cars 3”