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February 4: Aliens’ Badass Chicana

February 4, 2016

2263aRemember the character PFC Jenette Vasquez in James Cameron’s 1986 sci-fi classic, Aliens? She toted a 65-pound weapon that had “Adios” scrawled on it, and wore a muscle shirt with “Loco” emblazoned on the back — and she was played by 5’2″ Jenette Elise Goldstein, born on this date in Los Angeles in 1960. Aliens (a sequel to Ridley Scott’s truly frightening 1979 movie, Alien) was her first film, and one of the earliest in which women warriors took center-stage. Having grown up in Southern California, Goldstein says (in a profile reprinted by Strange Shapes, a website devoted to Aliens and several other flicks), that she “had some awareness of the Chicano sub-culture. ‘I had to do it from memory... I didn’t have a dialect coach, or the time or money to fly back to Los Angeles [she was living in London]. I had my parents send me some source material from libraries in Los Angeles — interviews with gang members, that sort of thing, because there was nothing like that in London, just travel books to Mexico.’ ” Why James Cameron couldn’t find an actual Chicana actress for the role is another matter — ahh, Hollywood diversity! Goldstein appeared in several other genre films (including as an Irish woman in Titanic) and is the owner of Jenette Bras, a store in Los Angeles.

“Along with the military — and a faithful lesbian fan base — Goldstein also counts moms who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s among her loyal following, who regularly turn out to sci-fi conventions to pose for a picture with her or get an autograph.” —Adam Wills, Jewish Journal