Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Dance and the Hollywood Latina

Dance and the Hollywood Latina: Race, Sex, and Stardom

Priscilla Peña Ovalle
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 194
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Dance and the Hollywood Latina
    Book Description:

    Dance and the Hollywood Latinaasks why every Latina star in Hollywood history, from Dolores Del Rio in the 1920s to Jennifer Lopez in the 2000s, began as a dancer or danced onscreen. While cinematic depictions of women and minorities have seemingly improved, a century of representing brown women as natural dancers has popularized the notion that Latinas are inherently passionate and promiscuous. Yet some Latina actresses became stars by embracing and manipulating these stereotypical fantasies.Introducing the concepts of "inbetween-ness" and "racial mobility" to further illuminate how racialized sexuality and the dancing female body operate in film, Priscilla Peña Ovalle focuses on the careers of Dolores Del Rio, Rita Hayworth, Carmen Miranda, Rita Moreno, and Jennifer Lopez.Dance and the Hollywood Latinahelps readers better understand how the United States grapples with race, gender, and sexuality through dancing bodies on screen.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5025-1
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Mobilizing the Latina Myth
    (pp. 1-23)

    In 2007, the dandruff shampoo Head & Shoulders ran an advertising campaign featuring a series of staged testimonials from black, white, and brown women. Each woman’s extolment—delivered in a series of close-ups—praises the product according to her (hair) type: after a black woman with dark, curly hair gushes that the shampoo “actually changed my hair,” a white woman declares that her straight auburn hair “feels healthy.” When the Latina finally delivers her testimonial, she exclaims that her improved hair has “movement, like salsa,” and the commercial cuts to its only medium shot, framing the Latina’s body from head...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Dolores Del Rio Dances across the Imperial Color Line
    (pp. 24-48)

    InWonder Bar(1934), Al Wonder (Al Jolson) entertains a Parisian nightclub crowd with a song before the club’s headlining dancer Ynez, played by Dolores Del Rio, takes center stage. Jolson augments his singing with his signature facial expressions and hand gestures. When the lyric recounts being “in the arms of a lovely Latin daughter,” Jolson delivers this rather benign line while spreading his legs with his hands. This small gesture—hands parting, thighs open—effectively equates the lyric’s “arms” with his pried-open legs; this juxtaposition between aural and bodily signifiers subtly transforms the song’s “lovely Latin daughter” into a...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Carmen Miranda Shakes It for the Nation
    (pp. 49-69)

    Carmen Miranda is a Hollywood icon—a swirl of tropical fruit and Technicolor, the Good Neighbor who taught the United States that Brazil was ripe for the picking. Her whirling celebrity spanned over two decades: one decade in Brazil (1929–1939), and nearly fifteen years in the U.S. spotlight (1939–1955). While Miranda epitomized Latin America for her Hollywood audiences, she was in fact a Portuguese émigré. In Brazil, Miranda was a white working-class woman who embraced and commodified the traditional black styles of Brazilian music and performance; in the United States, however, this complexity was reduced to an amalgamated...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Rita Hayworth and the Cosmetic Borders of Race
    (pp. 70-100)

    Rita Hayworth, like Carmen Miranda, lives on as a Hollywood icon, but few remember her as one of the industry’s most successful Latina actresses. While Miranda’s stardom was in transit from Brazil to the United States, Rita Hayworth was transitioning from an ethnic starlet to a mainstream Love Goddess. Born Margarita Carmen Cansino to a Spanish father and American mother of English/Irish descent in New York City, Rita was discovered as a teenager by Hollywood film producers in the Mexican nightclub where she danced professionally. Although she eventually changed her name (and look) from Cansino to Hayworth, Rita’s Hollywood sex...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Rita Moreno, the Critically Acclaimed “All-Round Ethnic”
    (pp. 101-125)

    Following in the footsteps of previous Latinas in Hollywood, Rita Moreno has built a career shaped by national conceptions of race, gender, and their sexualization. Like Rita Hayworth, Moreno embodies the changing view of Latinas, and particularly the Puerto Rican Latina, in the U.S. imagination. Unlike her predecessors, however, Moreno has been able to gain professional recognition and remain employed while critiquing the conceptions of Latina-ness in Hollywood and beyond. A look at one of her early television appearances both accesses the historical base from which she emerged and suggests the agency she has exercised and continues to employ as...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Jennifer Lopez, Racial Mobility, and the New Urban/Latina Commodity
    (pp. 126-144)

    To this day, Jennifer Lopez’s career signals the peak of the Hollywood Latina. Building on nearly a century of the visual mythology developed from Dolores Del Rio to Rita Moreno, Lopez’s stardom illustrates how the end of the twentieth century proved ripe for the commodification of in-betweenness and racial mobility. The multiplicity of media outlets and mainstreaming of black popular culture facilitated Lopez’s rise to fame and have successfully reproduced a hierarchy of light female nonwhiteness that is marketable as both urban and multicultural. Lopez has crafted her multimedia and multidemographic career to exploit all facets of the Hollywood Latina...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 145-158)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 159-170)
  12. Index
    (pp. 171-178)
  13. About the Author
    (pp. 179-179)