J.Lo may be the Latina star who makes the most headlines today, but long before she first walked down the aisle, another Latina was paving the way. Maria Conchita Alonso was born in Cuba and raised in Venezuela. She started her career young, being crowned Miss Teenager of the World, Miss Venezuela, and competing in the Miss World beauty pageant. She used these pageants as a springboard to a modeling career, becoming one of the top models of her time. She took on acting and singing, adding more hyphens to her resume than J.Lo.
Along the way, she has appeared on Spanish Soap operas, starred in major Hollywood films, recorded 11 music albums, and performed on Broadway in Kiss of the Spider Woman. Maria Conchita Alonso's career has included many international awards as a model, a singer, an actress and a humanitarian. Most notably, Maria Conchita was nominated for an independent Spirit Award for Best Actress for Caught and 3 Grammy Nominations. She's become one of America's legendary Latina entertainers and, for many, a gay icon. Remakably, Maria Conchita Alonso met fame at a time when Latinos were far less dominant than they are today.
In speaking with her, you quickly find that her Spanish accent hasn't gone away, accentuating the independent Latina Maria Conchita represents. However, she isn't your stereotype; she's the rock chick who loves to entertain—something she's been doing well for a very long time.
After taking an eight-year break from music, Maria Conchita Alonso is back. This time she's on the dance floor with a new EP single, 'Soy', to be released on Sept. 7. She is also currently working on her new album, due to be released some time next year.
She took the time to chat with this fan about 'Soy', the new album, making it in Hollywood, and of course Chiquie Chiquie!
Emmanuel Garcia: The name of this magazine is Identity. How do you identify?
Maria Conchita Alonso: As a free spirit, true to myself, a believer of individualism. Everybody should do what's right and what's good for them no matter what society or others might say.
EG: Let's talk about your new single 'Soy'.
MCA: It's a new single. The album is not coming out until next year. It's not really what my album is about; my album is Latin Pop and this single is House/Dance. We did 'Soy' in eight different remixes. Like house, dance, electro, and techno. For my fans I added new versions of a couple of my first No. 1 hits, which are 'La Loca' and 'Noche de Copas'.
EG: Will this album be Spanish, or will it be Spanglish?
MCA: This is an EP. The album is not until next year, so what I'm promoting now is the EP 'Soy'. It's in Spanish
EG: Why did you choose this song?
MCA: I picked that song because the label that I signed with, Cleopatra, is the label that does only like remixes of songs. They're not really a label that launches whole CD's. ... This is the song that they signed me for. I signed with them for this EP, not for the whole album. They heard my music and they like this one.
EG: When was the last time you did an album?
MCA: (sighs) Like about eight years ago. Yeah, I took a little recess, but I didn't know that it was going to be for such a long time. I just wanted to rest for a little while and then all of a sudden it became ...
EG: Eight years! (We both laugh)
MCA: So, I'm like. 'Oh my time has passed by fast'
EG: What have you been doing in the past eight years?
MCA: I've been traveling. I've been working as an actor—you know, cable movies. I did a couple of movies outside of the United States. [I] took time for myself writing songs. Just wanted to be a moment by myself.
EG: You did Return to Babylon during this time.
MCA: It's one of the projects that I've been working on. We're almost done with it, but it's not quite finished yet. It's a very cool black-and-white film about the stars of that era, the '20s and '30s. My character is Lupe Velez.
EG: You've done television, film, music, and Broadway. Is there something you haven't done professionally that you would like to do?
MCA: Not really. I think I've done it all! I'd like to work with people that I haven't worked with. [I'd like to] continue doing what I'm doing, maybe do a duet with Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, Axl Rose from Guns n' Roses.
EG: In terms of the new album, what will be different this time around?
MCA: It's more modern, hipper music than what I used to do before. It's different. The EP is different house/dance, and the CD is different. It has a lot of Latin influence with hip hop and trip hop.
EG: What's your favorite type of music?
MCA: I like rock.
EG: I couldn't tell, especially with your answers!
MCA: (She laughs) I like blues, Buddha bar kind of music, lounge.
EG: We now have a number of Latino/a actors in Hollywood. How difficult was it for you when you started?
MCA: (sighs) To tell you the truth, when I started here there wasn't much of a Latino base. The doors weren't really open for Latinos. It was easier than I would have thought. I was lucky I guess. My energy attracted a lot of people, so I think it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. I think it's harder now to stay doing what I want to do because the industry wants fresh meat. Sometimes people forget that talent is the most important thing. But I shouldn't complain. I've had a wonderful career and I'm ready to continue with it, and I'm sure I will have it until I want to have it.
EG: Who were your role models growing up?
MCA: I guess my mom. I really didn't have anyone outside my family. My mom was an amazing role model
EG: You are very well respected in the Hollywood community, especially the Latino community. When I told my mom I was doing this interview she said, 'Oh my god I can't believe it, your grandmother knows who she is!' I'm like, 'Everybody knows who she is! How could you not?' Do you feel that's it's harder now because there are more people?
MCA: I don't think that it's because there are more people, because I don't think there are many [entertainers] from my generation really. I don't compete with the new generation, because we are different generations. It really has to do with luck and fresh meat and having good representation, which I really haven't had. Good representation is really important to get you out there—in meetings, interviews and auditions. I'm doing a big change in my life in that aspect.
EG: What advice would you give others who are trying to break into the entertainment business?
MCA: I think the most important thing—and it shouldn't just be for minorities, it should be for everyone. ... If you go out there believing that you're going to be receiving lots of 'No's' because of where you come from, that's a very big mistake because that's what you're going to project. You have to understand the industry is tough no matter where you come from, no matter what your background is. There are a lot of people out there wanting to do the same thing that you want to do. But it's not impossible. You just have to believe in yourself and when you receive 'No's', instead of making you disappear, it should make you fight even harder.
I would say the most important thing is believe in yourself, keep fighting, and be prepared for anything. Don't take the rejections personal.
EG: You have a huge GLBT fan base. What is your connection to the GLBT community?
MCA: I was very much supported by the community when I first came out with my music—first in Venezuela and then worldwide. I guess because I'm a strong person, I don't care what others say. I do what I believe is right for me because I respect other's beliefs. [With] the kind of music that I perform, I did get a lot of respect and handholding from the community. It's just like Cher!
EG: You're participating in The Latin Pride Festival in LA, which helps fund HIV causes. How can we get this important message across to people in general?
MCA: I think for many years they have been trying to get the message across that HIV gets to anyone. ... I just think as time goes by people have more knowledge of it, but we have to continue fighting it. I really believe that it's not going to stop 100%, but at least we can diminish the growth of it. It's important that if you're going to go out there and 'Chiquie Chiquie' that you should be protected! And keep having fun because you're not going to stop 'Chiquie, Chiquie!'—it's good, it's beautiful. So, at least protect yourself and others.
EG: What is your favorite quote?
MCA: 'Live and let live!'
EG: Let's do one or the other. Pick one of the following: Hispanic or Latina?
MCA: For me, it's the same. Either one
EG: Salsa or Merengue?
MCA: Neither one
EG: Bush or Kerry?
MCA: I'm not a politician. Everybody has something good and bad. You have to measure who has better things. I don't vote! I'm not an American citizen. But, I think it's very important for everybody to vote.
EG: Civil Union or Gay Marriage?
MCA: If you want to do it, why not?
EG: Do you ever go back to Venezuela?
MCA: I used to go more than now because now we have a lot of political problems. It is very tough now to be there—security, economically, everything. We have a president who is a communist dictator, and, hopefully, we will vote for him to leave on August the 15th, which is the referendum [after identity went to press].
EG: So you are political! It was a pleasure speaking with you and I'm really excited about your new single and the album next year.
MCA: Thank you so much, Emmanuel