The star who fell to Earth

Gloria Trevi, Mexico's legendary pop sensation who combined the energy and sex appeal of US rock star Madonna with a hint of …

Gloria Trevi, Mexico's legendary pop sensation who combined the energy and sex appeal of US rock star Madonna with a hint of Eva Peron, Argentina's political icon, was detained in Brazil three weeks ago, where she awaits extradition to Mexico on charges of kidnapping and corrupting underage girls.

Trevi shot to fame in 1990, her topless figure and shock of brown hair adorning posters and calendars, her knee-high boots and skirts ripped to the shoulder accompanying dynamic stage performances which electrified the country.

In a conservative Catholic nation, Trevi's straight sex talk and pro-choice statements found powerful enemies, with priests denouncing her from the pulpit and anti-abortion militants demanding the government ban her live performances; "she is the serpent in the garden of Eden dressed in a G-string," said one critic.

The reaction of Catholic activist groups brought a complementary defence by respected Mexican intellectuals, who saw in Trevi the beginning of a cultural revolution and the birth of a feminist icon. Trevi's songs applauded youth rebellion, criticised over-protective parents and spoke out for sexual freedom.


"I forgot the pill/couldn't be bothered with condoms/all because of a fever/of wanting sex," sang Trevi, lamenting her folly on Pregnant Girl.

Trevi's hits included Virgin of Virgins, and Doctor Psychiatrist, in which a precocious teenager is forced by her parents to visit a psychiatrist to bring her sexual desires under control.

During live performances Trevi would pick out young men from the crowd, dance with them onstage, strip them to their underwear and remind them to wear condoms if they had sex, before dispatching them back to their friends. The frenzy was such that Mexican police were frequently called to her concerts to prevent fans storming the stage.

Something was not quite right, however, as Trevi moved from hotel room to hotel room, inhabiting a fantasy land where life was a succession of TV studios, autograph sessions and million-dollar contracts, growing up in front of the cameras.

"I like to live in hotel rooms," said Trevi, in her last interview, "that way I don't have to wash up after me." She seemed disoriented and adrift.

Interviewers noted autistic tendencies in Trevi, a comment she readily acknowledged; "sometimes I feel like I'm in another world, as if I was autistic."

Trevi's career began with teenybopper group Boquitas Pintadas (literally translated as Little Painted Mouths) when she was 15. When that group split up, Trevi fell on hard times but refused to return home to northern Mexico. She begged on the streets of Mexico City, sang on the metro and gave aerobics classes after her boyfriend of the time threw her out of his apartment.

Defeated and exhausted, Trevi eventually went home to Chihuaha where she received an unexpected financial windfall from her grand-parents, using the money to prepare a solo album.

In 1989 Trevi, then 18, took her songs to Sergio Andrade, a record producer and teen star hunter, camping outside his office until he agreed to see her. Andrade listened to the songs and agreed to produce the album, launching a hugely successful partnership and a lasting love affair.

Trevi captured the hearts of five-year-old girls, who imitated their idol, dressing up in ripped-up skirts and competing in Trevi lookalike contests.

The Trevi-Andrade clan then set up their "academy for young stars", taking custody of girls as young as 12, signed over by parents who dreamed of fame and wealth.

In late 1994, Karina Yapor, aged 12, approached Trevi after a concert, convincing her to let her join the Trevi-Andrade "star academy". Karina's parents signed over custody of the child. Three years later Yapor, aged 15, gave birth to a boy in Madrid, Spain, without informing her parents.

The first alarm bells sounded in April 1996 when a Mexican gossip magazine suggested that Trevi was a pawn to Andrade's perverse sex machine, trapping young teens who then came under the older man's spell. The allegations were dismissed due to the unreliable nature of the source.

In 1998 Aline Hernandez, a former teen performer and ex-wife of Sergio Andrade, published a book in which she revealed details of abuse and violence allegedly perpetrated by her former husband. She began legal proceedings against him, but once more many Mexicans dismissed the story as sour grapes from an embittered former spouse.

In July 1998 however, Karina Yapor left her infant in a Spanish orphanage, where nurses discovered signs of malnutrition. The "star academy" slowly started to unravel.

Two months' later Yapor's parents signed a legal statement in which they commended Andrade and Trevi "for the excellent care of their child," a document considered crucial evidence by Trevi's defence team.

The parents now claim that they signed the document under duress, to safeguard their daughter's career. In early 1999 Mexico's Foreign Ministry informed Karina Yapor's parents that their daughter had abandoned a child in Spain. The Yapors, who hadn't had contact with Karina for seven months, declared their daughter "missing" and formally accused Andrade of "corruption of minors".

Karina Yapor returned to her family home last December, aged 17, where she is currently receiving psychological treatment.

Several girls then spoke out about the alleged abuse they suffered in the TreviAndrade "star academy" as Gloria Trevi was accused of being a direct accomplice to rape, kidnap and corruption of girls left in her custody. The Trevi-Andrade team dropped out of sight last March, with four more girls in tow, but they were now named on an arrest warrant and

There are actually three de la Cuesta sisters involved, one of whom is implicated in the trevi-andrade corruption charges (Katia) while two more are considered victims-Karola and Karla -these are the two sisters who have given birth....

Karla, Katia and Karola de la Cuesta, three sisters left in Andrade and Trevi's care, fled with the couple, who settled in Rio, Brazil. Karola and Karla have given birth to babies in the past two years, while the third, Katia was imprisoned last week on the same charges as Andrade and Trevi. Prosecuting lawyers have demanded DNA tests to establish whether Andrade is the father of all three children born under his custody - the two De la Cuesta children and Karina Yapor's son. The two young De la Cuesta mothers refused to reveal the identity of the father saying only that the infants are "the product of the greatest possible love".

On January 11th, the INTERPOL pursuit came to an end as Trevi, Andrade and three girls were tracked down in Rio and taken into custody. The following day, the front page of Mexico's leading daily featured a full-page photo of Trevi, curled up naked in a baby's crib. "Busted" read the headline.

Mexico is agog at revelations about the bizarre Trevi-Andrade "academy" which was part Stalinist gulag and part satanic cult, with forced labour and sex the main subjects on the curriculum. Neighbours allegedly discovered "punishment cells" in one of the couple's homes, where pupils were castigated for lapses in discipline. Investigators claim to have found a large pornographic film collection and sketches of Trevi in positions of torture.

The backlash has been powerful, as two of Trevi's homes were looted and wrecked last week, while Andrade's former wife, Aline Hernandez, has accused him of dabbling with the occult. Trevi's best defence may lie in claiming diminished responsibility and manipulation by Andrade, 18 years her senior. Ms Trevi's lawyer claimed last week that Andrade was being "difficult" towards him, "saying one thing one day, another the next". On Tuesday, however, Trevi's Brazilian lawyer was sacked and she picked the same lawyer as Andrade, suggesting a common defence strategy.

Gloria Trevi's fans are mobilising through the Internet, launching the Trevi Cyber-Rescue Movement, (CRGT) as websites link up fans across the country, planning a march on Chihuaha, her home state, where she is due to be extradited and imprisoned some time next month.

"I will never smile until you're free," was the website message of one unconditional fan, horrified to hear that Trevi's tumultuous hair may be cut to prison regulation length.

Locals say that Chihuaha hasn't seen anything like it since rebel Pancho Villa terrorised the neighbourhood, sweeping up young women from their homes and taking them to his guerrilla camps during the Mexican revolution between 1910 and 1917.s0]

Trevi is being held in a decrepit prison in Rio de Janeiro, where a dozen high-risk prisoners escaped after a shootout last week.

"It's like a hotel," she told her visiting father, "you get three meals a day."

In her last interview Trevi was asked what she most wanted in life; "I would like to buy an island with a lake and a waterfall," she said, "build a huge house there, with a swimming pool and a small airport."

Trevi's dreams of paradise have been replaced by a vision of hell, her days spent in a tiny cell, claiming to anyone who will listen that she has no idea what the charges against her are about.

However, some observers believe that Trevi may beat the charges, helped by a team of legal experts who will aggressively challenge every word uttered by the mostly teenage girls, who have offered contradictory testimony and are undergoing psychological treatment, casting doubts on the strength of their evidence.