My Fierce Aunt Bianca
While planning a birthday party for her late aunt Bianca “Exotica” Maldonado, María José Maldonado revisits the past in order to celebrate and correct Bianca’s legacy as a transgender woman.
María José MaldonadoDirectorCALL 1-800-SALVI
Latavia YoungDirectorThe Burden Of Context
María José MaldonadoWriter
María José MaldonadoProducer
Project Type:Documentary, Short
Runtime:10 minutes 7 seconds
Completion Date:January 5, 2023
Production Budget:3,000 USD
Country of Origin:United States
Country of Filming:United States
Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film FestivalToronto
June 10, 2023
María José Maldonado, Co-Director
María José Maldonado (she/they/fairy) is a genderqueer Salvadorian-Ecuadorian filmmaker, writer and artist born & raised in Queens, NY. María José’s films celebrate the fabulous Latine queer & trans people in her life. Their work resists the incessant narrative that LGBTQ+ Latines are rejected & disowned by their families, and instead resists machismo & transphobia en la casa through intimate portrayals & discussions with her big ass Latine family—blood & chosen.
María José is a BRIC Documentary Intensive Film Lab 2022 alum, Toronto Queer Film Festival DIY Film Lab alum 2020-2021 where she wrote, directed & produced her first docushort “CALL 1-800-SALVI” about searching for queer Salvadoran friends in Toronto, the lead in award-winning Canadian short “Saturday Fuego Diablo” (Dir. Anita Abbasi, 2022), Lambda Literary Speculative Fiction Fellow 2022, Sandra Cisneros’s Macondo Writers Workshop Fiction Fellow 2021, Leslie-Lohman Artist Fellow 2020, Barbara Deming Fund 2020 grantee for feminist fiction & a Queer|Art Mentorship Literature Fellow 2019 mentored by Charles Rice-González. Currently, she is a Visual AIDS Research Fellow 2023 where she is archiving her aunt Bianca's cultural and artistic contributions and writing a piece about Bianca set to be published by Visual AIDS in December 2023.
Previously, María José was a NYC high school counselor before earning a JD/MBA from Howard University. She was a management consultant making six-figures before quitting to pursue art full-time in 2019. Since then, María José’s been cobbling together her own DIY art school education through film labs, artist fellowships & film classes. She is a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy, Dartmouth College and Howard University.
Latavia Young, Co-Director
Latavia’s creative leadership journey began at age 5 when she began producing living room shows with her friends for her mother. Her love for visual storytelling and sense of initiative was fostered while running a one-woman video production program in high school and cemented during her busy collegiate career during which she led the Arizona State University Film Association as Creative Director then President, laid the foundation for an on-campus production studio in it's inaugural year as a Studio Coordinator, mentored film, dance, and theatre students and liaised with the administration about the needs of creative students as a Creative Fellow, and founded a campus-wide initiative that continues to give all students access to the arts called Herberger Day. She is a two-time Herberger School of the Arts Special Talent Award recipient and in 2018 she was 1 of 5 students nominated for Undergraduate Student Leader of the Year before receiving the Producer of the Year award. Latavia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Film and Media Production with a minor is Digital Culture and Social Media Analytics as well as a Master’s Degree in Arts Leadership and Cultural Management.
In 2019 Latavia produced and showcased “The (Dis)United States” at Oaxaca Film Festival in Oaxaca, Mexico and “Playing with Fire” at Aesthetica Film Festival in York, England. In 2020, Latavia managed production for “Fast Life” by R&B artist Ayelle as well as podcasts for former President Bill Clinton, Amazon Studios, and AppleTV+. In 2021 she was an Executive Development finalist for Lena Waithe’s Inaugural Hillman Grad Mentorship Program and produced music videos for alternative bands Breakup Shoes and Summer Salt. In 2022, Latavia produced, directed, and edited two BRIC supported short documentary's; "The Burden of Context" which explores the living legacy of slavery, segregation, and gentrification in Miami and its impact on her family narrative and "My Fierce Aunt Bianca", which premiered in Toronto, Canada at Inside Out in June 2023, and centers around the life and legacy of the trans starlet featured on the cover of Blood Orange’s Coastal Grooves Album, Bianca “Exotica” Maldonaldo.
Passionate about storytelling and the facilitation of it, Latavia’s career focuses lie in film and television development, show-running, directing, writing and founding a production company of her own. She has held positions at The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, RadicalMedia, AT WILL MEDIA, and is currently at Imagine Entertainment subsidiary Jax Media where she supports TV and Film development efforts and production across Jax Media and Imagine Entertainment while she continues to write, produce, direct, and edit short films, digital series, documentaries and music videos.
My aunt Bianca was my babysitter and she was a star. I grew up watching her on those infamous daytime talk shows like Jenny Jones, Phil Donahue, Howard Stern & Cristina on Univision, always as “Exotica, Transsexual Dominatrix.” Bianca’s even immortalized as the face of Blood Orange’s album cover “Coastal Grooves,” where she poses coquettishly in front of Sally’s Hideaway in Times Square in an iconic photograph taken by Brian Lantelme. Bianca was unforgettable.
“My Fierce Aunt Bianca” follows me in New York as I search for & celebrate the legacy of my late transgender aunt, Bianca "Exotica" Maldonado, a '90s NYC dominatrix and Ecuadorian immigrant who performed at vogue balls and watched by millions on TV. She was a transgender trailblazer who lives on in the trans public archive and ‘90s culture.
Why am I making film about my aunt Bianca?
Losing someone to AIDS never stops hurting. I want to help my family honor Bianca’s trans identity and life, and also help us all heal from the grief of losing her 27 years ago. Bianca was my family’s rockstar, our trans starlet who still burns bright in our memories.
I was 10 when Bianca died. My last memories of her are at her hospice bedside. Those are excruciating memories. In her hospice room, I couldn't open my mouth to speak for fear I would cry like the child I was. AIDS had caused her to have a brain tumor--Bianca couldn’t talk or barely move. She died 2 months later, her loss devastating my family.
I often wonder that if she could have talked on her death bed, would she have told us she was trans woman self-named Bianca? I think in her own way she did--the name on her hospital room read: “Bianca Maldonado.” With this film, my family and the world can remember her as she wanted to be remembered: as Bianca, her unabashed and beautiful trans self.
How will YOU honor your transcestors?