Crossdressing Latino Singer Chavela Profiled in New Biopic

Written by | Entertainment, Music, Screen

Chavela Vargas

Chavela Vargas — courtesy of Music Box Films

You may never have heard of Chavela Vargas, but if you see this film you’re unlikely to ever forget her.

Born in 1919, Chavela left Costa Rica as a teenager bound for Mexico City, where (by the 1950s) she was a darling of its thriving bohemian club scene. Chavela sang the very popular ranchera style of music, but she did it differently, laying bare the exquisite desperation at its core. In a bit of a queer twist, she also did it in men’s clothing, and refused to change its romantic pronouns to refer to men instead of women. Chavela’s talent, passion for living and undeniable individuality are what make her unforgettable, but her incredible life story adds icing to the cake. In the film, we hear stories about her drinking hard and loving deeply, told with reverence by those who treasure the experiences with this singular woman — who was once the lover of Frida Kahlo, who seduced scores of other women (including the wives of prominent politicians and Eva Gardner at Elizabeth Taylor’s wedding) Sadly, she fell out of the public eye for many years due to severe alcoholism but then resurfaced in the early 1990s to reach the height of her fame at 71 and then continued to sing until her death in 2012 at age 93. Pedro Almodovar became the great champion of her comeback — using her music in several films kissing the stage on which she was about to perform when introducing her. THE WORD: Some people must be seen and heard to be believed. COMING TO: Theaters

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Last modified: October 4, 2017

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