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‘Celia’ Review: A Lesson in (Self) Love and Dating

Celia Cruz
Courtesy of Telemundo

I am about 25 episodes into the 80 episode long telenovela Celia, loosely based on the life, love, and music, of the legendary Celia Cruz.  When I told a friend about my recent binge obsession, she asked me a simple question: why?  All I could think of was that Celia did something for me and in that moment, that something had yet to reveal itself.  Eventually, I realized that watching Celia, a black woman, navigate the promise and peril of dream chasing, family, and romance is exciting, especially considering that I already know that none of her struggles are in vain.  This is what keeps me returning; I enjoy watching Celia grows into her womanhood and her identity as a singer. She blossoms from this shy, somewhat passive person into this assertive yet respectful woman, who remains true to her character and her roots.

If I am being completely honest, I am most interested in the progression of her relationship with Pedro Knight.  Through the many romances presented Celia has provided an illustration of truth that I already knew, but was glady reminded of – love does.  Even though he lies and withholds truth from her, watching Pedro chase after Celia, the proclaimed love of his life, gives me a bit of hope. I watch as Pedro and his trusted companion, Mario, work to potentially earn just the friendship of women they fawn over.  I feel like this is missing from our current dating culture.  Men, in general, not all, (fellas, please don’t come for me) do not seem to desire to put in the work it takes to earn a woman’s trust.  They do the least and expect the most; whereas the men in this telenovela do the complete opposite. To be clear, I can do without all the f**kboi antics, womanizing ways, and manipulation.  I am simply talking about the notion of effort.  In other words, I do not desire a courtship modeled after Pedro and Celia, but I would appreciate a man who is selfless enough to do the work – emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, etc. to earn my trust and my friendship.

Celia is a dramatic fictionalization.  I am also aware that there are complex social circumstances within the specific time and region that influenced the portrayed courtship practices; however, I am still grateful for Celia because she showed me an example of what it means to be open, honest, assertive, sweet, and driven.  She loves Pedro and openly admits it, but she does not let her love trump her need for honesty and trust in her friendship with him. The story has increased my confidence and trust in my instinct, being unafraid and unapologetic about holding men accountable for their actions and their (un)voiced intentions.  Existing within this current hookup dating culture, for me it felt difficult or at least odd to have these expectations, as they somehow seemed unreasonable and maybe even old-fashioned. But Celia has inspired me to continue to demand more, confident that I will be pleased with the results.

While there is a small aspect of the series that I personally find inspiring, Celia is not without its problems, including stereotypes and caricatures.  For me, the most disturbing aspect is the way it sexualizes the molestation of Lola by her stepfather, Elicer, by showing instead of cutting away from the rape scenes.  Then there is the cheesy music that plays whenever Celia and Pedro are in a room together, that remain the same for what feels like the entire scene. And at 25 episodes in I believe I am only about 4 to 6 months seem to have passed in Celia’s life.  Talk about a lot of drama in one day.

At this point I skip over pretty much all the subplots, the ones that don’t involve Celia.  And to be honest I may not make it to the end. At 45 minutes per episode, 60 hours is one helluva a commitment.  But for the time being, I continue enjoy watching Celia set boundaries, and Pedro sweat.

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