Gloria Trevi: Mexico's Madonna: villain or victim?

Pop idol Gloria Trevi once created shockwaves with her outrageously suggestive act. But that wasn't the half of it. Jan McGirk follows the story of the diva who landed in jail for running a sex ring... and who has now, somehow, got pregnant
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The Independent US

Gloria Trevi, the pop singer once billed as Mexico's Madonna, has scaled new heights of notoriety. While in custody accused of operating an under-age sex ring, Trevi, who has been described as "a serpent in a thong", has revealed she is five months' pregnant. No mean feat while locked on a women's cell block in a Brazilian prison, where conjugal visits are forbidden.

Trevi – along with Sergio Andrade, her manager, and Mary Boquitas, the lead singer in Trevi's first band – is accused of holding teenage backing singers captive in a sex coven that masqueraded as a musical road show. Several girls have come forward to complain of being forced to perform sexual favours. The three went on the run in Mexico, and were eventually traced to an apartment at Copacabana beach in January last year, where two young sisters were tending babies fathered by Andrade, and a third was pregnant by him. Interpol arrested the trio for corrupting minors and for abetting rape. They have been fighting extradition to Mexico, where they are still viewed as depraved and evil, but deeply compelling.

Speculation about the identity of the father of her prison baby has captivated Brazil and Mexico, although Trevi has vowed not to reveal it. "I will keep the secret of my pregnancy in prison as long as I can, as long as I live," she announced melodramatically. "I refuse to give details about my son's conception, for he will be the only light in the midst of all the darkness I've lived through." There were rumours that by getting pregnant, Trevi was trying to avoid extradition as the parent of a Brazilian citizen. If so, she will be disappointed: the law was changed 20 years ago.

A tearful Trevi appeared on Brazilian television recently to confirm the rumours of her pregnancy and hinted that she may be a victim of rape. Results of an internal police investigation will be released by the end of the month. The tabloids have suggested that Brazil's most powerful drugs trafficker, Fernandinho Beira-Mar – captured by commandoes in the Colombian jungle last April – seduced Trevi in jail, although she reportedly spurned his offer last month of $40,000 for a command singing performance in his prison cell. Other suspects include a bullion robber and a senior guard.

"Everyone who has had any contact with her has had their name mentioned as the possible father," says her lawyer, Octavio Bezerra Neves. He laughed at the notion that he might be considered a candidate, because he has private access to his client. "I am not the father," he insists. "That's the only thing I am certain of."

Andrade, who has managed Trevi since she was 18, is also held in Complex F of the Papuda Federal prison in Brasilia, and only a corridor keeps the pair apart. They pass love notes to one another through the bars almost daily and remain close friends, according to their lawyer.

A corpulent impresario with a comb-over, Andrade became famous as Mexico's ultimate star-maker, a latter-day Latino Phil Spector. Connections and cachet were not lacking; his older brother was a senator. And by running a talent academy in the capital, Andrade assembled a clique of aspiring young rock stars who all wanted to be just like his sensational discovery – Gloria Trevi, "La Atrevida" ("The Insolent One"). The girls, some only 14 years old, pampered him and did his bidding. According to one ex-chorus girl, Lupita Carrasco, Trevi would frequently sleep beside his bed on the floor. Whenever he gave the order, she would join a new girl in bed with him. "He had a hold over us," she said. "We did not run away."

As a singer in the fledgling girl-band, "Boquitas Pintadas" (Little Painted Mouths), Trevi got her first taste of showbusiness in 1985, and after the group broke up, she cajoled her mother into paying the costs of a demo tape. When she played it for a talent scout, she was signed on by Andrade. They made records, films, TV shows, and calendars together. Trevi used to appear topless, her chest crisscrossed with a bandolero of condoms instead of cartridges, and would rasp lyrics about abortion rights and contraception. Then she'd auction off her own knickers.

Trevi's over-the-top calendar poses were ubiquitous from the time the first one appeared in 1992. They were available on the internet, seen on garage walls, or in the bedrooms of her pre-teen fans.

The intelligentsia loved her disdain for macho culture and for rules. There was nothing remotely coy about this act, but it certainly got everyone's attention. Her live appearances were intense, kitschy-raunchy rather than erotic, but always unpredictable. She would strip boys down to their Y-fronts and get them to dance on stage while she rubbed sticky soda froth on her thighs. She would beat the drum kit with flaming sticks.

Impressionable wannabes lined up to see Gloria – they dressed like her, they danced like her. Their high-pitched screams of excitement reverberated as she strode out on stage. Her stadium shows were routinely packed with 20,000 fans, and her new CDs would sell out before they were banned on the radio.

Trevi never lost her reputation as a bad girl during 10 years of mega-stardom. She did not bother to deny outrageously defamatory tales of satanic rituals, cancer treatments or pregnancies. She shrugged them all off, declaring herself a candidate for the presidency of Mexico.

The latest torrid revelations have shocked Trevi's fans around the world. Though they had idolised her as a female role model, she is seen now as little more than a doormat off stage. But Trevi had seemed so cutting-edge in her prime. In a country where students live with their parents and are supposed to abstain from sex until marriage, her lyrics mocked outdated traditions and gender roles. Her main fan-base, young people from poor backgrounds, longed to emulate her brazen independence. Early coverage of Trevi extolled her as an inspiration for young girls. But journalists now regret that her sordid side wasn't picked up on earlier. Carlos Monsivais, a commentator who praised the singer a decade ago, sadly recalls: "I described the spectacle and did not warn of Trevi's deeply anti-feminist conduct, her surrender to the most deplorable patriarchy."

The signs were there from the start. Early allegations of sex abuse emerged in a 1998 book by Aline Hernandez, who was briefly married to Andrade – but these were simply dismissed as a jealous smear. Hernandez's allegations drew smirks, but no one took them literally. These secrets backfired once the lid was off. Families of victims later told reporters that stage-struck teenagers were pressured into having sex with Andrade, and rarely got to perform in the spotlight as he'd promised. Some parents signed away their guardianship of their under-age daughters, in order to enable them to travel in Spain and South America with Trevi's troupe.

But when Trevi and her manager failed to show up for questioning in Chihuahua over charges of kidnapping one of their dancers, the scandal grew white-hot. Eventually the missing dancer, Karina Yapor, reappeared in northern Mexico and begged her parents to drop the case against her mentors.

Yapor, now 18, had toured for five years with Trevi and, while under the pair's tutelage, abandoned a baby son in a Spanish orphanage. The baby was severely malnourished and the authorities located his maternal grandparents in Mexico. DNA testing showed that Andrade is the father of Yapor's child, but she swears the sex was consensual. She was 15 at the time. Trevi, Andrade and Boquitas will face kidnapping charges if they are sent back to Mexico. Brazil's Ministry of Justice council is hearing arguments, and may rule as early as next month whether the threesome should be granted asylum.

"Gloria fears that if she is sent back to Mexico, she will be killed," says her lawyer. "She's shocked [by the news of her pregnancy], but she is still prepared to fight."

With additional reporting by Natasha Parkway in Rio