After 14 seasons, only a few Drag Race contestants showcase such an enduring career beyond the show. Valentina is one of them. Since their bombastic premiere in the ninth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, they have starred in a reboot of Rent, together with stars Vanessa Hudgens, Tinashe and Jordan Fisher, as well as kicking of a music career for the ages. Their faithful fan entourage has only grown, and they are about to star in the soon-to-be-released musical version of La Usurpadora, a Mexican telenovela known in almost every corner of Latin America.
Valentina was born in the United States into a Mexican family. A proud Latin performer, today, they are exploring their roots on the other side of the pond in Spain, “I first went to Seville, and I was able to discover what really is the ‘Andalusian woman’, a folkloric lady who has always inspired my art. Then I went to Madrid, a beautiful city, where I performed at Pride. On that occasion, I was also fortunate to meet Isabel Pantoja, collaborate with Belinda, and promote my newest collaboration, Te estoy amando locamente with Roi Porto”.
Speaking about his new collaboration with Valentina, Roi Porto says: “I was on a trip to Morocco with my mom when it occurred to me to make a danceable version of this hit by Las Grecas, since no one had revisited it. I worked with Juan Sueiro, my producer, and the song was even recorded with Samantha Hudson, but after a while the project had to be cancelled due to schedule problems. That is when I decided to contact Valentina”, who according to Porto showed interest in the project from the very first moment, “She made everything so easy”, he says.
A multidisciplinary artist based in Madrid, Porto is a fellow proud Latin performer. “Besides singing and DJing, I also dedicate myself to neon art and sculpture. I have rescued the artisanal way of working glass for neon, and I have explored its uses in the artistic and design fields.” Self-appointed as a soul of the night, Porto owns a nightclub in his hometown, while collaborating with different nightclubs in Madrid as a promoter and DJ. “I believe a lot in the club culture as a point of union and liberation for the LGBTIQ+ community, and I stand by it”, he says.
When asked about this great moment of expansion of Latin artists and culture in the show-business, Valentina is assertive, “For a long time, our place was behind the camera, only as extras, but the time has come to take our place in the spotlight. I feel very proud to be part of this movement and I hope this is just the beginning”. Roi, on the other hand, thinks this moment is a “neo pop” movement of the 21st century, “It is about turning into mainstream what once was only addressed to a minority and even marginal. I am living it with pride and aware of the need for recognition of those who have been victims of discrimination and racism. Unfortunately, this is still the case in many places.”
In December 2021 it was announced that Pantelion Films, the major Latino studio in Hollywood, was preparing its “most ambitious undertaking to date”; La Usurpadora, The Musical, a cinematic reboot of the Mexican telenovela premiered in 1998, in which twin sisters separated at birth end up meeting again after one of them being raised by a wealthy family and the other by a humble family. Soon after, Valentina was announced as a cast member: “I can’t speak much, but I can say that Lidia is a character to whom I gave all my heart. Being part of my favourite telenovela, reinterpreted in a musical film version, will always mean something very special for the rest of my life”.
Following her rendition of Angel in the musical Rent, Valentina says this new role is the most complex challenge they have ever faced as an artist: “From Angel I have learned a lot of things! Personally, I started to discover part of my identity. I had to train a lot in order to prepare not only my voice, but also my body for something as iconic as Rent. A lot of people don’t know this, but I also had a head-to-toe drag transformation, including a microphone, all in eight minutes, and I did it!”
And if you think Valentina has had enough, more fool you. “I have spent my whole life preparing to be a star. Now that I make a living from my creativity, I declare myself an artist who never stops growing and evolving publicly and personally. One thing that I will always acknowledge, is that drag opened the doors for me to be able to achieve what I have today”.
Going forward, Valentina aims to focus much more on her modelling and acting career, even joking about releasing new music and keeping us “waiting just like Rihanna has done”. Jokes aside, recording this song was an amazing experience for both Valentina and Porto, “In my mind I take on the same role that Rocio Durcal took when she played the Mexican rancheras. Only this time, I’m a Mexican interpreting a Spanish song”.
Porto plans to release singles until he has enough to put on a show. “I would like to do something theatrical and very visual. Most importantly, it tells a story. Beyond the music itself and the dance, I’d like to send messages based on my personal experience strong enough to empower the new generation and my community and make them feel free”. Currently, he is focused on preparing his first solo exhibition at the Garna Art Gallery in Madrid.
For Valentina, the future looks similarly bright as she teases a new collaboration at the end of our interview: “An alliance with a world-renowned organisation will be announced very soon. Also, more live shows. And yes, perhaps, even hosting a TV show that would soon reach screens all over the world. Many things are happening, and I hope you all will join me on this adventure!”
Image 1: Valentina wears total look by Andrés Sardá / Roi Porto’s wears Xvstrange, Loewe, Moro Hats and Eytys
Image 2: Valentina wears coat It-Spain and necklace Bimba y Lola / Roi Porto’s total look by Palomo Spain and hat Corbeto’s Boots
Image 3: Valentina wears body Andrés Sardá and set Olmos y flores