As they are every year, last Sunday’s Grammys were full of surprises, letdowns, and simple WTF moments. Such moments spanned from James Hetfield’s mic malfunction to the blunder bringing you here today; Joy Villa’s arrival on the red carpet.
In a move that was tawdry on levels expected of Hemet or Menifee residents, the 25 year-old singer/actor/vegan bodybuilder arrived on the red carpet, a beautiful Afro-Latina queen with a natural hairdo, draped in a godly white robe. As cameras took shots of her on the red carpet it was a perfect moment for this unknown artist to shine. And then came the unveiling of what was underneath the robe—a kitsch, red, white, and blue, mall kiosk-bedazzled dress that reeked of something the great boxer Butterbean would’ve worn before knocking the life out of his opponent on any given Saturday night in the ‘90s. Except her wardrobe choice for the 59th annual Grammys was hardly the knockout. The bottom of the dress was embroidered “TRUMP” in big silver letters across the bottom and “Make America Great Again” down the front. After the shock set in, the next immediate question on most people’s minds had to be “Who is Joy Villa and what’d she do for red carpet access at the Grammy’s?”
Villa is an Orange County native who grew up to be recording artist responsible for a catalog that’s yet to garner a Grammy nomination. According to Forbes, before Sunday’s show, she had fewer than 20,000 lifetime streams on Spotify, and tracked sales of her 2014 album I Make The Static were listed as zero by Nielsen’s SoundScan service. But by the time the Grammys were over, more than 2,000 Trump fans had downloaded her album, with tens of thousands more streaming her songs on Spotify. Billboard reported that Villa was atop Amazon’s paid albums chart by the end of the show, outpacing performers Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga, among others. She gained over 11,000 new Twitter followers. What a difference a dress makes.
While it appears true that Villa no longer has extensive ties to Orange County, as she’s gone to live in New York and other places, the reality is that her town of origin (Orange, California) is among the first things one encounters upon a visit to her Wikipedia page. In light of that, it became our duty to dispel any notion Villa actually being one of us. While we’re no strangers to reminding the world of which pop stars have even the slightest ties to OC, we’re not exactly rushing to claim this one. However, it does make us curious to examine her career. So allow us to learn enlighten you on Villa’s body of work, as it appears on Wikipedia and other scattered places on the web, while giving insight on Villa’s very interesting place as an OC native.
Historically, the county has trended very white and very red, like a candy cane -a very bitter one that’s emblematic of societal customs throughout the region. Dating back to the 1920s, Anaheim matured into a homestead for the KKK while in Santa Ana, segregated schools were built for Latino kids who might have resembled Villa a bit, if not simply shared her surname. It wouldn’t be until 1946 that Orange County, finding itself on the right side of history (maybe the only time) was responsible for the outlawing of California public school segregation in the case of Mendez v. Westminster . Though she claims to support Trump and his ideologies,it’s very unlikely that the administration would think twice before leaving Villa and her close family in the “Cold Wind” —the title of her first single, instead of treating her like they would a lighter, more European resident of the county.
In fact, Villa’s second discography entry on Wikipedia (“I Make the Static”) relates to something she’s obviously good at, at least in the fashion world. But it’s also something any person of color has to be careful of in OC for fear of being accosted and questioned by authorities patrolling the county looking for probable cause that might lead to an arrest and deportation. Villa’s mother identifies as African-American and along with Princess Joy, as she calls herself, could be assaulted at any time on a walk down Balboa Blvd. Instead of being seen as the music superstar whose contributed her art to the masses as a productive citizen, Villa could very well be seen as a “Vagabond” (the third entry in her discography).
The Grammys provided Villa the canvas to endorse Trump’s divisive agenda, something she could have very well learned as an OC resident. After all, this area has nurtured an environment so conducive to segregation and oppression that it’s a wonder why we don’t hear more about minorities from the OC growing up to stand up for what’s against them. There’s nowhere to “Run and Hide” (the title to what appears to be Villa’s third project”). As reported by the Mexican-in-Chief here at the Weekly, streets, mortuaries, and elementary schools were named in honor of the Orange County’s most premier KKK members. So even subconsciously, a young Villa and others who’ve perused the streets of Orange County have been indoctrinated under this wave of White supremacy that would have Steve Bannon, an overt White supremacist and chief strategist to Donald Trump’s administration, smile upon it as a beacon of hope in this white genocide we are all facing around the country.
And where the Grammys do their best to obfuscate the role black people play in Pop Culture and music everywhere, Orange County’s done one better to make sure black people feel as uncomfortable as possible ‘round here. It’s another part of history that might find Villa’s dress insignia and her two-toned Afro at odds. Black people not being the most welcomed could be the precise reason Villa’s family vacated the OC when they did. The Afro-Latina might delighted to learn that in that black man, who polished shoes in Brea for a living was required to skip town everyday before sundown, as it was unlawful for him to be within city limits after dusk. Even a black person getting an education at UCI might begin rethinking their enrollment after being served Chicken and Waffles in some type of jest on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday or being unable to join the asian fraternity that wore blackface for a recruitment video. And the Black resident in University Hills that had guns pulled on him for potentially burglarizing his own home are the types of “precautions” we think bode well for the administration Villa so glamorously endorsed on Sunday. Black might be “Beautiful” (the name of her fourth project”) to some in some places but in Villa’s native, blackness has been stamped out rather successfully since the early 20th century. In fact, Villa might implore the melanin-clad folks in the county to “Get Your Freedom” (her fifth discography entry) elsewhere.
Before the 2% of black people in this county skedaddle though, they, and all other typically left-leaning cohorts in the area might find some comfort in the fact that last November, for the first time since the Great Depression, the majority of voters went blue in a presidential election. LA Times reported that growing numbers of minorities and college-educated White women were at “Play” (another of Villa’s discography entries) resulting in the shift at ballot boxes around the OC. We appear to be well on pace to meet the projection of making White people the minority by 2045 here in what can be still be considered one of the most conservative places in the US.
This signaling of the guards changing, on top of all the other information presented above, may have been the one thing to keep Villa from making such an outlandish statement on Sunday. Perhaps what has not changed though, is the fact controversy sells. It’s an idea she could’ve learned no better than from her Cheeto-in-Chief.
Whether this story ends with Villa performing at an upcoming presidential gala only to not be acknowledged by Ol’ Donald as was Chrisette Michelle, or Villa ends up siding with one of the most terroristic regimes in American history is yet to be seen. What’s clear is that our country has affected toward a sensationalism that conflates politics with entertainment and the inextricable tie of the two could lead to more turbulence that weigh heavy on people across the world. Good on Joy Villa for making some extra ends out of the deal but in the name of nothing but an extra dollar, we can’t help putting on her last recorded single in 2016 and realize that it must all feel so “Empty.”
I listen to music. I write about it. I like hot sauce on my chicken.