Eva Longoria has made her movie directorial debut with “Flamin’ Hot,” the story of a Mexican-American janitor, Richard Montañez, who invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Longoria became nationally famous more than 20 years ago for her character Gabrielle in “Desperate Housewives.” Apart from her important charity and political work, “Flamin Hot” is her best work to date.
The story of a working class man, who through his talent and persistence rises from a janitor at the Rancho Cucamonga plant at Frito-Lay to a leader in multicultural marketing in Corporate America, is inspiring. Longoria spoke about her movie at a premiere in Chicago and CALÓ NEWS was there.
“This Mexican janitor who couldn’t even read or write came up with this idea about the Hispanic market. And he’s Mexican American like me. How do I not know this story? And he’s from our community,” Longoria told the audience. “I was really sad because I didn’t know this story. But there was nobody out there amplifying our stories especially in corporate America. I’m sure there’s more heroes in corporate America in our community but nobody talks about them.”
Director Eva Longoria and actor Matt Walsh, who also stars in the film
She added, “I didn’t want to make a movie about the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto. I wanted to make a movie about Richard Montañez because his life is interesting, compelling and inspirational.”
Longoria, who is behind the scenes on this film with a mostly Latino cast, also said that she could relate to the story of Montañez, whose idea for the spicy snacks were at first dismissed.
“I’ve been told ‘no’ a lot. I’ve been told ‘no’ ideas don’t come from people like you. ‘No,’ that job isn’t for somebody who looks like you. ‘No,’ women probably shouldn’t do that,” Longoria said while eating popcorn as she spoke before the movie screening. “I really identified with his story. The movie explores the idea of how opportunity is not distributed equally. Talent is, anybody can be talented. How many people get the opportunity to shine, to be great? And Richard dared to ask, ‘Why not me?'”
To be clear, there has been some debate about whether Montañez is the sole creator of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The Los Angeles Times did an investigation and found that he was not. Montañez has insisted that he is.
PepsiCo released a statement in 2021 that said: “We do not credit the product creation to him and him alone…We attribute the launch and success of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and other products to several people who worked at PepsiCo, including Richard Montañez.”
It’s Hollywood after all. The truth is Montañez was a janitor who became a top corporate executive. He published two memoirs, “A Boy, a Burrito, and a Cookie: From Janitor to Executive” and “Flamin’ Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man’s Rise from Janitor to Top Executive.”
The film, which came out Friday on Hulu and Disney+, is important to the Latino community as we don’t see enough of our stories in Hollywood. There are many stories like Montañez’s out there.
In our community, we know so many men and women like Montañez. My father swept floors and was a stock boy at a company in Chicago and he rose to become an international salesman and eventually started his own company.
These types of stories should be championed and Longoria should be lauded for making this film that uplifts our community. The film, which is about family, love and dreams, resonated so well with the Latino audience at the Chicago premiere that people were clapping and laughing out loud. I won’t spoil the movie but watch out for the dubbed scenes with “cholo” talk. They are hilarious.
We need more of our community stories on the silver screen.
“There are less female filmmakers today in Hollywood than a couple years ago. There are less Latinos in TV and film than three years ago. We’re moving in the wrong direction,” Longoria said. “We want to be counted. Your voice needs to be counted.”