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, is forthcoming with Duke University Press. 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 a co-author of UCLA’s 2017 Hollywood Diversity Report and 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 called upon by publications ranging from The Atlantic to the Los Angeles Times 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 (18)
oral & life histories
race & racialization
Media & popular culture
Labor & Employment
Gender & Sexuality
Industry Expertise (10)
Writing and Editing
Motion Pictures and Film
Media - Print
Media - Online
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 (5)
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 and Media
Race and Media
Forthcoming, July 2020
Forthcoming. “Raciontologies: Rethinking Anthropological Accounts of Institutional Racism and Enactments of White Supremacy.” American Anthropologist. Co-author.
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.
2015. At the Margins of Celebrity Culture: Criminalizing the Latina/o Paparazzi of Los Angeles. Anthropology News, 56 (11-12), 31-32.
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.
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.
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).
2006. Cuban HipHop: Desde el Principio (From the Beginning). Feature length documentary film. Independent. Director, writer, producer.
2002. Cuban HipHop: A Contemporary Example of Transculturation. Short documentary film. Independent. Director, writer, producer.