Mexicana Flight Attendants Turned Calendar Girls Feud after Success
The cover of the Calendar featuring Gina Itxel Aguilar, Ofelia Fernández Acordagoitia, Maribel Zavala Muñoz. (Ernesto Gilabert/Aeromozas Sobrevivientes)
Left unemployed by Mexicana Airline's bankruptcy, 10 employees banded together for a sexy calendar that became a sensation. But success comes at a price, and the 7 of the original band have fallen away.
One works as a flight attendant again, another just quit her job in a department store and three were recently photographed semi-nude for a new project.
When 10 Mexicana flight attendants posed in a sexy calendar over a year ago, the world took notice. But more than a year later, the women have gone their separate ways. Many barely speak to each other.
The flight attendants originally united after Mexicana Airlines ceased service a year and a half ago. Suddenly without salary or sufficient unemployment benefits, they produced the sultry calendar to stay afloat.
“The idea was to do it and distribute it amongst our friends to make some money,” said Coral Pérez, the flight attendant who came up with the idea.
But what started as a do-it-yourself project quickly transformed into a phenomenon. Thrust into the spotlight, the women became a symbol of the toll of Mexicana’s bankruptcy. They made public appearances and did TV interviews.
Playboy caught wind and eventually sponsored a new version of the 2011 calendar. It also invited the women to pose nude for its magazine. Donning pillbox hats, short scarves, thongs and fishnets, six covered the April 2011 issue.
But by the time the magazine came out, the group had already begun to disperse.
Pérez had walked away. She didn’t want to strip down entirely, she said. She also said that some 1,000 calendars from the original 5,000 batch went missing. She accused an aeromoza and the photographer, Ernesto Gilabert, who took the lead in the program, of “mismanagement.” (He blames the girls for taking the calendars to events then losing them.)
These days, she’s unemployed, having just resigned from a retail job.
“It wasn’t my life,” she said, “It has been difficult to be inside four walls, without the sunlight.”
Pérez was a flight attendant for 10 years. She said it’s hard leaving flying behind, but she’s planning on doing another calendar or similar project– something on a smaller scale.
For at least three girls – Maribel Zavala Muñoz, Ofelia Fernández Acordagoitia, Gina Itxel Aguilar– the aeromoza phenomenon continues.
The women, who all posed in Playboy, produced a 2012 calendar called “Aeromozas Survivors.”
Gilabert photographed the new calendar as well. He and Fernández Acordagoitia have been dating for roughly a year.
What started as a do-it-yourself project quickly transformed into a phenomenon. Thrust into the spotlight, the women became a symbol of the toll of Mexicana’s bankruptcy. They made public appearances and did TV interviews. But more than a year later, the women have gone their separate ways. Many barely speak to each other.
He said he chose the women because they were the most popular. Although some of the other aeromozas were interested, he decided the calendar would look best with only three women.
“[It’s] a spectacular number, visually in photography,” he said.
Zavala Muñoz and Fernández Acordagoitia are also currently rehearsing an aeromoza-related play, which they plan to take on the road – possibly to the United States.
Thus far, contacts in Chicago, Los Angeles and various Southwestern cities have been interested in scheduling the show, though nothing’s confirmed.
Although fame has been lucrative, the income changes month-to-month in comparison to what she used to earn, said Zavala Muñoz.
“Perhaps you can have a lot more, but perhaps, no – you don’t know, you don’t have any idea,” she said.
At least one aeromoza is flying again. Delmy Padilla Magali started a job at AeroMéxico a few months ago, she said.
Padilla Magali only posed for the first calendar, not participating in Playboy’s version.
She thought the calendar was going to be a “type of movement.” But over time, she said, the photographer became more heavily involved with negotiations and the group’s business decisions, she said.
“From my point of view, the way in which he directed was nothing more than to exploit the image of the women,” she said.
For his part, Gilabert said Playboy was only interested in four of the aeromozas, but was able to negotiate with two more. He wasn’t responsible for choosing the girls.
He also said that the calendars slowly went missing when the women took them to various promotional events. Overall, there was little accountability from the entire group.
Ultimately, Padilla Magali backed out and relocated to northern California, where her then-fiancé lived. The two got married and she taught Spanish classes. When she got the flight attendant job offer, she and her Finnish husband – they met on a plane – moved to Mexico.
“I’m very thankful because many people said that none of us that participated in the calendar would be contracted by another airline,” she said.
Monica Silva Gómez, another early aeromoza, is using her “little bit of fame” to launch a singing career. She recently produced a disk, mostly of covers. She hopes to sell two original songs on iTunes soon.
She too felt that once Playboy entered the picture, the group dynamic changed. (She didn’t pose on the cover.)
Ultimately, she didn’t want a catfight.
If the offer had fallen into her lap, “onward,” she said, but “it wasn’t going to be like ‘Listen, I want to undress myself!!!’”
These days, she sells underwear and pajamas from a catalogue to boost her income. Overall, she enjoyed publicizing the calendar and looks back fondly on the experience.
She added: “People told me ‘you’re the one that smiles the most during interviews,’ and I said, ‘it’s because I love it!’”
Ruth Samuelson is a freelance writer based in Mexico City.
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