The Wow Climax: Tracing the Emotional Impact of Popular Culture

By Henry Jenkins | Go to book overview

6

“You Don't Say That in English!”
The Scandal of Lupe Velez

In a church, I am a saint. In a public place, I am a lady. In my own
home, I am a devil…. My house is where I can do as I please,
scream and yell and dance and fall on the floor if I like. I am myself
when I am in my home.1

—Lupe Velez

The following is one of the many stories Hollywood told about Lupe Velez. This version appeared in New Movie magazine in 1932 and begins when Lupe is twelve years old:

Even at that tender age, Lupe had sex appeal and no race is as quick to
recognize this quality as the Mexican. The house was surrounded by boys
of all ages, who whistled in various keys. For Lupe those young swains
were simply a means to an end. She had an absorbing curiosity about mo-
tion picture stars and she discovered, young as she was, that her kisses
were marketable. She would bestow a chaste salute on a masculine cheek
in exchange for a picture of a star or a colored ribbon to wind in her dark
braids. Thus, men became to her tools to gain the things she wanted, and
the house was besieged with them. Her more placid sister, Josephine, car-
ried notes between Lupe and the boys, and Lupe's keen little ears soon
learned the different whistles of the young lovers.2

This remarkable story links together the origins of Lupe's transgressive female sexuality (her willingness to use men as “tools” for her own ends) with the origins of her desire for film stardom. Lupe, the young Mexican girl, desires glamour photographs of Hollywood stars and is willing to trade her sexual favors to get them, to exchange bronze flesh for silvery images.

-125-

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