La Doña es una Bandida: María Félix

Recently, I visited the Autry National Center of the American West to check out the Bold Caballeros and Noble Bandidas exhibit.

The offerings of Southwest American regional history, Mexican/Angeleano culture and the history of the Western Outlaw were too interesting to pass up. Cowboys and Indians? Sure. The Villain in Black? Definitely intriguing.

No doubt, there is a sexual energy and strong charisma attached to those swathed in raven-hued clothes, roaming outside the law:

Hi there, Outlaw boyfriend. Zorro was one of my first loves in my youth. (The Family Channel TV series in the 90s killed me. Antonio did a pretty good job behind the black mask too.) Zorro and the bandits like him are so…lovable! They care about their communities and *only* steal/attack the Rich and/or Unjust. Add a wallop of style to the clever, tongue-in-cheek one-liners  and to the impressive fighting style, and you’ve got an icon.

The presence of Zorro at the Autry exhibit didn’t surprise me.  My surprise came at the discovery of a new style icon:

María Félix.

(artist: Hector Silva)

How this legendary woman ever escaped my radar, I don’t know. She was known as La Doña, which is the most enviable and befitting nickname.

María Félix is the best known Bandida in cinema and television, and the Autry exhibit gave proper tribute to her.  Audiences loved her because she fortified the Bandida mythos with her beauty and magnetic performances. Her personal life and style only added to her celebrity.

Compound a beautiful face and form, a natural handling of guns and rebellion on-screen, a personal preference to wear red lips, lace, big hats and A Lot of Jewelry at all times and you get an unavoidable, intriguing movie star.

Gossip about her many love affairs and marriages kept her name in the papers too, I’m sure. Back then, you had to marry them sooner than later.

María Félix didn’t initially desire a career in acting, but once she attained one, she embraced the movie star lifestyle completely. She developed an elaborate personal style that showcased her beauty (instead of exploiting it). She adopted fashion trends and Latin American elements to form her personal, ornate dressing and living style. She carried the opulent clothes with grace and an independent attitude. People generally look to of-another-era stars and starlets like Garbo, Dietrich, Hepburns (both of them), Marilyn and Hayworth for notes on glamour, but I am close to pledging alligence to María Félix solely.

Black lace, natural for those raised Catholic.

Sunglasses are for plebeians. Veils are for the regal.

Perhaps the most feminine bullet belt ever.

As always, the crazy hat to signify one’s devotion to fashion.

María’s beauty is both demonstrative and exceptional to the Old Hollywood glamour look. I want to source her singularity in her sassy attitude, which she displayed in her dressing, performances, photographs and collecting tendencies. Also, she plain-as-day stated what she liked and disliked, etching it forever into her legend. Only a certain type of woman would call her portrait by Diego Rivera “Muy Malo.”

(Tehuana aka “Muy Malo” by Diego Rivera)

She hated this portrait! Her rejection of a revered artist’s work made her portrait infamous, perhaps garnering more attention than if it was accepted as just another Rivera piece. I like how María Félix was unafraid of her famous and rich friends.

María even turned down opportunities to work in Hollywood, where directors and producers would only cast her in supporting roles or stereotypical Latina roles, which were likely to reflect the racist views of the era. Lovable from María: “I was not born to carry a basket.” Her debut Hollywood role had to match her success and status in Mexican/Spanish-speaking cinema. Unfortunately, Hollywood never offered a role worthy of María, and let her go. America’s loss, I believe.

So (melo)dramatic! I’m not a fan of caftans, but the sleeve shape on this outfit are to die for.

I honor any woman who is unafraid to display her style loudly, and willing to pay the price of her tastes. María collected famously collected and wore jewelry, in a manner that matches or may even vanquish Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry addiction. In the prime of her career, Cartier made jewelry exclusively for María Félix, to honor her style and supplement it simultaneously. To quote Wikipedia:

She was also a jewellery connoisseur and had an extensive jewelry collection, including the 41.37 carat (8.274 g), D-flawless “Ashoka” diamond. In 1968, Félix commissioned a serpent diamond necklace from Cartier Paris. The result was an impressive, completely articulated serpent made out of platinum and white gold and encrusted with 178.21 carats (35.642 g) of diamonds. In 1975, she again asked Cartier to create a necklace for her, this time in the shape of two crocodiles. The two crocodile bodies were made of 524.9 grams of gold, one covered with 1,023 fancy yellow diamonds, while the other was adorned with 1,060 circular cut emeralds.

Whoa.

The first piece:

Right? Fit for an Outlaw Queen.

YES. Not a shy girl, that’s for sure.

No words!

The combination of the jewelry and the cigarillo just kills me. What a tough broad. I mean, dame.  Her public presentation is so gregarious and endearing to me.  Her style endured, despite never having Hollywood’s true patronage. Designers today still cite María Félix as an inspiration.

Last year, Cartier released a series of wristwatches dedicated to María Félix. I don’t particularly love the final design, but the advertisement spread is so enjoyable. Cartier succeeded in honoring María Félix by distilling her style in a vibrant color palette, impeccable styling (big black hair and to-die-for red lips) and recreating some of her famous, languid poses.

Baby crocodile! A woman who is soft and bold, and unafraid of cold-blooded creatures is tantalizing.

I hope to incorporate a little bit of this unabashed glamour into my life more, on a daily basis.  I hope the popularity of Maria Felix only increases in the future.

Images culled from Style.com, TheWatchQuote.com, Google, Corbis, Gettyimages, mariafelix.com.mx

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