As the hottest pop music diva in Mexico, Gloria Trevi sizzled. Perhaps her music left something to be desired, but that was only a small part of her act. The wild-maned, scantily clad, voluptuous singer challenged Mexico's conservative sexual and social customs, growing in the mid-1990s to be Latin America's most popular and outrageous female vocalist and pinup girl.
Today, Trevi is in hiding and on the run from the law after a sordid, career-crashing sex scandal involving minors. The episode has rocked Mexico's entertainment industry and outraged fans and detractors alike. Trevi -- a working-class icon who stood for women's liberation, equal opportunity and helping the downtrodden -- is accused of luring dozens of young female fans, some just 12, into a cult-like troupe of sex slaves for Sergio Andrade, her manager and one of Mexico's top record producers.
Salacious details have been trickling out almost daily in Mexico's mainstream press: allegations that Trevi coaxed young, adoring groupies into a tight circle around Andrade, who manipulated and abused them with promises of stardom. Many of the girls were sent to Andrade, who was renowned for discovering young talent, by unsuspecting parents wanting to boost their daughters' career prospects.
No charges have been filed. But prosecutors are investigating three criminal complaints -- two filed by women who claim to be victims, one by parents -- in which Andrade, 43, and Trevi, 29, are accused of rape, kidnapping and corruption of minors. The attorney general of the state of Chihuahua issued a wanted poster for the pair in April when they did not appear after being subpoenaed for questioning.
Trevi was last seen in July in Cuernavaca, just south of Mexico City, where she allegedly threatened a woman who has given damning testimony to prosecutors. In a recent television interview, the woman, Delia Gonzalez, said that when she was a member of the group, Andrade "raped me for nine months. . . . He would get mad and spit on me, he would strap me, he would lock me in a room." Trevi, she said, was "completely, totally controlled by him."
Trevi, whose real name is Gloria de los Angeles Trevino, has denied the charges. Andrade, whose brother is a prominent federal senator for the ruling party, has not been seen publicly in several years. Their whereabouts are unknown. Some officials believe they have fled the country.
The scandal has ruined Trevi's career, not just because of the alleged crimes, but because the allegations so thoroughly betray her persona as an independent, rebellious rock diva whose huge success signaled the triumph of feminism in conservative, Catholic Mexico. In recent years, as women gained more power, and as standards for public entertainment loosened, Trevi's rebellion against the status quo seemed to lose relevance and her popularity slipped.
Now, if published accounts are true, it was all hype anyway and the woman whose nickname was "The Daring One" was pathetically submissive to Andrade.
For many, it is hard to believe that the phenomenon known here as La Trevi was a willing participant, fueling sentiment among some of her dwindling, disenchanted fans that she herself is a victim.
Miguel Yapor Ollervides, who has filed a criminal complaint against Trevi and Andrade claiming they corrupted his daughter, said Trevi "may once have been a victim, but she's an adult . . . and she has some responsibility in this." Yapor's daughter joined the pair's entourage when she was 12 and conceived a son when she was 14. The family believes Andrade is the father, and they adopted the child after learning that he was in an orphanage in Spain, where the group lived for several months in 1997.
"Half of Mexico worshiped Gloria Trevi. You never heard anything bad about her," Yapor said, explaining why the family agreed to allow their daughter to work for her and Andrade.
According to newspaper and magazine profiles, Trevi was from a wealthy family in Monterrey, the industrial capital of Mexico, and, with her mother's blessing, moved to Mexico City at age 14 to pursue a career in entertainment. She had little success at first, and resorted to singing at subway stops and selling tacos on the street.
She met Andrade and cut her first album in 1989. Her premier single -- "Dr. Psychiatrist" -- was an anthem of teenage angst that reflected the empathy she developed for common people during her own years of struggle. It zoomed to number one in just seven days.
"The common people, the young ones, people with problems, people who are sick of hypocrisy and lies, the passionate ones, I think those are my people," she once said.
"I was well taught in the traditional Mexican way, that the most important thing about a woman is her virginity. But in Mexico City, I found out that the reality of being a woman in the world and tradition are opposed. I realized that a woman is valuable, is important, not for a little piece of skin, but for her heart, her brain, for her capacity to love and create."
Her schtick as a playful, intelligent, sexy artist with a social conscience who was willing to use her music, fame and body to challenge conventions in uptight Mexico, was wildly popular with teenage girls, their mothers and even grandmothers. Despite her bad-girl antics, she projected a certain wholesomeness, and like a precocious child, it seemed that she could get away with anything. She was a champion for good causes and a role model who spawned an industry of beauty shows and posters.
Young men flocked to her concerts, where she often picked one from the crowd, pulled him on stage, and undressed him to his shorts, sometimes whipping him with his own belt in the process. She occasionally rolled on the ground and shook her waist-length mane of reddish-brown hair, throwing her underwear at the crowd.
She dressed in miniskirts and leather, in ripped stockings and tights and in brightly colored, gypsy-style outfits that mimicked Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, although her husky, gravelly voice and hard-rocker song selection were closer to Pat Benatar.
Her first three albums sold more than 5 million copies and led to two feature movies in the early 1990s -- one an autobiography, the other a comedy-drama she co-wrote -- that were the most popular in the history of Mexican cinema. She posed for semi-nude, often outrageous pinup calendars that were a staple in gas stations, magazine kiosks and teenagers' bedrooms across the country, selling more than a million copies in three years.
According to the criminal complaints, two books by Andrade's former wife, and recent interviews with several girls who worked with Andrade and Trevi, girls who joined the group were subjected to a super-secret, degrading and humiliating life of subservience to Andrade. According to some accounts, the girls were allowed no contact with the outside world -- no visitors, no phone calls or trips home, no television, radio or magazines -- and sometimes were forced to sleep at the foot of Andrade's bed and drink water from a toilet. He allegedly fomented rivalries among the girls and switched loyalties, made them monitor each other's behavior, and meted out swift punishment when angered.
"Sergio has total psychological dominance over people," said Aline Hernandez, his former wife, whose book last year first aired the allegations about Trevi and Andrade. Hernandez, who has also filed a complaint charging rape and kidnapping, said she was lured to the group by Trevi in 1989, at age 13, and married Andrade two years later.
"I saw Gloria as a queen . . . as my idol," Hernandez wrote in her book. "I don't know where she got the personality she projected in front of the cameras. But after the show, she became a different person: the simple and submissive girl without a drop of makeup, who would answer everything Sergio said with, "Yes, as you wish, please.' "
Researcher Garance Burke contributed to this report.