Filmmaker Spotlight: Kiki Melendez

For as long as she can remember, actress/comedienne/producer Kiki Melendez has loved to entertain.  Born in the Dominican Republic, her decades-long career – in film and television, modeling and stand-up comedy – has literally taken her from one coast of the United States to the other.  The result is a career that has produced the first-ever bilingual show, “Kiki Desde Hollywood,” the wildly popular Showtime stand-up comedy series “Hot Tamales” and a list of acting credits a mile long.

“I think I have been lucky in many ways [in my career], but I also feel it has been a difficult road,” she shared.  “I have tried to stay true to myself and to do my work with honesty, loyalty and integrity. Sometimes that road takes a lot longer, but I have tried to learn from all my mistakes and I constantly battle to be my higher self.”

In her latest offering – a comedy/documentary The Journey of a Female Comic (La Trayectoria de Una Comediante​), Melendez exposes audiences of every ethnicity to life in Tinsel Town through the eyes of the Latino artist.


“I wanted to be a voice for Latinos in America. We have so much talent and I feel we have limited opportunities in domestic entertainment, in film and television,” she said.  “I wanted to showcase who we are, how talented we are and how far we have come. But, most of all, I wanted to show how much we still need to accomplish to make things better for our kids and for future talent.”

From “woman on the streets” footage of Kiki walking through some of Hollywood’s most famous thoroughfares and giving comedic commentary, to set-pieces that echo more serious themes such as patria, perseverance and the cross-cultural experience of African American comedians/actors, Kiki unselfishly promotes the talents of her colleagues while educating audiences about the realities of Latino life in Hollywood beyond the bright lights and red carpet.

Kiki with Co-Director Erick Crespo

While the film chronicles her personal experiences – and the experiences of such notable Latinos in Hollywood as Marc Anthony, Esai Morales and Maria Conchita Alonzo – the comedic documentary provides, like all great documentaries do, an opportunity for a broader conversation about culture, media and the juxtaposition of the two.

The Journey of a Female Comic – Trailer from Erick Crespo on Vimeo.

In one of Kiki’s (and audience members’) favorite moments from the film, veteran actor Esai Morales recites mini monologues performed in some of the many Spanish dialects and accents from the Latin diaspora including Puerto Rican, Cuban, Argentinian, Dominican, and Mexican.

“That is one of my favorite moments from the film because I think that anyone watching will enjoy learning about how we all speak the same language, with different accents, and every Latino in the audience feels represented in the film!”

Morales also elaborates, in the film, on what he refers to as “the four H’s stereotype block:” hostile – Latinos portrayed as violent gang members, humble – Latinos represented as poor, timid, under and uneducated immigrants and laborers, hysterical – a la Desi Arnaz as a loud and over-the-top Ricky Ricardo and hormonal – the hyper-sexed, overly amorous “Latin Lover.” 

Bridging cultural gaps through laughter and tears, The Journey of a Female Comic is a true barometer of how far we’ve come and sets the stage for the progress we are still waiting to realize.

“I think the problem in Hollywood is beyond the Latino problem.  The main problem is how to discover new talent,” Kiki told us. “There are so many great stories out there that need to be told, but unless you have an A-List celebrity attached [to your project] no one will care. And A-listers are really overwhelmed with their own projects, so a new writer, producer or actor will have a tough time breaking into the business. I would love for Hollywood to get back to what it does best: making new stars and giving talented writers and producers a chance to tell great stories.”

With limitless energy and optimism to match, Kiki looks to the future with hope and a desire to create new opportunities in entertainment, not only for her company Latin Hollywood Films, but for future generations of artists from every culture, as well.  She shared with us some of the best advice an emerging talent can ever hear.

“Make your own path, don’t wait for anyone to make it for you,” she said. “We live in a time where no one has time to invest in you, so you must go out there and grab the world by the balls!”

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