In episode one of Netflix’s Gentefied – released on February 21 –, Ana Morales (played by Karrie Martin) is about give an interview to a local staton about a painting she’s showcasing in a small group exhibit. Right before the reporter approaches, she turns to her girlfriend Yessika (played by Julissa Calderón) and says, “I should’ve worn my hoops, I’m going to look so basic!” Yessika proceeds to calm her nerves, saying she still looks badass without them. But you can see in Ana’s face that she feels naked, almost too vulnerable to face criticism, without her hoops.
Throughout the 10-episode season, Ana Morales is armed with staple pieces of jewelry, clothing, and makeup that carry la cultura with her at a time when Boyle Heights, the neighborhood she’s lived her entire life, undergoes a massive sweep of gentrification and the lives of her fellow Latinx neighbors continue to be at risk.
It echoes a generation of millennial Latinx, who’re fighting to exist in a country that wants them out with a quiet revolution of “Como la flor” t-shirts and nameplate necklaces.
Ana Morales is presented in season one of the Gentefied as a queer chicana artist, who’s living with her mom and younger sister and struggling to be paid for the work she loves, while trying to save her family’s taquería amidst a wave of gentrification. She also struggles to introduce her Dominican girlfriend Yessika to her close-knit family, even as the two have grown up inside the Boyle Heights familia.
Her look encompasses these conflicts by highlighting the strength of her identity. Ana always wears two distinct pairs of hoops – one with a Venus symbol (♀) and another with the word “Feminist.” She also wears layered necklaces of the Virgen de la Guadalupe and nameplate necklaces with words like “Feminist” and “Tacos.” The jewelry combo is always front-and-center in Ana’s look with the help of braided hairstyles, reminiscent of Frida Kahlo’s iconic peinados. The look is topped with a matte, bold red lipstick. This is clearly Ana’s comfort zone, as selected by costume designer Jen Martin.
For Latinx women across the United States, the look is home. Brands like Hija de tu Madre and Viva la Bonita – both created in Los Angeles – have built their following on women like Ana, who, in spite of living in an era of fear and discrimination against Latinxs, choose to wear their culture every day. “I felt so powerful wearing my Virgencita jacket, especially considering the political climate. I knew there were so many other women who could be able to connect with this jacket the way I connected with it,” Patty Delgado, Hija de tu Madre’s founder, told Glamour in 2019.
This look was also a quiet revolution when Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore hoop earrings and red lipstick to her swearing in ceremony. Back then, she cited Justice Sonia Sotomayor as inspiration, saying she was drawing from Sotomayor’s rebellious act of choosing red nails instead of nude color suggested by her advisors.
At a time when the mere act of speaking Spanish can get Latinx stopped by police, it’s important to see characters that are also daring to speak by just existing. Ana’s look is one that stands the test of time, gentrification, and whitewashing, and inspires an army of Latinx to do the same – por la cultura.
Featured image: Scene from Netflix’s Gentefied.