Many of you will read that headline and think, "how in the world is this her first novela?" Well, I never had an abuelita to expose me to novelas growing up — all of my grandparents lived in Peru and died when I was very young. My mom wasn’t a novela-watcher, either. But that doesn’t mean I am completely ignorant of what a novela consisted of, in fact, I knew enough about them to stay away from them: cheesy acting and overly dramatic plots. What can I say, I was just never about that life.
But when I read that Telemundo was going to debut Celia, a TV series (Um, novela, let’s keep it real) based on Cuban singer’s life Celia Cruz, I was immediately intrigued. Why? Because growing up around my Cuban aunt my whole life, I was exposed to Celia’s music and knew very well what she went through to become the Queen of Salsa. My mom, aunt, and her clan of her divorcees all clung onto her lyrics, “Todo aquel que piense que esto nunca va a cambiar Tiene que saber que no es así” from La Vida Es Un Carnaval sung loud and proud at Thanksgiving — also known as "Sangsiving." Celia's music didn’t just make you want to dance, it gave us hope.
Without giving it all away, after watching the first episode online, I can tell you that you get to see everything she had to go through to make her dream come true, there's also historical context of what Cuba was like at the time, and issues like racism are not shied away from. But then you hear people say things like “El color de la piel no tiene nada que ver con el tono de la voz,” which will of course warm your heart. And, judging from a TV nerd’s perspective, the acting is pretty decent, story line was set up very nicely, and there are already not one but two antagonists!
What’s even more amazing is that I know very well how this story ends. Cruz becomes one of the most successful and iconic salsa performers of the 20th century, earning twenty-three gold albums, and was a recipient of the National Medal of Arts. There’s also a musical based off her life, she was honored with a postage stamp in 2011 and with a Google Doodle in 2013. Her 50-year-career and legacy live on as well as her music in the not-for-profit organization she founded dedicated to raising funds for underprivileged students who want to study music. These are all legitimate reasons to make me a novela convert, especially after learning that Telemundo has made this into 80 one-hour episodes.
So, if you’re just like me and have never indulged in the world of telenovelas, why not start with a dream-chasing, rule-breaking sensation that inspired millions? I’m hooked and am looking forward to the next episode, porque me quede con las ganas.
Celia premieres on October 13, 2015 at 8pm/7c on Telemundo.