Eva Longoria on ‘Flamin’ Hot’: ‘We Latinos Need To See Our Worth on Screen’
Eva Longoria has made her feature directorial debut with “Flamin’ Hot,” the inspirational story of Richard Montañez.
While the well-known actress has trained her eye behind the camera on several television episodes and as a producer, this is the first time she has brought her talent and vision to a film.
“It was a big decision, and my choice of the project was very deliberate,” Longoria told mitú before the star-filled screening of the movie in Miami this week.
“Flamin’ Hot” is based on Montañez’s book, “A Boy, a Burrito and a Cookie: From Janitor to Executive.” The book chronicles this Mexican-American’s journey from janitor to inventing the beloved Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
For Eva Longoria, Montañez is a hero
The “Desperate Housewives” actress is one of the strongest advocates for fair representation of Latinos. And she put her money where her mouth is with this film that celebrates her community.
However, it wasn’t easy.
Longoria had to fight for the opportunity to direct the story, and she put her vision into the script by Lewis Colick and Linda Yvette.
With a master’s degree in Chicano Studies under her belt, Longoria had a clear idea of how the story should go, honoring Montañez’s history and accomplishments.
“With this movie, I am telling the world that heroes don’t only look like the media says,” she said.
The plot revolves around Montañez’s ingenious idea, born from a broken machine at the Frito-Lay factory where he worked. Taking home a batch of tasteless snacks, he infused them with seasonings reminiscent of Mexican corn, giving birth to the now-famous Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
With determination and passion, Montañez pitched his creation to executives, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Latinos and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos vs. racism and classism
PepsiCo, the parent company of Frito-Lay, maker of Cheetos, has stated that Montañez was not involved in the snack’s taste testing, as portrayed in the film.
Even so, the company has acknowledged Montañez’s role as the organization’s creator of the Hispanic division. In fact, it is the first time a major U.S. company has specifically targeted the Latino market.
For Eva Longoria, the film represents a celebration of Montañez’s successes. More importantly, it is “an opportunity to showcase [our] heritage and challenge societal stereotypes,” she said.
“Richard’s confrontation with racism and classism is handled with grace and dignity. So I really felt like, wow, we have an opportunity to show the world who we are.”
Well-versed in the influential role of the media in stereotyping different cultures, Longoria was excited to use this film as a platform to present an alternative narrative.
A treasure trove of Latino talent
“Flamin’ Hot” features an exceptional cast. Jesse Garcia plays Richard Montañez, Annie Gonzalez plays Judy Montañez (Richard’s wife), and Emilio Rivera plays Vacho Montañez.
Longoria’s vision brings the story to life, emphasizing the message that defies expectations and pushes through closed doors.
This is due in part to the multiple challenges the actress has faced in her career.
“I have been told ‘no’ many times, for being a woman, for being Latina,” she shared. “This is a story about a guy who made people say yes.”
Her personal experiences fuel her determination to tell the stories of our community.
“My mission as a director is to tell the stories of the amazing Latinos that have changed and are changing the world,” she affirms.
And that community is giving her full support
At the Miami screening, Eva Longoria was surrounded by royalty. Joining her were Emilio and Gloria Estefan, Marc Anthony, journalist Maria Elena Salinas, and fiery political commentator and “The View” talk show host Ana Navarro.
Finally, Longoria is asking the general Latino public to follow her lead and watch the film starting this Friday on Hulu/Disney+.
“We did our part. Now we need the public to do theirs and tell Hollywood we want to see our stories on the screen,” she concluded.
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