Gloria in excelsis


When I arrived in Mexico City in 1990, a performer named Gloria Trevi had recently become a big star. At the time, she seemed like the perfect antidote to the prefabricated pop idols here, who all had the same nose jobs and blonde highlights in their hair, all sang the same treacly love ballads, and were known as pendejos televisos (assholes from Televisa, at the time the only, and still the predominant, Mexican television network).

Unlike her contemporaries, Trevi sang about violence against women, unplanned pregnancy, machismo, religion, and homelessness; her anthem "Pelo suelto" was more or less an ode to liberation. Even to this day I would be hard-pressed to name a Mexican woman in mainstream show business who challenged the social and political hierarchy of this country the way that she did.


The plot thickened in the year 2000, when Trevi, her manager Sergio Andrade and a colleague of theirs known as Mary Boquitas were arrested in Rio de Janeiro on charges of corrupting minors. The prosecution's side of the story was that Trevi and Andrade corralled teenaged girls with the promise of making them pop stars but in fact sexually enslaved them. Trevi would spend close to five years in jail (in Brazil and then Mexico) before she was cleared of all charges due to lack of evidence. 

Trevi's version of events was that Andrade was a Svengali figure who had controlled her life -- and her money, and her record deals, and everything else about her -- since she was sixteen. Of course it was hard to square this story with the star's public image as a fiercely outspoken, independent and street-savvy young woman. I suppose we will never know the true story.


Nonethless, a 28-year-old Swiss German named Christian Keller directed a movie with a certain interpretation of Trevi's story, which came out in Mexico at the beginning of January and opens across the U.S. on February 21. It took Keller, 28, ten years to get the film made. Most of the delays were due to opposition by the singer herself, despite the fact that she sold Keller the rights to her story and gave him and screenwriter Sabina Berman 30 hours of interviews from which they crafted their story.


Gloria distills 20 years of the singer's life into a little over two hours. It's a funny, lurid and at times disturbing tale with fantastic performances by both Sofía Espinosa in the title role and Marco Pérez as Sergio Andrade. Even if in the end it is a little hard to swallow the portrayal of Trevi as close to a sainted victim, I would recommend the film to anyone who is interested in Mexican pop culture.


Meanwhile, since her release from prison in 2005, Trevi has cut various records and continues to tour in the U.S., all over Latin America and in Spain. Now a señora on the cusp of her 47th birthday, she remains as big a star as ever.