Songwriting: Luisa

February 14, 2022

I haven’t seen a lot of films lately, let alone animated ones, so when I watched En Canto with my kids recently I was surprised by the vividness of . . . everything! The character Luisa got my attention the most. I was drawn to her, intrigued by her, and curious about her. Seeing her dance and work hard while also feeling tremendous internal pressure, sent me back to my own childhood. I had a happy childhood, but I was also young, gay, closeted, confused, and at times very lonely. I remember looking into my parent’s TV set and searching for someone to identify with . . . I found Jo Poliniceck on Facts of Life, Pippi Longstocking, and Punky Brewster. I was searching . . . trying desperately to identify . . . to see parts of my identity reflected back. 

When I saw Luisa, a young part of me awoke . . . the feeling of seeing a strong woman on screen. Muscles, physical strength, internal struggle. I was in! I texted a bunch of people right away . . . have you seen En Canto? What of Luisa? All kinds of reactions, across the board, from the women I texted for their gut responses. Someone from my book group wrote: “I was bummed they put her in a dress.” I wasn’t sure how I felt about that comment. People can wear what they want. Right, but did Luisa have a choice? Did Disney have a choice? This was before all the press came out about En Canto and Luisa. So I stayed up late with these questions in my head. It was a cold January night. Tucked into my songwriting space (it’s a closet–the irony!) I wrote Luisa.