I remember reading Alisa Valdes’ book, The Dirty Girls Social Club, when I was in college. I loved it so much I shared it with all my friends. It made me laugh, cry and feel for the characters, Las Sucias, who are a diverse group of real and multi-faceted women, who happen to be Latinas. I remember how much I enjoyed reading about women who were like me—young women navigating two cultures, as Latinas and as Americans, speaking in English, Spanish and Spanglish, and dealing with relationships, family, professional lives, friendships and more.
When I found out that Valdes intended to bring the book to the big screen, I was incredibly surprised to learn that she’d been trying to make a film version for years. Unfortunately, no studio had been willing to do so in the way that Valdes agreed with (i.e. keeping true to the story and her characters.)
After years of Hollywood execs pushing to make her book into something it was not, Valdes has decided to make the movie on her own, with help from the community. On May 31, she launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising $250,000 to launch the film project, which she estimates can be made for $1 million.
I spoke to Valdes about what motivated her to want to make the movie on her own, and the challenges she’s had in realizing her dream.
“In writing The Dirty Girls Social Club, I wrote the book I always wanted to read but could not find,” she says. “I’d say the same impulse is at work in my desire to see these stories on the big screen. But it is quite clear that the industry has no desire or ability to let us in at all. That’s why I’m doing it myself.”
DEALS GONE BUST
Valdes explains that even before the book was published she had deal with Columbia Pictures, and Jennifer Lopez was on board. But they had creative differences and the deal did not work out. The next deal was with Lifetime, a network that suggested she make her characters “more Latina” by having them “date men in prison.” Apparently they thought that this is a Latina thing! The next deal was with NBC for DGSC to be a series (my dream, a Latina Sex and the City!)… that deal did not work out either, as Afro-Latina and Native American characters were asked to be eliminated, in order to avoid “confusion” by the mainstream American audience. Valdes has been working with Tyler Perry and is hopeful that he will sign on to the project. “It would be demoralizing if I didn’t believe so strongly in what we’re doing,” she says.
Valdes has tried to contact several very high-profile Latina actors and producers but got little positive response. To date, two actors have shown support for the film: Gina Rodriguez, who recently starred in the film, “Filly Brown” has supported the Kickstarter campaign. Most recently, Steven Michael Quezada who plays DEA agent Steven Gomez in AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” has agreed to star in the film.
CHALLENGES FOR LATINAS IN FILM
I asked Valdes why she thought it was so hard to get money for a movie like this. She said she has no idea, considering the amount of money to be made—she estimates that for every dollar invested, there can be a $90 return. “I think part of the difficulty is simply that everyone has been brainwashed by stereotypes, to only conceptualize of Latinos in a certain way, a false way, an unfortunate way. I have sat in meetings where executives have asked me whether it is believable that Latinas could go to college and drive luxury cars, when I myself was living proof of both.” She also thinks Hollywood is afraid to take on anything new, even though there has been success with all female ensemble movies such as “Bridesmaids”—it’s just never been done with an all-Latina cast. Valdes feels that it will take a hit to make Hollywood wake up: “The only thing that will change the industry is having a super successful crossover Latino film that brings in big money and makes everyone say ‘What the hell was THAT?’”
I hope that super successful film is “The Dirty Girls Social Club.” I loved the book, and I am incredibly excited about the possibility of seeing Las Sucias in a movie theater. If you haven’t checked out the book, it’s a great read about six amigas, college friends, who meet yearly to talk about life, love and everything in between. If you’re a Latina, I guarantee you will identify with at least one Sucia, and if you’re not, you will still laugh, cry and relate to the issues these women are going through. Because at the end of the day, we may have grown up with a big, crazy, loud Latin family (OK, at least I did), but we are still trying to do what everyone else does: be successful professionals, juggle work, relationships and family… and make our way in the world.