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Cristela Alonzo Makes TV History


The 35-year-old virtually unknown comic is the first Latina to create, produce, write, and star in her own primetime comedy.

“No one else has a deal like this,” said Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “It is very, very significant and it calls to the fact that she’s an exceptional artist.”

“Cristela” draws on Alonzo's experiences as the youngest of four growing up in San Juan, Texas, a border town. Alonzo spent the first eight years of her life squatting with her siblings and mother in an abandoned diner, where she passed time watching television because she wasn't allowed to play outside in the crime-ridden neighborhood.

On her show, she plays an aspiring lawyer who moves in with her family while she finishes law school, a goal her family does not comprehend the same way Alonzo's real family didn't understand her dream of becoming a performer. Relying largely on her wit and charm, "Cristela" is already being compared to early seasons of “Roseanne” — a sitcom revolving around a working class family with a female lead whose perspective is sharp and fresh.
“Cristela”'s main cast is Latino, which could present the same challenges other Latino-centric shows have faced as they tried to attract a broad audience. "The George Lopez Show," which ran on ABC from 2002 to 2007, struggled with balancing cultural identity and tokenism. "Ugly Betty," by contrast, featured a Mexican-American family but did not focus its stories on the family's ethnicity and managed to attract a mixed audience.

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“Up until this point in time, both the Latino audience and non-Latinos tend to respond more supportively when the show features Latinos in different settings,” said Frances Negron-Mutaner, director of the Center for Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University, who released a report in June condemning the lack of consistent and accurate portrayals of Latinos in entertainment and media.

Alonzo has said her goal is to craft stories showcasing the family as Americans who are like everyone else.

“The character in the show is very much who I am in person and I just want to show people the real me because, when you try to pretend that you’re someone else, people can tell,” she said at a July press conference for the show. “Everybody in this show is based on someone I know and my goal was always to honor them.”

Read more of the article @ the SRC

The show premieres tonight on ABC
Tags: comedy / comedian, latino celebrities, television - abc
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