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Selena Gomez Teams Up with Freeform to Produce…”Latina Empire?”

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Selena Gomez and Freeform, along with Aaron Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment are teaming up to develop a drama that’s being called a “Latina Empire.” Except…that description doesn’t seem particularly accurate when you consider the source material.

Kaplan was inspired when he attended The Zimmer Children’s Museum Discovery Award Dinner at the end of last year in order to present an award. One of the speakers at the dinner was high school senior Ana Cobarrubias, who serves as a Youth Ambassador for an organization called youTHink, an arts and education program that uses art to get young people to think about local and global issues.

According to Deadline Hollywood, Cobarrubias made an inspiring speech “about making a difference in her poor East LA neighborhood and her determination to defy society’s expectations for someone like her by being a strong and confident young woman.” You can watch that speech over at Deadline, but apparently it inspired in Kaplan the idea of creating a show around an 18-year-old Latina growing up in a low-income neighborhood who is destined for greatness. He brought the idea to Freeform’s Karey Burke, who loved it, and together they brought Gomez on board.

Then, Kaplan approached Cobarrubias herself, and she is now a consultant on the show, which makes sense considering that her plans for after high school are to pursue a career in film in order to give a voice to the people of her neighborhood.

The project is still in the beginning development stages, it doesn’t even have a writer yet, and it’s unclear as to whether Gomez is slated to be the lead of this story, or if she’s simply acting as a producer. I’m thrilled that there’s a show in the works that will be led by a young Latina. However, it concerns me when I hear glib comparisons like a “Latina Empire,” because that seems to do the source of inspiration a disservice.

This isn’t a slight against Empire. I’m a huge Empire fan, and think it does an amazing job of balancing the soapier, more entertaining story elements with strong social commentary. It’s heightened, in part, because it’s loosely based on King Lear, which is a large part of why the scope of that show needs to be so epic.

Yet judging by the video, Cobarrubias is a serious-minded, driven young woman who cares deeply about her community and hopes to make nuts-and-bolts changes there. I hope that, in the interest of making this a “sexy” Selena Gomez vehicle, they don’t turn this story into something it isn’t. Bringing Cobarrubias on to consult is a great start, and I’m sure Gomez herself has some strong thoughts about the type of project she will or won’t support, especially if she’s going to star in it.

However, they will need a like-minded writers’ room and producers, not to mention a like-minded studio, in order to maintain some integrity and do the community that I’m sure Cobarrubias hopes to honor some justice. And stop throwing the phrase “Latina Empire” around, marketing people. Don’t kill this show’s chances before it even gets going.

(image via Lunchbox LP/Flickr)

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