Poor Ernie Diaz

Chapter 6 

This chapter, and all the chapters that tell Evelyn’s life story, are written in the first-person from Evelyn’s perspective.  

Evelyn describes her mother, who was a chorus girl and an aspiring actress, and her father, who was abusive. Evelyn loved her mother and wanted to be just like her, sharing her dream of becoming an actress, but her mother died of pneumonia when Evelyn was 11. As Evelyn begins to develop, boys and men start to pay attention to her. When an older boy at a corner store forces himself on Evelyn, she demands to take whatever she wants from the store in exchange. Though she doesn’t want sex from boys, she understands what she does want: to get away from her abusive father and go to Hollywood. So, Evelyn puts on her favorite green dress and seduces Ernie Diaz. Evelyn lies to Ernie about her age so they can get married, and he takes her to Hollywood. 

In Hollywood, Evelyn starts hanging out at a café that she knows is frequented by celebrities. At the café, she meets Harry Cameron, a young film producer who immediately starts giving her small roles in films. She learns to act as she goes and hides her ambition from Ernie so that he doesn’t feel threatened by her. She begins to earn as much as Ernie does. She sweet-talks Ernie into letting her take acting lessons to improve her skills.  

When Evelyn wants a lead role, Harry tells her that she won’t get hired because she’s Cuban and the lead roles go to blonde women. Evelyn arranges to run into Ari Sullivan, the producer of the film she’s interested in. He sleeps with her, and Evelyn feigns sexual pleasure, reflecting that sometimes the pleasure in sex comes from being happy at making a trade. Her trade is successful: Ari offers her the lead role of Jo in Little Women.  

The studio has Evelyn dye her hair blonde, change her name from Evelyn Herrera to Evelyn Hugo, and pose for a series of publicity photos to create her image for the public. The studio also asks that she start appearing with popular male celebrities for the press and arranges for her divorce from Ernie. Evelyn pretends that she’s heartbroken about the divorce, and the studio offers Ernie a settlement. She notes he used the money from the studio to buy a house in which he raised eight children with his new wife. She says it worked out for him in the end and that she can’t condemn her teen self for using Ernie to get what she needed. 

Chapter 7 

Monique and Evelyn end their first interview, and Monique feels like she can do anything. Monique talks to her mother on the phone and finds out that her mother never thought that David, Monique’s estranged husband, was a good match for Monique. Her mother congratulates Monique for writing Evelyn’s life story and says that Evelyn must have chosen her because she’s so talented. Monique insists that there is another reason why Evelyn picked her, but she doesn’t know what it is just yet.  


Sex is a double-edged sword for Evelyn as it serves as both a tool that grants her power and a weapon that disempowers her. The young Evelyn realizes she will be in situations where she is forced to act sexually even if she doesn’t want to. She also realizes that sex can be a commodity and that she can trade sex for things she desires—everything from candy to her first film role. For example, when the store clerk demands sexual gratification from her, Evelyn realizes that though she is powerless to escape his advances, she can trade sex (albeit unwillingly) for things that she needs. As a poor, motherless child, Evelyn doesn’t have a lot of ways to ensure that her needs are met, so this trade allows her to exert a complicated power over her own circumstances. The same is true when she sleeps with Ari Sullivan for a role. Evelyn gets what she needs from the transactions, but she’s also in a situation where sexual consent is impossible given the amount of power and the number of years Ari has over her. Though she does not always feel like she has agency in what she does with her body, sex also serves as a way to gain power in a world in which she’s otherwise powerless. 

In carefully crafting her Hollywood image, Evelyn erases aspects of herself to appeal to studios and audiences. After Harry tells her that the studio won’t hire her because she’s Cuban, Evelyn recreates herself as a white leading lady. She dyes her hair blonde, rids herself of her unattractive New York accent, and stops speaking Spanish. This allows the studio to rewrite her life story, and they change everything about her, from her relationship with her father to how her mother died. When posing for the photos to create pictures of this false persona, Evelyn realizes that she is required to be both wholesome and erotic. Evelyn fakes her race, her appearance, her life story, and even her relationship to sex. She essentially plays this role offscreen to get the roles she wants on-screen. This erasure defines her career and suggests that for Evelyn playing the part is a means of survival in Hollywood. 

These chapters introduce the color green as a symbol that represents both Evelyn’s ambition and her innocence. Evelyn wears a green dress as she meets Ernie and trades her virginity for a ride to Hollywood. The dress’s hue invokes her innocence and youth, which are tied to her virginity. Because she started developing early, she has nearly outgrown the dress, just as she is quickly outgrowing her life as a child. The fact that she lies to Ernie about her age suggests that she’s eager to grow up and leave behind a childhood of grief and pain. Green also represents the fierce ambition that motivates Evelyn to make the trade; dressed in the color of money, she demonstrates will get herself out of Hell’s Kitchen by any means necessary. In marrying Ernie, she completely transforms her life and sheds the greenness of youth like the dress she has outgrown, donning the ambition that will drive her for most of her adult life.