Priscilla Peña Ovalle focuses on race, dance and sexuality in film through archival research and media production. At the University of Oregon, she is an associate professor of cinema studies. Her work also looks at such things as mainstream popular culture and media hairstyles. She is the author of the book "Dance and the Hollywood Latina: Race, Sex, and Stardom," published in 2011. Ovalle regularly teaches courses on the history of motion pictures, narrative fiction filmmaking, and television studies.
Areas of Expertise (6)
While it can be easy to overlook the intellectual labor that goes into a museum exhibit, American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music merits appreciation for its intricate negotiation of three contentious concepts—Latino/a identity, popular music, and U.S. national identity. At its core, Sabor rightfully claims that Latinos/as have always played an influential role in U.S. popular music and culture.1 The exhibit educates audiences about the regional narratives and musical traditions that compose this history and provides an impressionistic series of lessons about colonization, displacement, and discrimination—highlighting the entrepreneurship, ingenuity, and talent of its subjects—through a series of listening stations, oral histories, and archival displays. Sabor challenges the audience’s understanding of U.S. Latino/a identity and culture by asking them to reconstruct their previous perceptions in multifaceted and multilayered ways.
“Urban Sensualidad” explores how Jennifer Lopez has used the lens of MTV (Music Television) to cultivate a brand of urban sensualidad, a media process that makes hip-hop and urban styles accessible for people from all ranges of the racialized spectrum. Focusing on the film Flashdance (1983) and Lopez's 2003 video homage to the film (“I’m glad”), this article explores MTV's increased emphasis on racialized representation and the complex role that Lopez has played in the mainstreaming and commodification of blackness in the late 1990s and early 2000s. “Urban Sensualidad” questions the paradoxical ways that Lopez has used music videos to maximize her commercial potential with a so-called urban styling of her body–and why it might be so fun to watch her do it.