When the 1940s Dominican screen siren Maria Montez decided she wanted to play more serious roles she was met with opposition from studio execs. They felt that Montez was better fit for the “exotic and sexy” characters that made her famous. Refusing to be typecast, the actress turned down roles in films like Frontier Gal and set off to create opportunities she felt she deserved. Her life and fame might have been left to the history books if not for Celines Toribio, another Dominican actress, who decided it was time to bring her compatriotas story to the masses.
Toribio encountered the same uphill battles when she left New York, and a successful TV and radio career, to pursue acting. “When I moved to Los Angeles, it was not happening for me,” Toribio said. “ I was met with rejection after rejection. When it was not my accent, it was my size; when it was not my skin color, it was my hair. It got me depressed.”
After reading about Montez’s life Toribio estaba encendida. “I read her books and thought, ‘Wow! This woman was amazing! She did all this?’ So, that’s when I decided ‘If she did it, so can I,’” she said.
To honor her inspiration Toribio produced the Spanish-language film Maria Montez: The Movie, a biopic on the “Queen of Technicolor” herself. “Maria Montez is one of the first Latinas to conquer Hollywood in the ‘40s,” Toribio said. “She overcame all of the barriers: language, skin color, nationality, race.”