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Gloria Trevi: Mexico's Madonna? : 'I Don't Want That! Never!' Says Hot Singer

April 29, 1993|ELENA OUMANO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"I see myself as a girl who three years ago was penniless and thumbing rides," says Gloria Trevi, the sexy Mexican pop sensation who has been called the Latin Madonna.

"Today, I see myself as a very lucky normal girl who has many friends and can communicate lots of things to them. Nowadays, performers worry too much about how they look. They're not concerned about what they're really saying to their audience."

Among the things she doesn't see herself as: the Latin Madonna.

There are parallels in the way both artists challenge sexual/social taboos, and in the way they use their glamour--Trevi's best-selling pin-up calendars are packed with flesh-filled, aggressively provocative photos. As a promotional device, Trevi even pledged the gift of her panties to the person who bought the 250,000th copy of her latest album.

Still, her cathartic singing, which has the passion of Latin balladry fired by rock 'n' roll anarchy, is more evocative of Janis Joplin's full-steam attack. And Trevi's persona has a more disarming, spontaneous quality than America's mistress of erotic contrivance.

Nothing in Madonna's humorless "Sex" book rivals the playful audacity of the 1992 calendar's rear view of Trevi "en la cocina" (in the kitchen), wearing only an apron, its dangling sash precisely bisecting the cleavage of her buttocks. Rather than erotic, it's a sly slap at the macho idea that a woman's place is in front of a stove.

"Many artists in Mexico fight to be the Latina Madonna," declares the husky-voiced Trevi, dispensing with her translator and trying out her recently acquired English during a phone interview from Mexico City. "I don't want that! Never! Maybe she's the American Gloria Trevi!

"Madonna is blond and I am Latina. I love being Latina because we have more sabor y fuego (flavor and fire). I respect everybody and Madonna is very intelligent, but that's not so important for artists. I prefer honesty."

Comparisons aside, Trevi has lit a fire under the conservative Latin music establishment, speaking out on such volatile subjects as virginity and abortion (she defends a woman's right to choose) and acknowledging the taboo subjects of drugs and violence.

While such audacity would once have been considered commercial suicide in Mexican pop, the23-year-old Monterrey native has become a heroine to machos , feministas and kids of all ages.

Her first two albums each sold more than 2 million copies worldwide, including more than 1 million in the United States even though BMG Mexico has yet to launch a major promotional campaign behind her here. That push, however, is expected to start soon. Trevi hopes to win the North American audience by someday recording in English and recently embarked on intensive language studies. She'll perform on May 30 at Fiesta Broadway in downtown Los Angeles.

Last year, Trevi starred in two hugely successful films in Mexico, the vaguely autobiographical "Pelo Suelto" ("Loose Hair") and "Zapatos Viejos" ("Old Shoes"), a comedy-drama whose story she co-authored.

Profits from the 14-issue run of "Las Insolitas, Increibles E Inverosimiles Aventuras de Gloria Trevi" ("Gloria Trevi's Unusual, Incredible and Unlikely Adventures"), a cartoon magazine she drew herself, have been plowed into the production of a Trevi doll, now being manufactured in Taiwan.

Not surprisingly, Trevimania has inspired a frenzy of attacks and defenses among Latin social commentators.

"Our intellectuals have jumped into the ring," observes Mexican journalist Jauro Calixto Albarran in "Trevi and Culture," an essay that appeared on a recent Sunday in Excelsior, a leading Mexico City newspaper.

"They defend this 'ninita' (little girl)," Albarran writes, "who wants to be our Janis Joplin, our Brigitte Bardot, our Madonna, our feminist 'Chorreada' (a popular Mexican character who represents the typical working-class housewife), from the inflamed attacks of the decorous consciences of Televisa . . . and the moral decency leagues."

Even Trevi's grandmother got into the fray, penning a letter to her hometown newspaper in which she labeled her granddaughter "misguided and dissolute" and called on her to mend her ways.

"I told her she was crazy," Trevi said in the interview. "I said many things, among them that I didn't want her in my life. Then, a few days later, I called her back because I understood that my grandmother is from another generation and can't understand how I'm living. But I told her that she isn't happy enough to understand what is happening to me."

Friendly and energetic, Trevi is eager to explain herself and recount her story.

She said she abandoned her conservative, middle-class life at the age of 14, when she left Monterrey for Mexico City. Friendless and penniless, Trevi survived by selling gum on street corners; once she taught aerobics classes for 12 hours straight.

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