A film based on the life of Cuban-American pop singer Lupe Yoli, otherwise known as La Lupe, is in the works, with actress Lauren Veléz – whom you might know from Dexter, as well as New York Undercover, back in the day – starring and producing.
Veléz successfully raised over $100,000 on Kickstarter to help finance the film, which, according to the most recent Kickstarter update on the project’s page (dated March 13), will be directed by Dexter executive producer and writer, James Manos Jr., who also penned the script, for a film that will be titled They Call Me La Lupe.
Manos’ other credits include producing HBO’s hit series, The Sopranos, for which he won an Emmy.
Judy Reyes, another name you might recognize, is also on-board as both cast member and producer. We last saw her in Rashaad Ernesto Green’s acclaimed feature debut Gun Hill Road.
Described by her family as “just another black girl from Santiago,” La Lupe was renowned for her emotional performance style, for which she was famous worldwide. The legendary Cuban-born star was also a single mother of two, a survivor of domestic abuse, who later became an evangelist Christian speaker.
Born in Cuba in 1936, La Lupe first hit the local music scene in the 1950s. As the Cuban Revolution dawned, La Lupe, like many artists at the time, left Cuba, claiming, “There was no room in Cuba for me and the revolution.”
She would emerge in New York City in the 1960s and 1970s as the Queen of Latin Soul, performing alongside renowned peers like Tito Puente and Celia Cruz.
A long-time gay icon, La Lupe was said to be ahead of her time. But by 1975, her career was on the decline. Fania Records, with whom she was signed, ended her contract, and Lupe became destitute.
By 1985, she had rebounded from homelessness, and having been a lifelong practitioner of Santeria, she then became a born-again Christian preacher.
Pedro Almodóvar’s use of La Lupe’s song Puro Teatro, in his 1988 film, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, rekindled interest in her music.
Unfortunately, she would die a few years later, in 1992, survived by her husband, and two children.
10 years later, in 2002, here in NYC, East 140 Street in the Bronx, was renamed La Lupe Way.
It’s been somewhat of a dream project for Brooklyn-born actress Lauren Vélez, who resurrected La Lupe in a one-woman show 2 years ago, called They Call Me La Lupe (the title of the film as well) at Teatro LATEA here in NYC.
There was a 2007 PBS documentary on La Lupe, titled La Lupe: Queen of Latin Soul, but it doesn’t appear that Vélez was associated with that film.
No ETA yet on production dates, but I assume it’ll start soon, given that she surpassed her early fundraising goal, raising $101,157 last October.
Here’s a compilation of clips of La Lupe performing live (you’ll find lots of clips of her on YouTube):