Iconic Puerto Rican actress, Lauren Velez, 47, may flaunt her investigative skills as Captain María LaGuerta on the hit drama series, Dexter, which premieres its new season on Showtime this week, but she's also preparing to take center stage in the upcoming biopic, La Lupe.
Focusing on the poetically captivating life of the late Cuban singer, Guadalupe Victoria Yolí Raymond, Lauren will produce and star in the new movie, which debuted a kick-starter campaign to help raise $100,000 and bring the project to fruition.
Velez spoke to Latina.com exclusively about why she considers this film a passion project and how she relates to La Lupe's life story. Read more below!
How would you describe La Lupe for those who aren’t familiar with the icon?
“She was incredibly powerful and a force of nature. She was a Cuban singer who was kicked out of her country by Castro. She represented freedom and passion; everything that Castro considered as corrupt as America itself. She fled to New York, built her creative network with legends like Tito Puente, and started her own musical Latin revolution. It’s pretty incredible to look back at everything she was able to achieve.”
What do you think will draw people to her story?
“I think people will be drawn by her spirit and passion. This was a woman who would rip her clothes off on stage and scratch her skin. There was so much speculation about what was the driving force behind her antics. People wondered, ‘Was she on drugs? Was she possessed?’ All of those kinds of things, but I think at the end of the day, that’s how she expressed herself. She tried to live as true to herself as she could. She was misunderstood at every turn and very much ahead of her time.”
She was also very spiritual in real life. Will you capture that in the film as well?
“Definitely. That’s going to be a component of it. She grew up Pentecostal and became involved in Santeria. I think that once her life starting spinning out of control, she became really afraid and turned to the alternative religion. She went to them for guidance when she felt like she was losing herself. That’s a huge part of her story.”
You have played La Lupe before in an off-Broadway show. What inspired you to produced and star in a biopic about her a few years later?
“I grew up listening to her music. A few years ago, I was in a friend’s car and 'Que Te Pedi' came on the radio and I had such a visceral response to it. All these images popped into my head of when I was a kid. My mom struggled to raise eight children and my dad wasn’t home a lot since he was out working [as a cop]. My mother was incredibly strong and whenever I hear La Lupe’s music, I think about her strength. Her music and life inspired me to tell her story. Once we took it to the live stage, I realized that there were so many rich experiences and characters in her life, which made the stage too small for that level of storytelling. That’s what led us to turn it into a screenplay.”
As a Latina in Hollywood, do you relate to her personal journey?
“I do. When I started auditioning for Latina roles, Hollywood’s perception of Latinos was limited to Mexicans. They had no understanding of Afro-Caribbean Latinos. It was difficult at first because I couldn’t get an audition for Latina roles although I’m first generation Puerto Rican. Being in this business is not easy and it gets harder as time goes on. I can relate to her story and I’m always floored by our strength and determination as Latinas. I think there’s a little bit of La Lupe in all of us.”
Watch a preview of Lauren Velez's role as La Lupe below and support the film by visiting www.kickstarter.com!