Legendary Ranchera Chavela Vargas Getting Bio-Series — Here’s Everything We Know

Lead Photo: Chavela Vargas. Photo by Alicia Perez­-Duarte/Courtesy of Music Box Films
Chavela Vargas. Photo by Alicia Perez­-Duarte/Courtesy of Music Box Films
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An 8-episode biographical series on legendary ranchera singer Chavela Vargas is in the works. It’s based on the biography Dos Vidas Necesito. Las Verdades de Chavela by María Cortina. Kate del Castillo (La Reina del Sur) will portray the Costa Rican-Mexican vocalist.

According to Variety, the series will cover three eras of Vargas’ life – Mexico during the second half of the 20th century; Costa Rica in the 1920s; and Madrid in the 1990s, where she formed a friendship with Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar (Julieta).

Known as La Dama del Poncho Rojo, Vargas got her start as a street performer before making a name for herself in nightclubs during the 1940s. Her style was unique at the time because she didn’t conform to the look of other women singers. She took the stage in a poncho and was known for smoking cigars, drinking tequila, and carrying a pistol.

In 1961, she released her self-titled album, which included songs like “La Llorona” and “Paloma Negra.” Vargas, who was connected romantically to Frida Kahlo and Ava Gardner, would fall out of the spotlight for at least 20 years due to her alcoholism. It wasn’t until 1994 when she released her album La Llorona that she found her way back to what she loved.

She was 81 years old when she came out as a lesbian to the public. In 2003, she made her debut at Carnegie Hall. Four years later, she was honored with a Grammy Award for Musical Excellence. Vargas died in 2012 at the age of 93.

Castillo said she was fascinated by the role because she was fearful of it. “That’s why I accepted it,” she said. “There is a lot to learn from Chavela, starting with her freedom.”