Cristina Ortiz, AKA La Veneno, was a Spanish singer, actress, sex worker, media personality, and one of the first transgender women to become widely known in Spain. She rose to fame in the 1990s before vanishing from public life and then returning to TV for appearances. By this time, the internet had become a more common thing, leading younger generations to discover her. That sets the stage for Veneno, a new HBO Max series about a young journalist who discovers, and is drawn to, La Veneno. Watch the Veneno trailer below.
Based on the memoir Not A Whore, Not A Saint: The Memories of La Veneno by Valeria Vegas, Veneno “follows Valeria, a young journalism student who discovers she has more in common with La Veneno than she thought. The two women were born in very different times, but their stories become intertwined when Valeria writes a book about La Veneno. Through learning more about her, Valeria discovers her chosen family, how to love herself, and the impact of mass media in the life of an enigmatic entertainer.”
The series comes from creators and directors Javier Calvo and Javier Ambrosi, and stars Isabel Torres, Daniela Santiago, Lola Rodriguez, Paca la Piraña, Goya Toledo, Ester Exposito, Jedet Sánchez and Lola Dueñas.
“We became good friends with Valeria [Vegas], who wrote the book about Cristina,” said Javier Calvo. “When she celebrated its release, we attended and finally met Cristina. This event took place shortly before she died in 2016. It was thanks to this book that we discovered the deeper layers to this persona the world hadn’t been privy to. On TV, she presented this funny outer shell, but she was burdened with pain and tragedy below the surface. This is what intrigued us most, and we were excited to explore this other side of her.”
Ambrosi added: “We knew that to tell Cristina’s story, we would need a fresh set of eyes to help us understand the impact her life had on people. Not only that but also the significance her life had on members of the community, especially how she helped them feel represented in the media. We are talking about an era where that just wasn’t common. Just by her appearing on TV helped us develop into adults who felt seen, which was fundamental.” And also said: “It’s important that we give a voice to those who are rarely if ever given a platform. It’s important that we face these stories head on and listen intently with humanity and respect. We hope to honor Cristina and to give her life the respect she deserves. Which I don’t believe has been done in a very long time.”
Veneno will launch on HBO Max on Thursday, November 19, to commemorate Transgender Awareness Week (November 13-November 19) as well as Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20).
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