Jesse Garcia (left) and Dennis Haysbert (right) star in “Flamin’ Hot” (Photo Credit: Hulu).

(“Flamin’ Hot” trailer courtesy of Hulu)

The greatest of all time Muhammad Ali once said, “I don’t trust anyone who’s nice to me but rude to the waiter. Because they would treat me the same way if I were in that position.”

But the funny thing about life is the person at the bottom of the totem pole might sit on top of the totem pole, or even own the whole darn pole, one day.

And that is why wise people often say you see the same people on your way up as you see on your way down.

Therefore, it is imperative that you act accordingly because you never know.

However, “Flamin’ Hot,” directed by Eva Longoria, is not a story of revenge or “I told you so.”

“Flamin’ Hot” is a funny, offbeat inspirational tale about how one should never define themselves by where they currently reside because the person living in the mansion and occupying the corner suite at the office might not have always lived or worked there.

Furthermore, no matter how high one climbs, if they do not stay connected to the people they serve, they could become easily replaceable in the cutthroat world known as corporate America.

“Flamin’ Hot” is necessary because it re-emphasizes how the trials and tribulations that all people of color endure in America parallel so obviously.

Although Black and Brown hostility has made national news over the past couple of decades, the stories of Black Americans and Hispanic Americans remain very similar in a world that often believes if you are White then you are right, if you are Brown stick around and if you are Black get back.

In fact, the racism and police brutality in “Flamin’ Hot” shows that Brown had to get from around if the White man said so.

“Flamin’ Hot” depicts the rags to riches tale of a poor Hispanic American male in California at a time in which very few of his peers made it off the block, let alone making it in the business world.

However, that does not mean that those on the block did not have the brilliance to make it in life.

Unfortunately, where a person is from and/or what a person looks like can often determine the trajectory of that person’s life.

And when life’s trajectory has poverty in a person’s future, it is no wonder that some turn to illegal activities to make it in life and take care of their families.

That is even more unfortunate for Richard Montanez (Jesse Garcia) because he has natural talents as a salesperson and marketer.

In “Flamin’ Hot,” Young Richard (Carlos S. Sanchez) turns being bullied into a thriving business at a school in which he is the butt of jokes because of his Hispanic background.

Although Young Richard desperately wants to fit in with his White classmates by eating a sandwich for his lunch, his mother insists on sending him to school with burritos instead.

Like many minority children, Young Richard is ashamed of his heritage because America often ridicules the heritage of minorities, while amplifying the heritage of the majority demographic.

However, when Richard convinces his bullies to try the burrito, he soon finds out that he can charge a quarter per burrito, which makes him a little baller in the neighborhood.

With his newfound “wealth,” Young Richard can woo the apple of his eye, Young Judy (Jayde Martinez) with all the chocolate she can eat.

Unfortunately, when a White shop owner and White police officer in their California hometown assume he has stolen his profits and arrests him, Young Richard begins to accept his fate as a young Hispanic boy in a White man’s world.

And that fate is a life stuck in the hood, dodging “opps,” police officers, long prison sentences and an early death.

But no matter how many bad choices a person makes, or the discrimination they endure, nothing can stop a dreamer or visionary.

When Richard, who does not even possess a high school diploma, is unable to take care of Judy (Anna Gonzales) and their sons, he gets a janitorial job working at a Frito Lay plant.

However, his curiosity and dreams prevent him from accepting his place on the totem pole.

Although he gets on his superiors’ nerves, when Frito Lay runs into a rough patch, it is Richard’s vision that saves the company and totally changes the trajectory of his family forever.

Richard’s idea, which is given away by the title “Flamin’ Hot,” is brilliant because it taps into the heritage of minority communities, which often get ignored by White executives, costing companies millions of dollars.

However, Richard’s true talent is his marketing skills.

He begins pushing potato chips like old school rappers pushed their cassette tapes back in the day when major record companies looked down on the entire genre, making millionaires and billionaires out of street hustlers.

And like in hip-hop, the streets determine what is hot and what is not hot, not some suits on Wall Street.

“Flamin’ Hot” is fire because of the way Longoria directs it, in a very quirky and cooky way.

The funniest scenes in “Flamin’ Hot” are when the old White Frito Lay executives mime their conversations with voiceover from Hispanic actors speaking with a street lingo.

Unfortunately, “Flamin’ Hot” might perpetuate some negative stereotypes for communities of color like violence and bad male role models.

Nevertheless, the story is often true for far too many people in poor communities.

But stories do not end at the beginning of the book.

And “Flamin’ Hot” shows that no longer how long the book is, happy endings do come for those willing to complete their narrative.

“Flamin’ Hot” is now streaming on Hulu and Disney+.







Todd A. Smith
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