There are few coming-of-age stories like Maria Elena Fernandez's Confessions of a Cha Cha Feminist. The autobiographical comedy, full of breezy, sassy dance and music, is about a girl who learns how to break boundaries in order to become a whole woman. Fernandez, who grew up in a strict religious home in Los Angeles, studied hard-core feminist theory at Yale. Paradoxically, she also always dreamed of being a sexy Cha Cha, the ultimate in slinky femininity.
"A Cha Cha is the name that was used to refer to the young Latina club girls when I was growing up in the '80s," says Fernandez. "They wore tight skirts, tall heels, low-cut tops, but the really signature part of a Cha Cha was that they teased their hair up at least four inches, and they wore really huge hoop earrings and really, really red lipstick. That was the signature Cha Cha style." They were also everything Fernandez was forbidden to be. "I grew up as a very sheltered Catholic schoolgirl," says Fernandez. "I admired them so much because they had what I call a hyperfeminine style. They seemed so worldly, and I was the exact opposite. I just wanted some of what they had."
Fernandez's show is about how she learned to blend the feminist with the Cha Cha: "The Cha Chas taught me how to connect with my sexuality. That's very feminist to me." Besides touring throughout California, her show has hit several states, and she's been featured on National Public Radio. "Women from all ages have said the show really reflects their experience," says Fernandez, who loves how the show has hit home for so much of her female audience. "A lot of us have grown up in very traditional homes, very protected, very sheltered. People have come up to me afterward and said, 'Oh, my God, did you read my diary?' It's been really fun."