In her new memoir Straight Walk, Patricia Velasquez,who starred as Marina’s big screen alter ego Karina on The L Word, recounts her impoverished childhood, her time in the intensely challenging South American beauty-pageant system, and admits what she had denied or played coy about in the past was the fact she’s a lesbian.
Seem as the world’s first Latina supermodel, Velasquez was discovered as a teen and went on to compete in the 1989 Miss Venezuela pageant. But compete for Miss Venezuela was not an easy task, she was told she had her eyes done, her ears pinned back and got breast implants. She agreed only to the latter. She also starved herself on a strict diet of chicken and tomato juice and was required to find a sponsor. In other words, Velasquez writes, “I would have to start prostituting myself.”
She hooked up with an older man she identifies only as David. In exchange for sex, he got Velasquez an apartment and paid for her cosmetic surgery. She placed second in the Miss Venezuela pageant, and her modeling career took off.
She modeled for Victoria’s Secret, Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue and made it on the big screen in The Mummy franchise.
However, her life changed when she met comedienne Sandra Bernhard backstage at a fashion show.
Velasquez says didn’t know who Bernhard was — even though the comic was rumored to be with Madonna back then — but says she felt an instant connection.
Bernhard invited Velasquez to her hotel, and the two hooked up. “I’d never kissed a girl”, Velasquez writes, and she agonized over what this meant.
Soon after meeting and falling for Bernhard, she slept with a male fashion photographer.
“In my head I thought, ‘I just wanted to prove one thing, and I did’. There was no middle ground for me — a person was gay or not gay. Being gay was not for me.”
Yet she quickly began dating Bernhard exclusively, without declaring herself gay or bisexual.
“I was deeply in love with Sandra in a way I’d never experienced before.”
The model doesn’t get into the details of her relationship with Bernhard — or their clique, which included Madonna, party girl Ingrid Casares and nightclub owner Chris Paciello, who was famously convicted of murder in 2000. Of the relationship’s end, she writes only, “I cried for two years over Sandra.”
Velasquez slowly came out to her family, each member supportive. But she also felt compelled to come out in a book, mainly because there’s so much prejudice that remains in the Latin community.
“I want to at least start a dialogue. The tide is changing.”