San Juan, Puerto Rico — For someone who just spent years in prison proclaiming her innocence in connection with Latin America's most sensational celebrity sex scandal, Gloria Trevi is wearing a skirt that seems scandalously short. The recently freed Mexican pop star is about to perform on an "American Idol"-type television program, with contestants almost as young and hungry for fame as the underage women she was accused of luring into a bizarre cult of sex, sadism and rock en espanol.
The show will be live. That's a dangerous scenario for Trevi, once known for wild concerts during which she poured fizzing Coke down her crotch and pulled men from the audience to disrobe them seductively before beating them with their own belts to give them a taste of their own machismo.
Her sexually charged antics and enormous popularity during the '90s alarmed Mexican conservatives and panicked many parents whose daughters had started dressing and acting like little Trevis, the way Madonna clones did in that corrupting country to the north. The critics let up only when the notorious female rocker was safely behind bars on charges that she and Sergio Andrade, her ex-manager and alleged Svengali, had raped, kidnapped and abused a harem of teenage celebrity wannabes.
But now she's back, released from a Chihuahua prison in September by a Mexican judge for lack of evidence. Eager to make up for lost time and lost wealth, Trevi immediately launched the comeback she started plotting back in her jail cell.
The singer and her new record producer, Armando Avila, got a jump on recording her new CD by turning a prison sewing room into a makeshift studio, improving the acoustics by lining the walls with mattresses used for conjugal visits. The pop/rock album "Como Nace El Universo" (How the Universe Is Born) was released in December by Trevi's longtime label, BMG (now merged with Sony). And Trevi has hit the road with her 23-city Trevolution concert tour, which drew almost 12,000 fans in Mexico City last week and which comes to the Universal Amphitheatre on April 22.
As always, the latest developments in her real-life soap opera have divided the public, with loyal fans cheering the latest plot twist and critics growing increasingly weary of her act. Yet times have changed, and so has she.
Trevi is now 36 and a single mother, not the same wild woman who wore ripped stockings and Medusa hair in her hell-bent campaign to shock society. Besides, it's hard to imagine how anybody could still shock a country like modern Mexico, where porn magazines are peddled openly at street-corner kiosks, talk shows aping Jerry Springer abound on television, and female pop stars like Paulina Rubio gratuitously flaunt their bodies, sans Trevi's social message.
Trevi will have to somehow reinvent herself, says veteran critic Oscar Sarquiz. The old rebellious attitude would "now seem not only obsolete but ridiculous," he says. And that girlish freshness, once a big selling point, would be hard to swallow in light of the scandal.
"Right now she's standing on the proverbial barrel," says Sarquiz, who writes for Rolling Stone in Mexico. "If she pulls it off, she'll amaze us all again. But it's going to be very easy for her to fall."
Judging from her sophisticated new album, Trevi has evolved artistically and intends to be taken seriously as singer and songwriter. Still, feeling vindicated and suddenly cut loose, there's no telling what to expect from la Atrevida, the Daring One.
For starters, that cute yellow miniskirt signals trouble. Backstage at the theater, Trevi briefly worries about the intimate view she'll surely flash to young men in the front rows of the theater in this Puerto Rican capital, where TeleFutura's "Objetivo Fama" is being broadcast. But she shrugs it off with a sly smile that suggests she doesn't mind giving her audience a little thrill.
In the dressing room, with its stained carpet, plastic patio chairs and supermarket salami-and-cheese hors d'oeuvres, Trevi seems almost meditative. She sits motionless facing a mirror, a luxury she didn't have in jail. The once-wealthy star spent four years, eight months and eight days in cells no bigger than this cramped camerino, sometimes with just a hole in the ground for a toilet. She learned to live with physical discomfort, focusing instead on some inner strength that helped her transcend her misfortunes. .