Gloria Trevi has been through what most people might just describe as … a lot. Since she kicked off her pop career in 1985, she’s released 12 studio albums — the most recent being Diosa de la Noche, released Friday. As one of Mexico’s most memorable, albeit shocking pop exports, the “Pelo Suelto” singer has sold out stadiums and topped dozens of pop charts worldwide — and to this day, she’s commonly heralded as the “Mexican Madonna.”
But she’s also experienced some of the lowest of lows: most of all during her disturbing, 17-year entanglement with her much older producer and manager, Sergio Andrade. Eventually sentenced to prison for rape and kidnapping of minors in the Mexican pop biz, Andrade’s depraved crimes against girls would generate countless headlines — but circulated with them, provocative images of a young Trevi. Oft scapegoated as his accomplice, Trevi served nearly five years in prison herself, before she was cleared of all charges in 2004 for lack of evidence. “By condemning one woman you can conceal the crimes of others,” she said defiantly in a recent speech at the 2018 American Music Awards. “He was not my creator, and he did not discover me … because with or without him, I have proven that I am Gloria Trevi.”
Her past is a burden few people could shoulder. But on the phone with Rolling Stone, Trevi sounds perfectly serene, on the cusp of a full-circle moment. “I’m getting ready to perform three very important concerts in the city where I was born,” she says in Spanish, with a pause, of her hometown of Monterrey. “I have a lot of work to do!”
When she’s not jetsetting around the world, Trevi resides in McAllen, Texas — where she and her husband, lawyer Armando Gómez, raise their two sons. (“I want them to have a normal life,” she says, “I want them to grow up knowing what privacy is. No paparazzi.”) Still, in spite of her nuclear-family setup in the suburbs, the unabashed rebel woman lives on in Trevi — and she’s rarely gone wilder than on Diosa de la Noche.
Reflecting on the the theme of the album, the title of which translates to Goddess of the Night, Trevi says she found something spiritual about the way people come alive at night. “Life is short, but the night is long,” she says with a laugh. “But you know,” she adds soberly, “I was never the most popular girl in school. I was an ugly duckling! I later learned to embrace that.
“There’s something divine in all of us,” she continues. “I want people to embrace that divinity when they hear my record… when they’re in Zumba class, when they’re at the club, in the perreo.”
Her approach to making a great pop record, in turn, became more holistic. Featuring the diverse talents of Mexican songwriters like Julio Reyes, Marcela de la Garza and Joss Favela, Trevi’s new songs unite the realms of balada, reggaeton, trap, dancehall and EDM into one album. But true to the singer’s gritty persona, the through line of Diosa is an unbridled, rock & roll spirit.
“Poetry bores me” she professes in the vampiric, Anne Rice–evoking love feast that is “Que Me Duela” — “Keep the flower,” she growls, “Give me the thorns!” And in her latest single, “Rómpeme El Corazón,” Trevi serves up a lusty Eighties power ballad, musing on the torture of leaving true love to be on the road.
“It gets very erotic at times,” she says of the record, shortly before letting loose one of her iconic, throaty cackles. “It’s very… rawr!“
Rawr is apt here: As vulnerable as she allows herself to be in “Rómpeme,” or the tearjerker that is “Vas a Recordarme,” Trevi matches her ballads with plucky, stiletto-stomping anthems. Colombian pop starlet Karol G makes a stunning appearance in the cheater-bashing reggaeton cut “Hijoepu*#” — slang for “Son of a Bitch.” Trevi struts alongside dancehall MC Charly Black in the jaunty “Me Lloras,” then ramps up the glam in “Ábranse Perras” (“Make Way, Bitches”) — a disco-rock number that recalls the stadium-size beat of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”
“I didn’t intend for it to sound like Queen in the studio,” she says. “But I like that retro, guitar sound. I think of it as a homage — [Freddie Mercury] was openly gay in the world of rock, which was super machista.”
In the video, Trevi’s dressed for the club, but her posture screams Thunderdome. She lords over a pool party and headbangs among several RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni — including Valentina, Cynthia Lee Fontaine, Jessica Wild — and Mexican queen Ricky Lips. (“I don’t have much time to watch TV,” says Trevi, “But from what I’ve seen of [Drag Race], I loved it!”)
It’s a visual celebration of the LGBT community — an audience Trevi has long championed the rights of, and not just for show. In 2006 she wrote the song “Todos Me Miran” (“Everybody Is Staring at Me”) and dedicated it to her gender non-conforming fans; she was later spotted dancing on the hood of her car during San Francisco’s Pride Parade. “I think there’s a strong connection between how people treat women and [how they treat] the gay community,” she explains.
She delves deeper into that consciousness in her cortavena ballad for gender justice, “Ellas Soy Yo” (“I Am Them”) — which she wrote during the advent of the #MeToo movement. “I have so much love in my heart for the feminine,” she says. “How the earth trembles,” she sings, “when a woman raises her head!” The song is undoubtedly a tearjerking highlight of Trevi’s Diosa tour, which kicked off earlier this month in Mexico; Karol G will join Trevi for a United States run later this fall. It’s at her concerts, says Trevi, where everyone is safe to embrace their true selves and what makes them divine.
“I get so dramatic,” she tells Rolling Stone. “I can’t help it. I am a living telenovela!”