Dr. Vanessa Díaz is an interdisciplinary ethnographer, filmmaker, and journalist. Her research focuses on the ways race and gender impact labor markets and practices in the culture industries across the Americas. Díaz’s first book, Manufacturing Celebrity: How Latino Paparazzi and Women Reporters Build the Hollywood Industrial Complex, was published with Duke University Press (2020). Grounded in her experience as a red carpet reporter for People magazine, Manufacturing Celebrity focuses on hierarchies of labor as well as ethnoracial and gender politics in the production of celebrity-focused media. The research for Manufacturing Celebrity was supported by numerous grants and fellowships, including those from the Ford Foundation Fellows/National Academy of Sciences, the Smithsonian Institute, and the Historical Society of Southern California, among others. Díaz is also a co-author of UCLA’s 2017 Hollywood Diversity Report. She is currently collaboratively producing a documentary about the Latino paparazzi of Los Angeles entitled Pappin’ Ain’t Easy. In addition to her research on media and popular culture in the United States, she has also done extensive research on cultural production in the Caribbean and among its diasporas. In 2006, she completed her independent feature-length documentary Cuban HipHop: Desde el Principio (From the Beginning), which recounts the history of the Cuban HipHop movement while exploring how Afro-Cuban youth use HipHop to defy misconceptions about censorship in Cuba by delivering social critiques of racism and poverty on the island. Díaz is the co-creator of the Bad Bunny Syllabus Project, which seeks to educate the public on Bad Bunny's global impact & how it reflects political, artistic, and cultural triumphs and struggles within Puerto Rico. Díaz is called upon by publications ranging from The Atlantic, to the Los Angeles Times, to NPR to comment upon major events in popular culture. She is able to provide necessary context to understand how and why particular events capture the American popular imagination, while simultaneously revealing the hidden labor and racial struggles involved in the production of popular culture.
University of Michigan: Ph.D.
University of Michigan: M.A.
New York University: B.A.
Areas of Expertise (19)
Media & popular culture
race & racialization
Gender & Sexuality
Labor & Employment
oral & life histories
Industry Expertise (10)
Writing and Editing
Motion Pictures and Film
Media - Print
Media - Online
Association for Latina/o and Latinx Anthropologists Book Award
Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Award
Latin American Studies Association, Latinx Studies Section Book Award: Honorable Mention
Historical Society of Southern California, Ahmanson Grant
Dartmouth College César Chávez Postdoctoral Fellowship
Mellon Summer Institute on Tenure and Professional Advancement (SITPA) Scholar
Ford Foundation, Postdoctoral Fellowship
UCLA Institute of American Culture Visiting Researcher Program Award
UCLA Institute of American Cultures Research Grant in Ethnic Studies
University of Michigan Louise Ann Williams Anthropology Distinguished Dissertation Award
University of Michigan ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award, Anthropology Nominee
American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Photo Contest Winner
Ford Foundation, Dissertation Fellowship
Smithsonian Institute, Predoctoral Fellowship (National Museum of American History; National Portrait Gallery; Washington, D.C.)
Rackham Merit Fellowship, University of Michigan
- Ford Foundation Fellowship Annual Conference Planning Committee Member and Former Chair
- Puerto Rican Studies Association
- American Anthropological Association
- New England Consortium of Latino Studies
- Association of Latina & Latino Anthropologists
- Latin American Studies Association
- Society for the Anthropology of North America
- National Association of Hispanic Journalists
- Latina/o Studies Association
- National Association of Latino Independent Producers
Media Appearances (8)
Bad Bunny, Reggaeton, and Resistance
National Public Radio (NPR) Codeswitch radio
Díaz's course "Bad Bunny and Resistance in Puerto Rico" is the centerpiece for this podcast. She is featured throughout.
Vanessa Díaz exposes violence Latino paparazzi face in 'Manufacturing Celebrity'
NBC News online
Feature article about Díaz's book, Manufacturing Celebrity. Article and interview by Gwen Aviles, NBC News/NBC Latino
‘Manufacturing Celebrity’ Spotlights Exploitation in Hollywood-Obsessed Media
In depth review about Manufacturing Celebrity and interview with Díaz. Interview and article by Gabriel San Roman.
Hate Crimes and Donald Trump: Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Racist, Hateful Acts
International Business Times online
Interviewed by Jason Le Miere.
How ‘Brangelina’ Gave a Couple Its Mystique
The Atlantic online
Interviewed by Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic.
Why the Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt marriage mattered so much in modern Hollywood
Los Angeles Times print
Interviewed by Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times.
Cuban hip-hop culture comes to Michigan
National Public Radio (NPR) of Michigan radio
Appearance on National Public Radio (NPR) of Michigan.
KPFK Radio Pacifica, 90.7 FM radio
Interviewed by Sonali Kolhatkar for “Uprising Radio,” KPFK Radio Pacifica, 90.7 FM. Feature story on documentary Cuban HipHop: Desde el Principio.
Introduction to Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies
Introduction to Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies
Race, Media, and Representation
Race and Media
Bad Bunny and Resistance in Puerto Rico
Benito Martínez Ocasio, better known as Bad Bunny, is breaking musical records, breaking gender stereotypes, and centering his homeland of Puerto Rico in everything he does. What does it mean for an all-Spanish-language act from Puerto Rico to be biggest musical artist in the world? Bad Bunny has been the world’s most-streamed artist on Spotify for two consecutive years, has the longest-running Spanish-language album at the top of the Billboard chart, and in 2022 became the only artist in history to stage two separate $100 million-grossing tours in less than 12 months. As we examine his impact on global popular music and culture, we will consider what Bad Bunny can teach us in Latinx Studies. Through film, popular media, and interdisciplinary academic texts, we will explore his role in the mass 2019 protests in Puerto Rico, what these protests and ongoing struggles in Puerto Rico teach us about U.S. colonialism and Puerto Rican politics, and what Bad Bunny’s increasingly anti-colonial stance says about the current state of resistance in Puerto Rico (particularly among Puerto Rican youth). We will also pay particular attention to the politics of race, gender, and queerness in Bad Bunny’s performance, and how these politics disrupt dominant Latinx media representations. Overall, this course will explore these topics by closely situating Bad Bunny’s work in relation to key texts in Latinx Studies regarding colonialism, race, resistance, gender, and sexuality.
Manufacturing Celebrity: How Latino Paparazzi and Women Reporters Build the Hollywood Industrial ComplexDuke University Press
The Power of Popular Protest: El Verano Boricua, 2019Latin American Perspectives
May 2020. Photo essay
Raciontologies: Rethinking Anthropological Accounts of Institutional Racism and Enactments of White Supremacy in the U.S.American Anthropologist
December 2019. “Raciontologies: Rethinking Anthropological Accounts of Institutional Racism and Enactments of White Supremacy.” American Anthropologist. Co-author. https://doi.org/10.1111/aman.13353
Hollywood Diversity Report. Fourth Annual. UCLA Bunche Center for African American Studies sponsored, self-published sociological study.Self-published sociological study
2017. Hollywood Diversity Report. Fourth Annual. UCLA Bunche Center for African American Studies sponsored, self-published sociological study. Co-author.
2016-present. HateCrimeMap.com. Co-founder, co-PI, co-designer of this user-generated digital mapping site to track hate crimes and harassment since the 2016 U.S. presidential election; responsible for collaborating on research, input, design, volunteer recruitment and coordination. Housed at the UCLA American Indian Studies Center.
At the Margins of Celebrity Culture: Criminalizing the Latina/o Paparazzi of Los AngelesAnthropology News
2015. At the Margins of Celebrity Culture: Criminalizing the Latina/o Paparazzi of Los Angeles. Anthropology News, 56 (11-12), 31-32.
Brad & Angelina: And Now…Brangelina!Bloomsbury Academic Press
2015. “Brad & Angelina: And Now…Brangelina!”: A Sociocultural Analysis of Blended Celebrity Couple Names. Chapter in the anthology First Comes Love: Power Couples, Celebrity Kinship, and Cultural Politics. Neil Ewin and Shelley Cobb, eds. Bloomsbury Academic Press.
Latinos at the Margins of Celebrity Culture: Informal Image Sales and the Politics of PaparazziNYU Press
2014. Latinos at the Margins of Celebrity Culture: Informal Image Sales and the Politics of Paparazzi. Chapter in the anthology Contemporary Latina/o Media: Production, Circulation, Politics. Arlene Dávila and Yeidy Rivero, eds. NYU Press.
“De Puerto Rico a Nueva York, De Puerto Rico a California”: A Micro-History of Puerto Rican Activism and Pan-Ethnic Alliance in Southern CaliforniaLatino(a) Research Review
2012. “De Puerto Rico a Nueva York, De Puerto Rico a California”: A Micro-History of Puerto Rican Activism and Pan-Ethnic Alliance in Southern California. Published in the Latino(a) Research Review (Fall 2012 special issue: The Legacies of Puerto Rican Social, Cultural, and Political Activism in the United States).
Cuban HipHop: Desde el Principio (From the Beginning)Independent
2006. Cuban HipHop: Desde el Principio (From the Beginning). Feature length documentary film. Independent. Director, writer, producer.
Cuban HipHop: A Contemporary Example of Transculturation.Independent
2002. Cuban HipHop: A Contemporary Example of Transculturation. Short documentary film. Independent. Director, writer, producer.