Who is Valentina?

By Samantha González | 11-Aug-2021

Valentina is an American DRAG QUEEN of Mexican descent. She became known by the reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and her multiple scenic performances of the song “Yes Sir, I can Boogie”. Currently, we can find her in the Mexican Tv show “La Casa de las Flores” House of flowers-. She has become a cultural icon in the Drag Queen world.

Yet, the better question is; who is behind Valentina? The simplest answer would be that behind Valentina we find James Andrew Leyva a non-binary performer born in California. However, behind Valentina there is not only a who, but there is also a performance work, the creation of new language and a complete new being with a name and personality. Such creation can only be recognized as artistic expression. 

This character created by James Andrew Leyva, has earned him several editorial appearances in magazines such as Vogue and Elle. His character finds its roots in its Latin blood. Even her artistic name is inspired in a Mexican salsa –sauce-. As development of his character, Valetina has work hand by hand with clothing designer Benito Santos, who has help her print the Mexican touch in her performances fact that distinguishes her character. 

In the Mexican scene, just like Valentina, there are a lot of Drag Queens partaking in successful shows. As I mentioned before, such performances are loaded with artistic expression, with stamps so unique as the one’s of each of their creators. Consequently, such creations are subject to protection by means of Intellectual Property laws.

In the investigation “Don’t Be a Drag, Just Be a Queen—How Drag Queens Protect their Intellectual Property without Law” the author Sarid Eden, stands out the limitations that Drag Queens have to face regarding Copyrights in Israel. She states that Intellectual property rights in the Drag community are made through “Intra-social norms”. Thus, Drag Queens respect each other’s interpretations therefore there are no need of legal protection. Hence, their lack of interest in using legal tools to protect their artistic expression. Therefore, the limited protection of their performances offered by Intellectual property is the cause of this lack of interest. 

In Mexican legislation we can find some limitations and complex processes regarding protection i.e., the registration of a complete show. Given the fact that in order to protect it, it would be necessary to record the act to prove its existence in a material support. The truth is that the more legal tools they use the more protected their characters will be. 

Accordingly, some of the means to protect them are the following:

  1. Trademark registration; not only of the performance name but also of the signature. 
  2. Reservation of Rights of artistic name.  This figure is only recognized by Mexican legislation, but it is necessary for a correct exploitation.
  3. Protection of staging in:
  • Musical plays (if they use their own songs)
  • Play Script; 
  • Dance (choreography).
  1. Contracts with designers, dressers, choreographers, makeup artists, etc. 

However, it’s utterly important to recognize that it’s not all about the Queens rights. But also the rights of the people behind their wardrobe, the songs they sing or the songs they make cover, and in some cases of their characters when they are founded in imitation, reinterpretation, tributes or satire of any person. This way, some aspects that will be obliged to respect, are:

  1. Musical plays licensees and/or royalty payment for the use of the songs in their performances; as well as the recognition of authorship of the same.
  2. Authorship acknowledgment and payment for wardrobe design; production and editing of a video; etc.
  3. To the persons right to their own image, individual from whom the satire, imitation, reinterpretation or tributes is based. 

Henceforth, we can assure that the Drag’s scene, at least in Mexico, is full of rights susceptible of protection by means of Intellectual Property. Furthermore, this protection joined with the “Gentlewomen’s Understandings” (as mentioned by author Sarid Eden) of the Queens community, together are the most complete protection that could ever exist. Likewise, these legal tools will help find effective defense means before any possible invasion of Drag Queens’ rights. Additionally, it will prevent them from getting involve in disputes originated by violations of third-party rights.

In conclusion, protecting all of the persons involved behind all of these artistic creations will bring a happy ending for everyone.

Samantha González
Litigation, Enforcement
Samantha has been practicing Intellectual Property Law for more than 15 years, and she joined Iberbrand® in 2013, where she is the Litigation Manager.
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