Real Women Have Curves

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Real Women Have Curves
Movie Poster
Directed by Patricia Cardoso
Produced by Effie Brown
Written by Josephina Lopez and George LaVoo
Starring America Ferrera
Lupe Ontiveros
Ingrid Oliu
George Lopez
Music by Heitor Pereira
Cinematography Jim Denault
Edited by Sloane Klevin
Distributed by Newmarket Films
Release dates
  • October 18, 2002 (2002-10-18)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $7,777,790 (Worldwide)

Real Women Have Curves (2002) is an American comedy-drama film that takes place in East Los Angeles. It gained fame after winning the Audience Award for best dramatic film, and the Special Jury Prize for acting in the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. The film went on to receive the Youth Jury Award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, the Humanitas Prize, the Imagen Award at the Imagen Foundation Awards, and Special Recognition by the National Board of Review. The film was directed by Patricia Cardoso, and stars a young America Ferrera as protagonist Ana García. The film is based on a play (of the same title) written by Josefina Lopez, who co-authored the screenplay for the film with producer George LaVoo. According to the Sundance Institute, the film gives a voice to young women who are struggling to love themselves and find respect in the United States.


Ana García struggles to fulfill her dream of going to college while considering family duty, and a tough economic situation. The thought of Ana going to college torments Ana's mother, Carmen, because she wants to keep her family together. Carmen also wants Ana to help work in the family owned textile factory, run by Ana's sister Estela. The factory itself is in danger of closing; Estela cannot afford to make the rent and pay her employees. Although Ana does consent to spend sweaty summer days working in the factory, she spends her nights writing her college entrance essay for Columbia University and sneaking out to see her American boyfriend Jimmy. Ana defies Carmen (her mother) and applies to college, despite warnings against such behavior. As the summer goes by Ana grows into a confident woman through experiences with Jimmy, and positive self-affirmation. She challenges cultural and socioeconomic boundaries, in favor of a life independent from her family. Despite the warnings of her critical mother, Ana gains support from her sister and father to pursue success beyond the borders of East Los Angeles.



Popular Media[edit]

Real Women Have Curves received positive reviews for its theme (a positive body image), its realistic portrayal of a Mexican-American family and its acting. The film received an 83% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes[1] and a Metacritic score of 71/100.[2] Elivis Mitchell of The New York Times described Real Women Have Curves as a "culture clash comic melodrama" that is,"effervescent and satisfying, a crowd pleaser that does not condescend."[3] Jean Oppenheimer of The Dallas Observer wrote "One of the strengths of Real Women Have Curves is that it isn't about just one thing; it is about many things. A coming-of-age drama centered on a mother-daughter conflict, it also explores the immigrant experience; the battle to accept oneself, imperfections and all; and the importance of personal dignity."[4] Claudia Puig of USA Today noted "What will undoubtedly resound powerfully with audiences of Real Women Have Curves, particularly women, is the film's message that there is beauty in all shapes and sizes."[5] One of the few negative reviews the film received was written by Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, he gave the film a two star rating.[6]


Real Women Have Curves was received with critical acclaim in the academic sphere for its poignant commentary on challenges facing Latina women today. In a study examining beauty standards for Latinas, three researchers interviewed Mexican-American adolescent girls living in Central California to examine "the nature of appearance culture as a source of girls' perceived beauty standards."[7] The study was published in the July 2015 SAGE Journal of Adolescent Research. Researchers found that "the girls pointed to the media as a major source of beauty ideals. The girls were quite critical of European American girls and women who are attracted to unnaturally thin body shapes depicted in mainstream media. Instead, they [the girls interviewed] admire thick, curvaceous bodies common among women of color in pop culture and Spanish-language media."[7]

America Ferrera become a pop icon for many young women, especially Latinas, because she takes on roles where body image issues are prevalent parts of the film (see Real Women Have Curves, Ugly Betty, How the Garcia Girls Spent their Summer, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). In the HBO Documentary, The Latino List: Volume 1, Ferrera speaks about her personal experiences growing up in the San Fernando Valley.[8] Ferrera says she remembers watching popular 90's television shows, "but there were moments that would remind me that I was different from everyone else."[8] Ferrera remembers being bullied for having darker skin or being different than the other Spanish speaking girls but she says, "I didn't feel different until someone made an effort to point it out to me."[8] Ferrera went on to say, "when I think about anyone who's marginalized, or made fun of, or dismissed, or hated with some sort of passion; I mean I just see myself, I just think of myself," but she concludes, "there's no person or award, validation, that is ever going to make you more worthy than you already are. The times when its been easiest to love myself is when I've put myself in positions to serve others."[8]

In 2013 Juanita Heredia of Northern Arizona University published an article in the journal Mester, 42(1) that discussed the representation of Latinas in Real Women Have Curves and Maria Full of Grace.[9] The journal article states, "the Latina protagonists in both visual narratives represent an autonomous voice resisting the institutionalization of patriarchy, be it in the family structure or the labor force as well as the containment of sexual expression, as limited choices for women within the space of the city."[9] The article criticizes Hollywood for not contributing "representations of autonomous and powerful Latina and Latin American women figures in mainstream cinema."[9]





  1. ^ "Real Women Have Curves (2002)". Rotton Tomatoes. Flixster Inc. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "Real Women Have Curves". Metacritic. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  3. ^ Mitchel, Elvis (22 March 2002). "Real Women Have Curves (2002) Film Festival Review; Full Figured and Ready to Fight". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  4. ^ Oppenheimer, Jean. "Curve Ball". Dallas Observer LP. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Puig, Claudia (25 October 2002). "Real Women Reflects the Real World" (15D). USA Today. 
  6. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (30 January 2003). "Real Women Have Curves". Guardian News and Media Limited. The Guardian. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Romo, Laura; Mireles-Rios, Rebeca; Hurtado, Aida (9 July 2015). "Cultural, Media, and Peer Influences on Body Beauty Perception of Mexican-American Adolescent Girls" (PDF). Journal of Adolescent Research: 1–28. doi:10.1177/0743558415594424. 
  8. ^ a b c d Greenfield-Sanders, Timothy. "The Latino List: Volume 1". Freemind Beauty & Perfect Day Films. HBO Documentary Films. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c Heredia, Juanita (2013). "From the New Heights: The City and Migrating Latinas in Real Women Have Curves and María Full of Grace". Mester 1 (42): 3–24. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Real Women Have Curves". American Film Showcase. USC School of Cinematic Arts. Retrieved July 30, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Real Women Have Curves". Sundance Institute. 2002 Sundance Film Festival Archives. Retrieved 5 September 2015.