From Selma City Council to Selma Arts Center: all in a day’s work for this ‘Real’ woman (with curves)
When Yvette Montijo learned that the Selma Arts Center was planning to do the play “Real Women Have Curves,” she knew in an instant: She had to be in this play.
Even though she’d never acted on stage before.
Pictured at top: Yvette Montijo, in her first acting role, plays Doña Carmen in ‘Real Women Have Curves.’ Photo: Selma Arts Center
“I quickly messaged Nicolette Andersen, the Arts Center director, expressing how I don’t have a thespian’s bone in my body, but if anything could get me on stage it would be this play. I was instantly drawn to the possibility of playing Doña Carmen,” Montijo says. With encouragement from Nicolette and others, I mustered the courage to audition. And, voila, here I am, totally out of my comfort zone, but loving every minute of it.”
She ended up with the role of Doña Carmen, the mother character, in playwright Josefina López’s seminal work, which went on to inspire the hit 2002 movie.
The production opens Friday, Sept. 7, and continues through Sept. 16. López will be a special guest at the Thursday, Sept. 13, performance, with a talkback scheduled after the performance. If you’re a member of The Munro Review, you can win a pair of tickets.
Q: First, I have to ask you about your email address, which includes the name “latncurves.” It’s perfect, considering the name of the play! What’s the story?
A: My email address “latncurves” was, no doubt, inspired by the film “Real Women Have Curves.” Several years ago, I was in need of a new email address and “latncurves”, without the i in latin, was born as a result of my affinity for the movie and the playwright/screenwriter, Josefina López. In fact, I use the “latncurves” moniker whenever and wherever I can. For instance, my gym shoes have been personalized with my signature moniker using NikeId. This moniker has become, for me, an alter ego – a better, more confident self.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: I am a Selma native and a former teacher. I co-own a commercial refrigeration company with my husband of nearly 33 years, Andy. I have three kids (Anthony, AJ, and Brilla), 3 dogs, and 3 cats. In addition to running the day-to-day business functions, I am proud to say that I’m currently serving as Selma’s first Latina city councilwoman. I’m very active in my community, participating in a whole host of clubs, organizations and non-profits. I find service very rewarding and believe in leading by example.
Q: You’re a first-time actor. How did you end up being cast in this show?
Are you a member of The Munro Review? Win a pair of tickets to ‘Real Women Have Curves’
A: Yes, I’m definitely a first time actor — learning my lines has been a very real challenge! On Facebook, the Selma Arts Center posted a flyer calling for auditions of “RWHC” and I quickly messaged Nicolette, the Arts Center director, expressing how I don’t have a thespian’s bone in my body, but if anything could get me on stage it would be this play. I was instantly drawn to the possibility of playing Doña Carmen. With encouragement from Nicolette and others, I mustered the courage to audition. And, voila, here I am, totally out of my comfort zone, but loving every minute of it.
Q: Is the play a lot different from the movie version?
A: I have watched the movie many times (I own a copy) and, yes, the play is different. With that said, however, the underlying themes of female empowerment, struggles with body image and women’s sexuality are omnipresent in both. The play is deeper in the sense that it touches on the subjects of wage earning disparities, domestic violence, and immigration; these are very weighty themes (no pun intended) but they are treated with a graceful and comedic flair.
Q: Co-director Haley White told me one of the play’s strengths is its “honest representation of five women who are rarely so thoroughly and honestly portrayed in art and media.” What are your thoughts? Do you know women like these?
A: It’s no coincidence that Latina women everywhere identify with the women in this play. Josefina López, the playwright, was masterful in her ability to capture the earthy, organic nature of these women…they are so real. Sadly, Latina women are often portrayed in a stereotypical fashion — weak in character and lacking any real depth, but in “RWHC” there’s a richness to these women that hasn’t been seen before. “RWHC” is the embodiment of all women who have at one time been marginalized in some way, shape or form. But, this play isn’t just about women, or just for women, it’s for men, too. It’s key to remember that men are 50% of the equation. They are the context in which these and all women exist.
Q: Give us three words to describe your character.
A: My character, Doña Carmen, is a traditional woman who is critical, yet loving and excels at being meddlesome.
Q: As the play opens, how are you feeling?
A: I’m definitely on an emotional roller coaster! But, above all else I’m honored. I’m honored to be working alongside such a talented cast and crew, their patience with me has been beyond amazing. Truly, it is their extraordinary talent that will be girding this production. I’m honored to be breathing life into a character of such strength and resiliency. I’m honored that I will be helping to bring this beautiful, refreshing, and empowering production to our local community. I’m grateful to all who have invested so much of their time to make this a reality, especially to Haley White and Juan Guzman (the other co-director), whose tireless dedication has not gone unnoticed. And, finally, all praise and thanks to playwright, Josefina López.
Q: Anything else you’d like to say?
A: Mr. Munro, thank you. I’m humbled you would choose to speak to me and are interested in what I have to say. I want to add that I never realized how much time, effort, energy, and problem solving goes into a production. There is a point in the play where Ana says that she never realized how much work (puro lomo) goes into making the dresses at her sister’s factory. She thought the work was simple, uncomplicated, but as the play unfolds she learns otherwise. I, like Ana, have a newfound appreciation for the depth of talent and skill that goes into realizing a finished product. Honestly, it’s been an enriching experience, one that I’ll never forget.