Q’Viva The Chosen

Q'Viva The Chosen publicity photo - business wire

I have just watched the first episode of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthoney’s new reality television program, Q’Viva The Chosen, bringing together 27 professional performers, singers, and dancers from all over Latin America to compete for a spectacular extravaganza show in Las Vegas as finale.

‘The largest Latin talent showcase the world has ever seen!,’ says the announcer during the opening montage.

As Jennifer Lopez said in the emotional ending in Episode One – she and Marc Anthony want to show the talent, passion and soul of Latin America to the world.

Jennifer and Marc Anthony criss-cross Latin America, meeting and auditioning performers, singers and dancers, and in the process, the pair offer a glimpse into their lives as partners, parents and people.

Where before there were two superstars, now, two human beings with the love and passion for Latin culture that everyone can share.

I am once again noticing the diverse programming of Fox Television’s line-up, bringing to the small screen the lives, voices and stories that, frankly, can’t easily be found on other networks. I am a fan of Dancing with the Stars, yet, it’s really nice to see the origins of many of the dances, and, nice to finally see performers who bring those traditions from way back.

As Jennifer Lopez says at the start of Episode One, this competition goes a long way to showing just how alike we all truly are – with the same desires, goals, and dreams – and the universal challenges faced by all artists striving and working hard to become the best in the world.

I look forward to watching the rest of the season! Lopez has long been an inspiration – her talent, level of discipline, her long-term vision, and sound business sense – apart from looking amazing – Lopez reaches what Tyra Banks also promotes – becoming a mogul of your own talents.

Over the last few years, I have become addicted to watching shows that I might otherwise not find myself drawn – and hence, the genius of reality television! – like, the Housewives of Atlanta, The Basketball Wives, yes, even the L.A. version – and what I realized was that these shows gave me a glimpse into the lives of extremely successful women of color. As much as showing what not to do, these shows also showed a visual I very much-needed – to see women of color I can identify with, and, to witness the choices they had made to reach and maintain success.

As the Q’Viva The Chosen continues on, there are many people we meet with stories that gave audiences a much better idea of some of the cultural – and economic – challenges that Latino and Indigenous performers have to overcome, some of which may not be challenges others face in their culture and community.

The first episode of Q’Viva The Chosen presents a good example of what I mean.

Two pairs of tango dancers auditioned, and in the end, two dancers were chosen – one from each pair, not the pair together. Jennifer Lopez speaking about the challenge such a choice meant for the pairs was moving – explaining how, culturally, loyalty is such an important and entrenched value. Both individual dancer decided they could not leave their partners, the chosen dancers turning down the tickets to Los Angeles for the second part of the competition.

I was deeply moved by another story, a dancer whose family had turned their back on her because she continued to dance, and went so far as to take her child away to make her stop dancing. I found myself crying as I thought to my own family’s reaction to my choosing to continue with my films and artwork, even when my family stopped talking to me after I refused. Having just returned from Mexico and completing my first hour-long documentary, Transition, about the election of President Vicente Fox, the first opposition party president in Mexico in 70 years, their rejection and disapproval came at a time when I most needed their love and support as an artist, as a daughter, as a single mom. It took me many years to work through the emotional pain of feeling I had let my family down.

It can take a lot of strength and determination to reach one’s goal, to push back the heartache, and recognize, the most important person that must believe is oneself.

In the heart of Mexico City, Marc Anthony interviews a troupe who had performed for 14 years together, as one described, making the most of their difficult lives, all the tougher for their darker skin, and, lack of economic options due to discrimination.

Marc Anthony showed a very deep passion and dedication to the mission of Q’Viva, to choose performers who might never be seen or appreciated. The joy, and almost total disbelief with which this group of men responded to the offer to go to Los Angeles for the next round, was so moving, and so deeply engaging to be able to see across borders, divides, and nations.

It’s extremely important for us to be able to see how other people of color manage to bridge the different worlds – and succeed.

I felt this joy watching the season opener of Season 18 of America’s Next Top Model, with great joy to see the show’s first Native American model, Mariah Watchman, who grew up on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, representing and bringing to the competition a youthful, striking beauty.

I really want to give props to Tyra Banks and America’s Next Top Model for even thinking to include a First Nations person in the show. So very often, Native Americans are completely left out of the media, and national television.

And, it might be for that reason that some of the judge’s comments about the ‘Native American presence’ – or lack thereof –  Mariah brought to her role as Pocohontas seemed so culturally insensitive. Just because ‘Pocohontas’ – a character most recently viewed in the animated Disney version – is the most common and comfortable Native American to the general public, doesn’t mean a Native American will be as comfortable.

Mariah was asked to portray someone not of her own tribe, dressed in garb that did not appear accurate to Pocohontas’ tribe. This is at a time when Indian Country is openly discussing and challenging hipster ‘Native American’ fashion for lack of cultural respect, mixing elements from different tribes, or using traditional designs in unintended ways, like on hipster underwear.

When talk came of cutting Mariah’s hair, I felt myself freeze up, what would happen now? Mariah explained the importance of long hair to ceremony and culture, had her bangs cut as compromise. It was the same show in which she was dismissed for disappointing the judges for not bringing enough Native American mojo to the screen. (A whole other conversation.)

I was sad to see her voted off and I was left wondering how that particular bridge can be crossed in the future.

Tyra mentioned how she had talked to Mariah about her life on the reservation, but, I wondered if the judges knew how hard it can be to find a supportive environment for such ‘lofty’ aims, or to access the important training that critique brings an artist, when done to build up one’s strength in the face of rejection, part and parcel for the industry.

Mariah was not daunted in the least – and proclaimed she is going to be American’s first Native American Top Model one day! I loved seeing her resolve.

Where one generation may not be able to cross the psychological divide, the next one comes stronger in visioning ability and gets there.

These reality programs offer a chance to view and witness the challenges, but also, how to overcome to reach one’s goal!

Felicito Q’Viva The Chosen! I envision this show will inspire a whole new generations of performers, now having the opportunity to view on-screen and learn from people just like themselves, and to know their dreams are within reach.

Felicito Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony who are giving back in a way that will have an impact for generations – fulfilling our most important mandate – to each other and the next seven generations.

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