Areas of Interest: Hollywood, Celebrity Culture, Cuba, Latin America, oral & life histories, political culture, diasporas, Latina/o/x identity race & racialization, Media & popular culture, Labor & Employment, (im)migration, Gender & Sexuality, Nationalism, United States, Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Entertainment.
Biography: Dr. Vanessa Díaz is an interdisciplinary ethnographer, filmmaker, and journalist. Her research focuses on the ways race and gender impact labor markets and practices in the culture industries across the Americas. Díaz’s first book, Manufacturing Celebrity: How Latino Paparazzi and Women Reporters Build the Hollywood Industrial Complex, was recently published with Duke University Press. Grounded in her experience as a red carpet reporter for People magazine, Manufacturing Celebrity focuses on hierarchies of labor as well as ethnoracial and gender politics in the production of celebrity-focused media. The research for Manufacturing Celebrity was supported by numerous grants and fellowships, including those from the Ford Foundation Fellows/National Academy of Sciences, the Smithsonian Institute, and the Historical Society of Southern California, among others. Díaz is a co-author of UCLA’s 2017 Hollywood Diversity Report and is currently collaboratively producing a documentary about the Latino paparazzi of Los Angeles entitled Pappin’ Ain’t Easy. In addition to her research on media and popular culture in the United States, she has also done extensive research on cultural production in the Caribbean and among its diasporas. In 2006, she completed her independent feature-length documentary Cuban HipHop: Desde el Principio (From the Beginning), which recounts the history of the Cuban HipHop movement while exploring how Afro-Cuban youth use HipHop to defy misconceptions about censorship in Cuba by delivering social critiques of racism and poverty on the island. Díaz is called upon by publications ranging from The Atlantic to the Los Angeles Times to comment upon major events in popular culture. She is able to provide necessary context to understand how and why particular events capture the American popular imagination, while simultaneously revealing the hidden labor and racial struggles involved in the production of popular culture.