Real Women Have Curves

by Josefina López

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.


Ana is a young Mexican American woman who is described as being overweight and pretty. A recent high school graduate, Ana wants to attend college at Columbia University. While waiting for her financial aid to come through, she helps her family by working at her sister’s factory in the garment district of Los Angeles. Her job with her sister only earns her $67 a week, so she looks forward to the chance to leave. She is critical of the job and complains that it is beneath her, explaining in her diary that the hard labor is usually left to undocumented workers with no other choice. She thinks that staying in the factory would be a step back for her, and at eighteen years old, she’s ready to move on. Ana is described as a feminist who believes her gender should not dictate her future; while the other women worry about Ana finding a husband, she wants to go to college and build her own path.


Estela is Ana’s sister and the owner of Garcia’s Sewing Factory. She is twenty-four years old, but years of hard work have aged her. Compared to her younger sister, she is described as being plain. She is constantly worried about paying her workers and keeping up with her bills. Despite working very hard for many years, she is in the process of being sued because she still owes money on her sewing machines and hasn’t kept up with the payments. To help clear her debt, she takes on a large order and spends most of the play nervous about completing it. She carries the weight of the women’s financial stability on her shoulders and knows that, if they fail to complete the order, they will all lose their jobs. Of all the women working in the factory, Estela is the only one not working in the country legally. She explains that she was once arrested for illegally possessing a lobster. She was charged with stealing the lobster from Santa Monica Beach out of season; she then faced more charges when she failed to appear in court for her case.

Estela has a crush on “El Tormentor,” whom the women watch outside of the factory washing his car every day. The women tease Estela for her infatuation with him. Eventually, the two go out on a date, but it does not end well: he tries to take advantage of her and makes inappropriate advances towards her.


Carmen is Ana and Estela’s mother and the oldest woman in the play at forty-eight years old. She is described as being short, overweight, and rather conservative. She is critical of her daughters and is especially upset at the prospect of Ana leaving her family and moving to New York. Instead, she thinks Ana should remain in Los Angeles to help her family. Carmen tells many stories, which often entertain the women of the factory while annoying and embarrassing Ana. Carmen takes on the maternal role of the group: she enjoys gossiping and often speaks her mind and doles out advice to the other women. She complains that, at this point in her life, she should be a grandmother at home taking care of her grandchildren—not having to work daily through the pain of her arthritis.


Pancha is thirty-two years old; she is mellow but quick-witted. The largest of the women in the group, she is comfortable being herself and isn’t ashamed of her weight. Pancha suffers abuse from her husband, and because she cannot have children, she feels she has let herself, her family, and...

(This entire section contains 721 words.)

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her community down. Like Carmen, she has traditional, conservative expectations for the role women should have in society. She does not understand Ana’s desire to go away to college, because she thinks that it will prevent Ana from finding a husband in the future.


Rosali is twenty-nine years old and is often the mediator in the group of women because of her even-keeled nature. She is still a larger woman, but she is the slimmest of the group—and so her perpetual diets, mostly just water and weight loss pills, are often the source of discussion in the factory. Throughout the course of the play, Rosali learns to accept herself and worry less about her weight.