Turner Classic Movies spent a full day last week honoring Mexican actress Lupe Velez. Folks on social media shared trivia and thoughts, while overall praising an actress many didn’t know a lot about. But if you’d like to learn more about Velez, and the history of two power Latinas in early Hollywood, Diana Martinez, the host of the podcast Hollywood in Color is ready to tell you.
Hollywood in Color looks at the history of film through the lens of the underappreciated minority actresses who came up through the ranks. The podcast’s first season, dubbed, “Las Reinas of Los Angeles” looks at Lupe Velez and fellow Mexican actress Dolores del Rio. Both ladies traveled from their native Mexico to Hollywood but had incredibly different receptions by the glitterati and divergent treatment of their heritage. Martinez breaks down in the season’s five episodes how del Rio seemingly abandoned her Mexican roots, becoming the “good” example of international relations, whereas Velez, with a wild string of white lovers and a flippant attitude towards Hollywood, was a “bad” example.
With the massive success of Karina Longworth’s classic Hollywood podcast, You Must Remember This, it’s great that there’s a similar show actively looking at how the studio era shaped (and erased) performers of color. Del Rio was a solid actress for several years, yet was often relegated to being second banana in many of her features, whereas Velez suffered from a variety of personal setbacks that ended up with her being infamously “immortalized” in Kenneth Anger’s book, Hollywood Babylon.
If you’re open to hearing more about these two fantastic leading ladies who hailed from Mexico, spend a few hours listening to Martinez chart their history, their movies, and their lives. You’ll be glad you did!