Kitzia Mitre, one of the nine stars of Netflix's reality show Made in Mexico, sits in a swank hotel suite in West Hollywood one September afternoon, answering questions about the series. With her fair skin and freckles, she'd likely challenge what many people might think a Mexican person looks like; like a few other people on Made in Mexico, she could be mistaken for being "white" in the American sense of the word, although she and her polished, well-off co-stars are 100 percent Mexican and proud.
"I have three percent Irish blood," says Mitre, who can point to Aztec ancestors, actual European royalty and great-grandparents who shaped Mexican history by founding hospitals and orphanages in her linage. "I look Irish because my phenotype is this way. But I am literally Native American." Her co-star Roby Checa, sharp in a suit as blue as the ocean, jumps in. "Mexico is a country where a lot of immigrants come. My grandparents are from Lebanon. Mexico is a very diverse country; we have a mix of cultures. The stereotype that you have to be shorter, or you have to be darker [to be Mexican] -- it's super racist."
If it wasn't for the fact that it's 2018, Made in Mexico would be just another reality series about good-looking wealthy people exerting status and making questionable decisions. But in 2018, the year that America's leader funneled open disdain for Mexican people into a nightmarish policy, Made in Mexico simply cannot be apolitical, and the stars -- all big shot movers and shakers in Mexico City's hip, cosmopolitan scene -- know this. Mitre can remember going to camp as a kid in Austin, Texas, where people asked her -- a woman whose great-grandfather has streets and parks named after him -- if she rode a donkey to school, or if she had a TV at home in Mexico. (A Mexican man, by the way, invented color TV in 1941.) "Part of the show," says Columba Díaz, a fashion model, "is to show the world how diverse Mexican people can be -- the food, the tastes, the color, the tradition."
On that front it succeeds. Gorgeously shot, with tons of cool drone footage that captures some of the vibrancy of Mexico City's beauty and architectural marvels, Made in Mexico follow nine people chosen not only for their patriotism but also their impeccable style, good looks, enviable status and relation to each other, since they're in the same social circles and in some cases family. (Mitre is married to Checa's brother.) Of course, there's drama too. Mitre, the show's Queen Bee, is seen juggling marriage, being a parent and business. Checa, estranged from his son, is in denial about his drinking in the first episodes. Viewers also meet Pepe Díaz, a nightclub impresario who wants to shed his playboy past; TV host and actor Carlos Girón Longoria, estranged from his father, mitigates the drama of his friends; Liz Woodburn, an American food blogger, finds she has to re-climb the social ladder as she adjusts to her new home after leaving New York City to live with her fiancé in Mexico; 30-something TV personality Shanik Aspe wants to be a pop star, against the guidance of her loved ones. Basically, this is Mexico City's "it crowd", and they're going to undo everything you thought you knew about life in Mexico and Mexican people. That's an unfortunate burden they have to carry but in 2018, here we are.
Fabulously respectable as they are, Made in Mexico's stars aren't blind to, or ignoring, some of the ugly realities there. They know violence is a problem, as is the treatment of women. They hint there may be some kind of LGBTQ story too, which would give viewers a glimpse into how queer people are treated in a culture steeped in religion and machismo. At its core though, it's a story about a group of people navigating the same human dramas as everyone else: work, family, friends and relationships. And compared to most reality shows, their dramas are more resonant. On any other reality show, being wealthy and fabulous and important is the default expectation for participants, like being able to blink. For the cast of Made in Mexico, being wealthy and fabulous is act of resistance. On any other reality show, people want to be seen to boost their own profiles; on Made in Mexico, they want to change how people think about Mexico.
"I went to places in my personal life I would never expose publicly," says Mitre. "This is not about me getting Botox. But," she adds with a laugh, "I should."
Made in Mexico debuts on Netflix Friday, Sept. 28.