Lauren Velez will finally get to fulfill her dream of portraying La Lupe, the Cuban singer who was an inspiration to the actress as a child.
The acclaimed Puerto Rican actress, most notable for her role on Showtime’s Emmy award-winning series “Dexter,” became the first Hispanic celebrity to raise over $100,000 on the crowd funding website for creative projects.
Velez humbly does not see being the first Latina to raise six figures on Kickstarter as a significant accomplishment in itself, rather a sign of things to come.
“Someone is always going to be the first, but I just hope that it’s the beginning of something bigger,” she said, adding that she would like to see the “Latino community continuing to support Latino projects.”
Velez called crowd funding a popular tool that empowers people to support something they believe in.
Crowd funding, according to Velez, “gives the community an opportunity to really show up, and put their money where their mouth is, so to speak.”
Raising the money was no easy task, but difficulty is something Velez does not shy away from.
“My nature is if you give me a challenge, I’m just going to take it on,” Velez said.
Despite her determined attitude, Velez was unprepared for how difficult raising the funds would prove to be.
As she put it, "Kickstarter is really a full-time job.”
Adding that the timing was not ideal because she had to juggle the Kickstarter campaign with the filming of the “intense” finish to “Dexter’s” seventh season, currently airing on Sundays on Showtime, Velez said, “It seemed almost impossible initially to raise that kind of money in such a short amount of time.”
With the help of executive producer Lee Hernandez, and “Dexter” creator James Manos Jr., the mark of $100,000 to create the movie was hit Oct. 26th.
Velez credits several key investors who were willing to match donations made by the public with jump-starting the campaign. Their matching investments helped to inspire more people to donate by showing them that the vision of making “They Call Me La Lupe” was on its way to becoming a reality.
The impact of the Latino community did not go unnoticed, either.
“It was really, really kind of fascinating,” Velez said, “because I feel like the Latin voice is really starting to collect.”
La Lupe, the famous Cuban singer whose strong personality caused Cuba's leader Fidel Castro to exile her to the United States, has been an inspiration to Velez since childhood.
“When I was a kid, I heard her music, and I remember being really struck by the sound of her voice and how it made me feel, I felt immediately connected to her,” Velez said.
As a result of that inspiration, the project has been in the works for around a decade.
“About 10 years ago, I started actively working on trying to bring her story to life, and it started out as a one-woman show, and I got together with James Manos Jr. and he wrote the screen play,” Velez said.
Since then, they’ve been working on it to make a film.
Velez is very excited about the role.
"I’m fulfilling a dream,” she said, “it’s just an incredible opportunity to play this character, who’s unlike anybody you’ve ever seen, Latina or not. She’s just an extraordinary character to portray.”
Adding about La Lupe that she “can’t wait to start living her”, Velez compared the Cuban icon to a “mini hurricane," calling her “misunderstood, uncompromising, and unwilling to play by anyone else’s rules.”
These characteristics, plus the circumstances of being a black Latina in the ‘60s and ‘70s, made La Lupe a “world of trouble," according to Velez, because she was “in the right place at the wrong time…so ahead of her time.”
Among other things, Velez is also excited to make an indie film that is shot in “guerilla film-making style.”
“While it would be nice to get the multimillion dollar contracts from some studio to get made, my feeling is that isn’t how it’s going to happen,” she said, adding that she has an excitement about this project she hasn’t felt “in a long time about making a film.”
Currently, the film is in the pre-production stage.
Velez’s hope is that people “love the film, and I hope that they love the character and get to know her the same way I do.”
The film is her only focus right now, as Season Eight of “Dexter” does not begin shooting until January.
She is also looking forward to being home in Spanish Harlem once “Dexter” is finally done shooting.
Velez emphasized her thanks to all who supported “They Call Me La Lupe,” saying she was overwhelmed with the support, and calling the entire process “extraordinary, beautiful, and touching.”
E.J. Aguado Jr. is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. You can reach E.J. Aguado at: email@example.com or via Twitter: @Aguado91