During the 1990s, Gloria Trevi was, in the words of Latin America’s famous talk show host Christina Saralegui, “a superstar,” the “Mexican Madonna.” Simultaneously childlike and sexy, the brash young singer with an aggressive sexual persona and liberal politics rightfully earned the nickname La Atrevida, meaning “the bold, insolent one.” She performed in ripped tights and torn shoes, teased male members of the audience, and promised to one day run for the Mexican presidency. “This society wants to suffocate me, but I won’t let it,” she sang to her army of adoring fans, making pronouncements on such subjects as abortion, sexual freedom for women, and ending government corruption. Embracing her strong vocals and brazen style, an audience weary of interchangeable pop stars and romantic ballads bought her albums by the millions; her 1991 movie, the supposedly autobiographical Pelo Suelto (“Hair Hanging Loose”), became Mexico’s biggest moneymaker of all time.
However, by the close of the decade, Trevi’s star power had dwindled. She had quit touring in 1996, reportedly to help the man who discovered her, Sergio Andrade, recover from cancer. And after a 1997 attempt to host her own variety show failed, the singer’s demand for appearances on television talk and panel shows was almost nonexistent. But things started to heat up again for Trevi in 1998. Although relatively unknown outside Latin America, the singer for the first time made headlines around the world for her involvement in a sex scandal with Andrade, who allegedly, with Trevi’s help, routinely seduced underage fans by promising to make them pop stars.
Born Gloria de los Angeles Treviño Ruiz in the Mexican city of Monterrey on February 15, 1970, the first daughter of a well-off architect, Trevi enjoyed a privileged upbringing by comparison to other Mexican children. Whereas many drop out of school by the sixth grade in order to work, Trevi never even needed an after-school job. Thus, she spent her free time taking piano lessons and acting classes. Growing up in Monterrey, a sprawling clone of Houston, Texas, located just 100 miles from the United States border and boasting a number of American companies in operation, Trevi soaked in the influences of American culture, dreaming of becoming a pop icon herself.
Although divorce is rare in Mexico, an overwhelmingly Catholic nation, Trevi—like so many American children—watched her parents split up when she was ten years old. The embittered Trevi, along with her four brothers, remained with their mother, who struggled to raise her children alone and was known for her sometimes tough-love approach to parenting. According to Trevi, every time she brought home a poor grade, her mother would punish the child with 25 swats. When the youngster flunked eight subjects one year, Trevi recalled hiding a rope outside the family home as she contemplated killing herself. “I thought suicide would
Born Gloria de los Angeles Treviño Ruiz on February 15, 1970, in Monterrey, Mexico; daughter of an architect.
Took piano lessons and acting classes as a child; won a national performance contest in Mexico City at the age of 13; joined all-female, teen pop band Boquitas Pintadas, the creation of producer Sergio Andrade, 1985; released debut album with Andrade, 1989; starred in movie Pelo Suelto, Mexico’s biggest moneymaker of all time, 1991; sold millions of albums and spoke out against government corruption and in support of wornens’ rights through the mid-1990s.
Addresses: Record company —BMG Ariola Mexico.
save my mother the trouble,” she later joked in a 1993 interview for People magazine.
A star-struck and angst-ridden adolescent who wanted to put her formal training to use, Trevi at the age of 13 earned a scholarship to study voice and dance after winning a national performance contest, giving the teenager her first taste of the Mexico City show business scene. Taking advantage of the cosmopolitan lifestyle rather than the educational opportunities, before long she blew off her formal training and refused to return to Monterrey when her mother ordered her home. Instead, the young singer devoted herself to auditioning for pop bands, and at the age of 15, her determination paid off when in 1985 she became an original member—a backup singer playing a pink plastic harmonium shaped like an electric guitar—of an all-female teen-pop group called the Boquitas Pintadas, meaning in English “Little Painted Mouths.”
While Boquitas Pintadas never provided Trevi with the opportunity to fully show off her musicianship, the band, more importantly, was the creation of Sergio Andrade Sánchez, whose power within the world of Mexican pop in the 1980s was often compared to that of Phil Spector in the United States in the 1960s. A successful producer who penned many of the hit songs his young protégés recorded, Andrade was born in 1956 to a powerful Veracruz family—his brother became a senator from Mexico’s ruling party—and grew up during the days of student protest, struggles that he remained attuned to as an adult. Nevertheless, as a songwriter, studio musician, and engineer, he concentrated his talents on the commercial, romantic pop music adored by Mexican audiences. At the time, rock and roll was more or less unheard of in Mexico and was virtually banned by the government, though a huge, yet invisible rock music scene did exist. “Rock-eros were associated with drugs, delinquency, violence and rebellion,” said Juaro Calixto Albarran, a music writer for the Mexico City daily Excelsior, as quoted by Rolling Stone’s Dan Baum. “You’d get ten kids together to hear a band and the police would show up.”
Therefore, in keeping with the country’s ultra-conservative stance regarding music, Andrade at first worked within the boundaries of pop. His breakthrough arrived in the early-1980s when he wrote a popular ballad for a blind singer named Crystal, a success that gave him leverage to start producing singing acts, and he immediately displayed a knack for picking and cultivating stars. In addition to his top-selling acts, Andrade created numerous lesser-known bands in order to keep the cash flowing and to serve as a breeding ground for future talent. Usually, bands like Boquitas Pintadas would perform together just long enough to record a hit, then disappeared to make room for Andrade’s next venture. Unknown to Andrade at the time he hired Trevi, the teenage singer would become his greatest discovery of all time.
After Boquitas Pintadas had their brief period of fame and disbanded within months of forming, Andrade went on to his next project. Meanwhile, Trevi, then 16, had fallen in love with a 32-year-old gynecologist, who she says grew jealous of her artistic ambitions and refused to let her work. “I told him I couldn’t marry him,” she told People. “He told me to go.” In any case, when the relationship ended, Trevi, whose family had cut her off for her disobedience, was left to fend for herself. Without money, food, or a home, the teenager survived on the streets, selling chewing gum, singing on buses and in the subways, and begging for money and food. During these hard times, Trevi also began to compose her own songs.
Three years later, in 1989, her luck began to change when, after returning to Monterrey in desperation, she learned that her recently deceased grandfather had left her an inheritance. Soon thereafter, she headed back to Mexico City with her money and showed up at her former producer’s doorstep. Since her days with Boquitas Pintadas—spurred by the frustrations of her family, a failed relationship, and living on the street unable to find work—Trevi was ready to break with the music establishment, especially when it came to sex and women’s rights. Straying from traditional Mexican ideals, Trevi firmly believed that abortion should be legalized, as well as that women, like men, should feel free to explore their sexual desires and only marry out of love.
Inspired by the 19-year-old’s sharp tongue, combativeness, and fearlessness in attacking the norms and values of society, Andrade, recognizing the opportunity to sneak some rock into the Mexican music scene, agreed to help the singer. First, he changed her name from Treviño to the catchier Trevi, then produced her debut album, Qué Hago Aqui? (“What Am I Doing Here?”). Just two days after shopping the record, Trevi received offers from two prominent labels, and she decided to accept a deal with BMG Ariola Mexico. She also signed a contract with Televisa, the dominant mass media company in Mexico that owns a myriad of television and radio stations, newspapers, and magazines, giving the network exclusive rights to her performances.
Like Trevi, the younger generation of Mexico, bored with the interchangeable pop stars performing seemingly identical songs, felt ready for a change. The government, too, under the leadership of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, was encouraging Mexico to open up to the rest of the world. But it wasn’t simply Trevi’s lyrics about sexual liberation and teenage rebellion and anger that made her stand out among the other popular singers. In her voice, “there was an undeniably exciting passion in the way Trevi tore rough edges on the lyrics, like Janis Joplin or Pat Benatar,” commented Baum. “She sounded angry, and that alone made her stand out on Mexican pop radio.”
Qué Hago Aquí, within a week of its release, hit number one on the album charts in Mexico, and Andrade set about marketing the young star to the fullest, dressing her in bright, patterned clothes and giving her an overdone, made-up look that appealed to adolescent girls; a Trevi doll, Trevi look-alike contests, and campy comic books came next. However, at the same time Andrade promoted Trevi’s more childlike qualities, he also turned her into a sex goddess. During performances, she was known to strip a man from the audience to his shorts and whip him with his own belt. Andrade also started producing annual calendars, which sold in the millions each year, that featured Trevi in a variety of erotic poses.
From 1990 until 1995, Trevi released a series of albums that gained instant popularity. The younger generation in Mexico started dressing like the superstar, sold out her concerts, and flocked to see her movies. Beyond her native country, the singer attracted Latin audiences from Madrid to Los Angeles to Buenos Aires as well, and at the peak of her career, more than 100,000 listeners had joined Trevi fan clubs. Moreover, apart from her concerts, albums, films, antiestablishment views, and calendars, Trevi became a figure of fascination offstage as well. Brilliant in her numerous television interviews, the pop star was warm, open, daring, and intelligent, reaching millions of Mexican citizens who didn’t listen to her music. By now, Trevi had also reconciled with her family.
Eventually, like Andrade’s other creations, Trevi’s appeal started to fade, that was until April of 1998. An internationally covered scandal broke out when Andrade’s ex-wife, pop singer Aline Hernandez, who he married when she was just 15, published a tell-all book entitled La Gloria por el Infierno (“To Heaven Through Hell”) that accused the producer, with Trevi’s help, of luring underage girls into virtual sexual slavery with promises of building them into stars. Trevi vehemently denied such allegations. Then, in March of 1999, the parents of a missing young girl named Karina Alejandra Yapor Gomez, who was supposed to be studying music with Andrade in Spain, received a call from Spanish authorities telling them that the teen had given birth to an abandoned son. In July of that year the Yapors filed charges against Andrade; Karina Yapor reappeared in December of 1999, disputing her parents’ allegations, though her story failed to check out. Wanted by Mexican authorities, Trevi and Andrade fled the country soon thereafter, but were later found in Brazil with fellow musician Mary Boquitas and arrested in January of 2000. Andrade and Trevi were expected to be returned to Mexico for trial later that spring.
“No one has anything to forgive me for,” Trevi, denying the charges, said in a Mexican press interview, as quoted by Reuters in February of 2000. “If I were guilty I would be asking for God’s forgiveness.” And few of the alleged victims hold any animosity toward the singer. “Like all the girls, Gloria is the very reverse of her stage image, extremely timid and shy,” Hernandez, who wrote in her book that Trevi, out of her devotion to Andrade, sometimes slept on the floor next to his bed, told Time International. “She’s as much a victim as an accomplice.” In an unfortunate turn of events, the star who became a symbol of liberation for so many Mexican women could have, in truth, suffered under Andrade herself.
Qué Hago Aquí?, BMG Ariola Mexico, 1989.
Tu Angel De La Guarda, Ariola International, 1991.
Me Siento Tan Sola, Ariola International, 1992.
Mas Turbada Que Nunca, BMG U.S. Latin, 1994.
Si Me Llevas Contigo, Ariola International, 1995.
De Pelos: Lo Mejor De Gloria Trevi, BMG U.S. Latin, 1996.
Rock Milenium, BMG U.S. Latin, 1999.
No Soy Monedita De Oro, Ariola International, 1999.
AP Online, January 14, 2000.
Billboard, November 14, 1992, pp. 14–15.
Newsweek, August 16, 1999, p. 36.
Newsweek International, August 2, 1999, p. 34.
People, September 27, 1993, p. 82.
Reuters, January 13, 2000; February 11, 2000.
Rolling Stone, March 2, 2000.
Time International, January 24, 2000.
Born: Gloria de los Angeles Treviño; Monterrey, Mexico, 15 February 1968
Best-selling album since 1990: Tu Ángel de la Guardia (1991)
Hit songs since 1990: "Dr. Psiquiatra," "Pelo Suelto," "Papa sin Catsup"
The story of one of Mexico's most promising 1990s rockers had, by the end of the decade, turned into a horror-show of accusations, rumors, and alleged crimes. At the age of thirteen, Trevi trekked to Mexico City to pursue an acting career. There she met some Monterrey friends, one of whom hooked her up with the manager Sergio Andrade, who was forming an all-female pop quintet called Boquitas Pintadas. She joined as a vocalist and keyboardist in 1985. She went solo in 1990, retaining Andrade as her manager. Personable and open when the cameras were off, she projected a wild, rebellious image for public consumption.
Her debut album, Qué Hago Aquí? (1990), features the hits "Dr. Psiquiatra" and "El Último Beso," a cover of
J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers' "Last Kiss." She adopted a growling vocal style influenced by Janis Joplin and reminiscent of another up-and-coming Mexican rocker, Alejandra Guzman. But unlike Guzman, Trevi wrote much of her material.
Her follow-up album, Tu Ángel de la Guardia (1991), contains the anthem "Pelo Suelto" ("Undone Hair"). The song is a metaphor for taking a casual attitude toward conservative social norms in other aspects of life—figuratively letting one's hair down. That year she released a calendar full of risqué shots that sold over 300,000 copies. Never before had such a blatantly sexual celebrity made such an impact on Mexican popular culture.
In 1994 Trevi released Más Turbada Que Nunca. The album contains the bluesy hit "Papa sin Catsup," which is accompanied by a feminist video portraying Trevi as an abused housewife who finally gets her revenge. By then, however, her career was heading downhill. In 1998 the parents of a seventeen-year-old girl in Mexico accused Andrade of luring their daughter into his orbit with promises of fame and then fathering a child with her. Wanted by Mexican authorities, Trevi and Andrade dropped out of sight. In October 1999 their baby daughter was born in Brazil. The infant was reported to have died of unknown causes at the age of one month and two days. Andrade, Trevi, and her choreographer were arrested in January 2000 in Rio de Janeiro. Andrade and Trevi waited in a Brazilian jail while the extradition process inched forward. Trevi gave birth to a son in prison in 2002. No one was able to confirm the father's identity, although Trevi said it was a prison guard whom she would not name. Brazil finally extradited Trevi to Mexico in early 2003. Trevi had the potential to influence youth culture and sexual politics in Mexico the way Madonna has in the United States; her story is a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of stardom and the illusions it inspires in young and impressionable fans.
Tu Ángel de la Guardia (BMG, 1991); Me Siento Tan Sola (BMG, 1992); Más Turbada Que Nunca (BMG, 1994); Si Me Llevas Contigo (BMG, 1995).