At Selena Gomez’s recent Miami concert she gave a heart-wrenching tribute to Christina Grimmie, who was tragically shot by a crazed fan last Friday. Christina was Selena’s friend and opening act in her We Own The Night tour. The two had been friends since the age of 14 when Selena’s step-father became Grimmie’s manager.
Selena began the tribute by saying a few words about her late friend, “And one thing about Christina and her family, is that she holds her faith so closely to her. It’s not about her religion, and it’s not about good deeds. It’s just that she had faith. And I don’t really understand how this happened, but I would like to dedicate this next song to her.”
Selena sang the song “Transformation” before breaking down and mouthing the words “I’m sorry.” We’ve never seen Selena so heartbroken, even in the Bieber days.
The attack on Christina happened just before the largest mass shooting in US history, which also took place in Orlando, Flo. Florida is currently under fire, receiving serious criticism of their lax gun laws.
While it’s been three years since the iconic Mexican singer Juan Gabriel’s alleged death, JuanGa’s legacy is still alive. Every time a sequin is handsewn onto a garment, Juanga gets another pair of golden angel wings. He doesn’t need anymore, guys! To usher in a new generation of Juanga stans, Mexican singer Georgel, and Colombian singer Esteman have put a modern twist on the 1980’s classic “El Noa Noa.”
While Juan Gabriel’s sexual orientation was subject to speculation during and after his life, it goes without saying that his flamboyant style with his bold sequins and whimsical touches found a comfortable home in the LGBTQ+ canon. His persona evoked a sense of liberation that was inaccessible to queer Latinxs at the time. What makes this version of “El Noa Noa” different, and what marks a clear evolution of LGBTQ+ folks in the Latinx community, is that both Georgel and Esteman are out and proud.
This song is personal for Georgel.
Georgel and Esteman teamed up with producer Juan Pablo Vega to create a unique and fresh cover of “El Noa Noa.” The music video premiered this week on Billboard.
“I grew up thinking of Juan Gabriel as the greatest artist in Latin America,” Georgel told Remezcla. He and his husband, Guillermo Rosas were friends with Juan Gabriel who they remember by his real name, Alberto. Georgel believes the ’80s bop was Juanga’s way of giving the public a tiny taste of who he really was.
“‘El Noa Noa’ was an international hit during the ’80s and a social phenomenon for the LGBTQ+ community,” he said. “It gave strength to the phrase, ‘ser de ambiente’ (being part of the LGBTQ+ community) and in my opinion, it was a window into the world where [Juan Gabriel] always wanted to live.”
To revamp the legendary hit would be a huge undertaking. Georgel enlisted the help of another gay Latinx artist, Colombian singer and songwriter Esteman to give “El Noa Noa” a modern electro-cumbia update.
“There was immediate chemistry, artistically speaking,” Esteman told Billboard. “He told me he wanted to do the song with me, and I thought it was a great idea to bring this classic song to our generation.”
“El Noa Noa” was ahead of its time.
Georgel and Esteman decided to go with a retro-futuristic music video which is no surprise since “El Noa Noa” was way ahead of its time. The song envisioned a world where patrons of a Juarez nightclub could dance and be themselves freely.
“In my opinion, it’s the most fun, it’s the most uptempo, it’s the one that our Mexican and Latin culture remembers as a party song,” Georgel told Billboard.
Whether intentionally or not, it’s hard not to imagine a place not too different from an LGBTQ+ nightclub with ball competitions or the sexual freedom kept safely hidden between the walls of the infamous New York City nightclub Studio 54 in the 1970s.
Out of this world.
In the video, Georgel and Esteman ride around in a sportscar wearing sequined bomber jackets. After getting stranded on the highway they discover a glowing red door that transports them to a Juarez club with drag queens, astronauts, galaxies, and choreographed dance. Complete with voguing and aliens, the new “El Noa Noa” brings the surreal feeling of the song to life by showing viewers a different world, one that might even be better than this one.
“It looks like we’re on another planet but basically, it’s to show that when you go to ‘El Noa Noa,’ everyone is different,” Esteman told Billboard. “The best part is the message it sends of accepting each other in this diverse world, where everyone is welcomed and where we have freedom of speech.”
New generation. New freedoms.
While “El Noa Noa” may have been an unspoken LGBTQ+ anthem in the 1980s, in 2019, what was unsaid can now be spoken. Georgel and Esteman couldn’t be better messengers to continue Juanga’s legacy of freedom, liberation and being as extra as you can be.
In the world that they have created, even if it only exists in a 4 minute music video, everyone finally gets to be themselves in a way that many people of Juanga’s time could not. Even if it still just a fantasy (because hello, there are 71 countries where it is illegal to be an LGBTQ+ person) there was a time when even suggesting the fantasy could have dangerous consequences. “El Noa Noa,” now. “El Noa Noa,” forever.
“What’s beautiful about bringing it back in this day and age is that we are showing it to a new generation, reviving it and making it alive again with two voices that are part of the LGBT community,” Georgel said.
After spending half of her life behind bars, Cyntoia Brown will be released from prison on August 7.
The 31-year-old was sentenced to life in prison in 2004, when she was 16 years old, for killing a 43-year-old man who solicited her for sex. At the time, she was a sex trafficking victim under a pimp named “Cut Throat.” While Brown was a minor, she was tried as an adult.
The case made national headlines last December when a Tennessee Supreme Court ruled she would have to serve 51 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
At the time, celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian West, Lebron James, and Cara Delevingne, among others, expressed their outrage on social media, with some advocating for her release and others funding legal support.
“Something his (sic) horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life,” Rihanna captioned a post on Instagram in November 2017.
Kardashian West, who shared the singer’s post on Twitter, added: “The system has failed. Its heartbreaking to see young girl sex trafficked then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life! We have to do better & do what’s right.”
In January, former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) granted her clemency following the mounting pressure.
At the time, Haslan called the sentence “too harsh,” especially considering the “extraordinary steps” Brown had “taken to rebuild her life” in prison.
“She is light years today, as a woman, different from the traumatized 16-year-old that she was,” he said in January, according to CNN. “She’s mentoring … troubled youth, working on her college degree, she is planning a nonprofit so she can help other young people.”
Brown earned her associate degree from Lipscomb University in 2015 and, as reported by The Tennessean, obtained a bachelor’s degree in the Tennessee Prison for Women in May. She’s also been working with the state’s juvenile justice system to help counsel young people at risk.
For many, Brown has been a “model inmate” throughout her incarceration.
“I learned that my life was — and is — not over,” Brown said in a documentary, “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.” “I can create opportunities where I can actually help people.”
In 2004, a then-16-year-old Brown was living with a 24-year-old pimp named “Cut Throat,” a man who she said physically and emotionally abused her as well as forced her into sex work. According to court documents, on August 7 of that year, Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen brought Brown to his home and paid her $150 in exchange for sex. While at his residence, Brown said that Allen showed her multiple guns in a cabinet. At one point, she alleges that the man reached under his bed, seemingly grabbing a firearm. Believing he was going to kill her, Brown said she took a gun out of her purse and fatally shot Allen.
Brown long claimed the killing was self-defense. However, the prosecution argued that the motive was robbery since Brown took Allen’s wallet after she shot him. She was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder and aggravated robbery.
The convictions carried two concurrent life sentences and eight additional years.
According to Refinery29, during Brown’s original trial, she was not allowed to testify. As such, she was unable to present evidence of her traumatic childhood history, including her time under the care of the state Department of Children’s Services, and her neurodevelopmental disorder.
For her supporters, Brown, a survivor of sexual and physical violence, has been doubly wronged, first by men who assaulted her and again by a state who locked her up in an adult women’s prison for more than a decade instead of protecting her. Many have taken to social media to express their joy over Brown’s impending freedom.
“15 years too long for self-defense the whole world is waiting on your release August 7th you will be free,” wrote one Twitter user. “Freeing #CyntoiaBrown is the Greatest thing I’ve heard all Year!!! She never should’ve been Locked up in the first place,” added another.
Additionally, Brown’s representatives are raising money through a GoFundMe campaign to ensure an adequate start to her new life upon her release.
At the time of writing, the so-called second chance fund has raised nearly $16,000.
As part of the terms of her commuted sentence, Brown, who will be freed on Wednesday, will have to report to a parole officer regularly for the next decade. She is also required to stay employed, participate in counseling and perform community service with at-risk youth.
“With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people,” Brown said in a statement shortly after her sentence was commuted. “My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.”