Not long after Jay Colindres began his career, he became one of the most well-known up-and-coming actors in Latin America. The problem was that people didn’t know he was acting.
In 2015, he appeared on the mega-popular Spanish-language courtroom show “Caso Cerrado” ― think a Hispanic Judge Judy ― in which Colindres played Esteban, a mean-spirited gay man who is involved in a love triangle. In one episode of “Caso Cerrado,” Esteban and his baby’s mother (don’t even ask ―just watch the episode) get into it and she throws water on his face, which prompts him to yell a phrase that became instantly memeable: “Estupida, mi pelo, idiota.”
Most of us know that courtroom TV shows mix a little bit of truth with a lot of acting. Despite that, many who watched that episode of “Caso Cerrado” believed that Esteban was a real person and desperately wanted to see more of him. “People wanted me to stick to that character,” he says. “But that wasn’t what I wanted — and I also didn’t know how to move on from that.”
To set the record straight, Colindres uploaded a YouTube video titled “The Truth Behind Caso Cerrado.” In it, he explained that he’s an actor, not the character Esteban from the show. He also stressed his versatility; he could transform into whichever character he was assigned, from a saintlike figure to a hardened hit man. Like so many queer people, Colindres is a master of transformation.
Colindres has 7 million followers across platforms, but it’s most likely that you’ve seen him on TikTok, where his presence speaks to his genuine ability to reinvent himself. On the platform, he’s most often wearing a wig and rocking drag that looks thrifted.
You might have seen one video in which he’s dressed in a shiny purple Selena-esque jumpsuit while someone chases him through the streets and asks, in full paparazzi mode, “Selena, Selena, is that you?” Colindres turns around and belts out “Como La Flor” while pouting and giving an awkward, self-assured nod. It’s not Selena Quintanilla, of course — it’s the Kirkland brand version of her. And I say that with all due respect.
In all their awkwardness and shyness, these new characters are much more authentic to Colindres than the loud and abrasive Esteban ever was. “It’s pretty much me,” he says. “I guess people connected with my brain.”
Perhaps Colindres’ ability to shape-shift stems from the way he’s adapted to different environments. When he was 13 years old, he moved to Boston from Guatemala and lived in a neighborhood full of Latinos from different countries. Now, he lives between Boston and Antigua, Guatemala, where he says he feels safer and more himself than in America.
Colindres carries his Latinidad and his queerness in a way that I always felt was impossible for myself. I envy that, in a way. He’s able to wear a dress and a wig and act flamboyantly and still somehow be loved by a comprehensive Latin American audience (he says his biggest fan base is in Brazil).
I had to ask him if he faces hate for being visibly queer in the Latin community. From my own experience of growing up Latino and queer, “maricon,” or the f-word in Spanish, was casually thrown around all throughout my childhood. Once, I was caught wearing a dress by an uncle, which led to an appointment with the chancla.
“I don’t know. I really don’t know,” Colindres says. “I think people connect with me because it’s humor and people like to laugh.” His answer makes me think despite the homophobia that permeates the culture, he doesn’t spend too much of his emotional energy dwelling on it.
Similarly to how he felt after playing Esteban, Colindres senses another shift coming. He doesn’t just want to stay confined to his pink wig character on TikTok anymore. For the public, Colindres has always been in some form of drag. But he is finally dipping his toe into just being himself, and that includes expressions from across the gender spectrum.
Colindres suspects that this shift might be challenging since some peoples’ reactions to his wigless TikToks have made him a little nervous. “I’ve read comments that are like, ‘If you’re not wearing a pink wig, next time you’re not gonna get a comment,’” he says. This is, sometimes, both the gift and burden of playing a beloved character.
To me, Colindres the person is much more interesting than any character he could play, if only because he proves that being LGBTQ and Latine really sets you up to step into any role you choose.
If there’s anything Colindres’ career so far has shown us, it’s that you don’t need to marry a trope just because it was a great fit for a season. Colindres will be whoever he wants to be, and he’ll do it authentically and unapologetically. He won’t stop transforming, and he definitely won’t abandon comedy. “In life, I’ve learned that as long as you laugh about everything, everything is going to be fine,” he says.