Vanessa Díaz

César Chávez Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Vanessa Díaz is an interdisciplinary ethnographer, filmmaker, and journalist. Díaz is currently adapting her dissertation into a book manuscript tentatively titled Manufacturing Celebrity: How Women Reporters and Latino Paparazzi Build the Hollywood Industrial Complex (under contract with Duke University Press). She is also collaboratively producing a documentary about the community of Latino paparazzi in Los Angeles. Her dissertation research, which focuses on hierarchies of labor as well as racial and gender politics in the production of celebrity-focused media, was supported by the Ford Foundation and Smithsonian Institute. This project was inspired by Díaz's many years working for People magazine. In addition to her research on celebrity culture and media in the United States, she has also done extensive research on media and popular culture in Cuba. 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, such as the divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. She is able to provide necessary context to understand how and why these events capture the American popular imagination, while simultaneously revealing the hidden labor and racial struggles involved in the production of celebrity media. 

Raven House, 2nd Floor
HB 6026
Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies
B.A. New York University
M.A. University of Michigan
Ph.D. University of Michigan

Selected Publications

2017. 2017 Hollywood Diversity Report: Setting the Record Straight. Fourth annual report. UCLA Bunche Center for African American Studies. Co-author. 

2016. Donald Trump: People Magazine Reports Sexual Assault Accusation, Then Fawns Over President Elect. International Business Times. November 28, 2016.

2016. Why commencement speaker’s Spanish words should not have drawn controversy. Inside Higher Ed. June 22, 2016. Co-author. 

2015. “Brad & Angelina: And Now…Brangelina!”: A Sociocultural Analysis of Blended Celebrity Couple Names. Chapter in the anthology First Comes Love: Power Couples, Celebrity Kinship, and Cultural Politics. Neil Ewin and Shelley Cobb, eds. Bloomsbury Academic Press.  

2015. At the Margins of Celebrity Culture: Criminalizing the Latina/o Paparazzi of Los Angeles. Anthropology News, 56 (11-12), 31-32.

2014. Latinos at the Margins of Celebrity Culture: Informal Image Sales and the Politics of Paparazzi. Chapter in the anthology Contemporary Latina/o Media: Production, Circulation, Politics. Arlene Dávila and Yeidy Rivero, eds. NYU Press.

2012. “De Puerto Rico a Nueva York, De Puerto Rico a California”: A Micro-History of Puerto Rican Activism and Pan-Ethnic Alliance in Southern California. Published in the Latino(a) Research Review (Fall 2012 special issue: The Legacies of Puerto Rican Social, Cultural, and Political Activism in the United States). 

2010. ¿Qué es el ‘Spoken Word’? (What is Spoken Word?). Published in Movimiento: La Revista Cubana de Hip Hop, 2010 (9): 32-4.

2006. Cuban HipHop: Desde el Principio (From the Beginning). Feature length documentary film. Independent. Director, writer, producer.

2002. Cuban HipHop: A Contemporary Example of Transculturation. Short documentary film. Independent. Director, writer, producer.