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Dr. Vanessa Diaz: "The Latino Paparazzi of Los Angeles: Life, Death, and Labor in the Hollywood Industrial Complex"

Dr. Vanessa Diaz, Dartmouth College

Dr. Vanessa Díaz is an interdisciplinary ethnographer and multimedia practitioner. She is currently the César Chávez Postdoctoral Fellow at Dartmouth College. In 2015, she earned a PhD in Anthropology at the University of Michigan. Diaz’s first book, tentatively titled Manufacturing Celebrity: How Women Reporters and Latino Paparazzi Build the Hollywood Industrial Complex, is under contract with Duke University Press. Grounded in her experience as a red carpet reporter for People magazine, Díaz’s research focuses on hierarchies of labor as well as ethnoracial and gender politics in the production of celebrity-focused media. She is also currently producing a documentary about paparazzi work entitled Pappin’ Ain’t Easy.

Building on her book project Manufacturing Celebrity, which explores the ethnoracial, gender, and class stratification involved in the work of the celebrity journalists, paparazzi, and red carpet photographers who create the content for celebrity weekly magazines such as People and Us Weekly, this talk focuses on the racial politics of representation and division of labor among paparazzi. In the last fifteen years, the demographics of the Los Angeles paparazzi transitioned from a labor force of predominantly white men to one of predominantly Latino men, including individuals born in the U.S. and Latin America. The unique positions paparazzi occupy demographically and professionally, within the labor chain of celebrity media production, have made them convenient, if problematic, scapegoats for the current climate of celebrity obsession in the U.S. This scapegoating has led to paparazzi facing violence, and even death, on the job. Based on extensive fieldwork in Los Angeles, both on the red carpet and with paparazzi, this presentation illuminates the ways in which an unlikely demographic of cultural producers plays a central role in shaping celebrity culture. Through the lens of these photographers, this talk reconsiders the (in)visibility of Latinx labor, stereotypes around immigration, and the relationship between media, politics, and celebrity in the era of the reality star presidency.