Afro-Latina Filmmaker NK Gutierrez is Making Media About Sexually Empowered Women of Color

Afro-Latina Filmmaker NK Gutierrez is Making Media About Sexually Empowered Women
Courtesy of NK Gutierrez

From TV screens to magazine covers, it’s almost certain that representations of Latinas are going to be hyper-sexualized. But even with a decades-long collection of media portrayals of brown women licking their red lips in commercials, whispering “papi” in songs, bearing big breasts and even bigger backsides in music videos and sauntering in mini skirts in popular films, you’ll still have trouble finding examples of Latinas being sexual agents, rather than sexual objects in a racialized male fantasy.

PLUS: The Evolution of Latinas in Ads (Oh Wait! Nothing Has Changed)

NK Gutierrez wants to change that. The part-Mexican, part-African-American filmmaker is creating images of women of color who are sexually empowered, those Black and brown mujeres who choose to engage in consensual sex (or sexual activity) on their own terms, without shame or apologies.

In “The Last New Year,” a short film Gutierrez, 35, wrote and starred in, she shares the story of a heterosexual woman who’s determined to get some D after years without play. In less than 15 minutes, we witness her abandon her sexual appetite (and self-care) because of failed romances, reclaim her sexuality, talk shamelessly about her desires and plans, receive cheers and advice from her home girl, and, ultimately, go after what she desires – successfully (well, somewhat. You’ll have to watch!).

It’s a hilarious and relatable story of sexual liberation, self-care and empowerment, with women of color at the center.

Ahead, we talk with the Chicago-based filmmaker about the short, the importance of creating media about sexually empowered women of color, owning our sexuality in a culture that shames “putas” and more.

Why did you want to create this film?

Originally, I was creating the work for myself. I felt like I wasn’t being seen for all I was able to do. I felt there were no roles for Latinas or African Americans where we could be fun, sexy and smart all in the same breath, and it was really frustrating for me. I wanted to be seen for all that I am, so I created a space where I could show who I am.

Why is it important for you to make media about sexually empowered women of color?

Because this isn’t really available for us. We aren’t really shown in the media talking about sex, knowing how we want it and being OK, proud even, of being a sexual being. Instead, there’s so much slut-shaming. What I found interesting, from when I was writing until now, is how absent I felt. Where was I, and the women I know, in these spaces? Where were the women being overtly sexual or asexual? Where were the women who understood their sexuality is their choice?

There’s a lot of stigma in Latinx homes about women’s sexuality. How do you think media can help combat this shame for women of color?

By creating more pieces like this, creating art where women that look like us can also be strong, empowered, sexy and sexual. The more we see this – the more we are exposed to these images – the more it is normalized. We forget the power of art. Art, in many ways, shapes how we view ourselves and the world. We can break down barriers for brown women if we see more of us in this light. However, I want to be clear that we do often see Latinas being sexualized in the media. But when we do we are objectified. We are the sex sidepiece that’s tucked away, the sexy maid. I want to know what happens when we start to see brown women making choices about their sexuality and are empowered to talk about it without shame.

There’s a chapter in “The Last New Year” called Reclaiming My Inner “Peen Queen.” Why reclaim words like peen queen, puta, slut, etc.?

At the time, Alyssa, the main character, lost herself. She was unhappy with the dates she was going on, and she stopped taking care of herself. To me, this leads to the idea that we’ve, women, given our sexual power to somebody else: she wasn’t happy with how she was received, so she gives up on herself, and her sex life, altogether. So reclaiming these words, for me, comes from self-care, reclaiming who we are as women, our God-given sexuality, and taking care of it regardless of who is looking at it (or not looking at it).

When Alyssa does decide to reclaim her inner “Peen Queen,” her friend hilariously gives her a “Get That Dick kit.” Can you explain the significance of some of the items included?

It was really a self-care kit. One was a vaginal rejuvenation treatment, so she could make sure she’s nice and tight. There was KY stimulating jelly in there, because why not? We should feel empowered enough to bring it to the party ourselves. There are condoms, because if we choose to engage in sex, we should be as safe as possible. There are some bath salts, so that she could relax before or after the big night. There are candles, a nude-musty scent, because what girl does not like a good candle? And there are lotions, because you always want to be hydrated. All items, I think, are important when reclaiming your inner peen queen.

MORE: 6 Latinxs Talk About What Being Pro-Hoe Means to Them

Love it! Are there any other projects coming up that you’re excited about?

I’m turning “The Last New Year” into a web series. We’ll get to see Alyssa’s sexual liberation and self-love journey and also find out what happens the day after she finally gets some. Currently, we are working on funding for that, but we do have an executive producer and professional fundraiser. We are hoping to start making serious moves on that in the next few months. Readers can check out our website for more news on that. Also, I’m finishing my first feature film screenplay, “Las Palabras,” which is loosely based on my life story and what it’s like to be Afro-Latina and straddling different cultures.

For more from Gutierrez, follow her on Instagram and stay tuned for more updates on “The Last New Year” on its Facebook page.