Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

Documentary producer
Laticia Headings has a brutally real story to tell:

What do a car thief, a meth addict, and a prostitute have in common? 30 feet of steel-linked chains. They’re part of a 15-woman chain gang in Arizona, the only all-women’s chain gang in the country!

This ground-breaking, two-hour documentary, CHAIN GANG GIRLS, premiers TUESDAY, JUNE 24th, 2008 at 8/7c on We TV (Women’s Entertainment).

Check your local listings for air times!

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When I was around 11, my mom and aunt encouraged me to audition for a show called Action News for Kids, a weekly news program produced, written, and hosted by kids, for kids. After much reluctance, I went to the audition and was plopped in front of a teleprompter for the first time. It was a frightening experience, at first, but I remember eventually easing into it and thinking it was kind of fun.

Two auditions later, I was selected from a pool of 200 kids to be one of six reporters—an Action News Kid. Over the years, this garnered me terrible ridicule from my friends but proved to be a wonderful experience.

Being an Action News Kids taught me how to “project to the camera,” produce, and write segments. It set into motion my love for television, and was the precursor to my career as a producer and writer.

Years later, in 1999, I moved to Los Angeles with nothing more than a dream and raw ambition and delved into the wild world of entertainment. The first job I landed was at E! Entertainment Television on the show, E! True Hollywood Story. Who doesn’t love those?

I stayed with E! for three years and then decided to spread my wings and become a freelance producer. Since then I’ve produced a number of various reality, beauty, fashion, biography, and lifestyle shows—everything from the Style Network’s Modern Girl’s Guide to Life to the 71st & 72nd Annual Academy Awards.

In 2004, I joined Participant Media Productions (An Inconvenient Truth, Good Night, and Good Luck, Syriana), a company dedicated to using the power of media to create positive social change. There, I got my first hands-on experience with the feature film business and was given the opportunity to establish and run Participant’s new documentary department. This enabled me to meet many of the documentary filmmakers I’d always admired, whose work I’d found so inspiring.

It was during this time that I saw a project called the Everest Peace Project (EPP) cross my desk (www.everestpeaceproject.org). The EPP is an organization arranging expeditions around the world to inspire peace, promote interfaith and multi-cultural dialogue and build a global community of compassion.

In July of 2005, I was one of nine people to participate in EPP’s “Climb for Peace 2005” to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa. Since then, I’ve co-produced EPP’s first film, “Everest: A Climb for Peace,” which was finished in November of last year and narrated by Orlando Bloom.

This, in some ways, was a point of no return for me. My time with Participant and the EPP crystallized my desire to produce socially relevant programming and expose important, untold stories.

In 2006, a dream of mine came true when I got the opportunity to work for National Geographic…in San Francisco. I made a “temporary” move to the city by the Bay to produce two shows entitled, Fantastic Food Factories: Sweet Tooth & Snack Attack. The shows give an inside look on how some of the world’s most famous foods are made. I visited 10 food factories around the country, including Ben & Jerry’s, Peeps, Twinkies, Jelly Belly, Red Vines, Skippy Peanut Butter, Goldfish, Utz Potato Chips, Hanover Pretzels and Dale & Thomas Popcorn.

It was a delicious experience.

Despite my initial intention to move back to LA, I fell in love with San Francisco and have been in the midst of a whirlwind romance ever since! I’ve now made the city my permanent home.

Last summer I got an amazing opportunity to produce a two-hour documentary for We TV called CHAIN GANG GIRLS, about the only all-women’s chain gang in the country. This eight-month project also included six weeks in Phoenix, Arizona in 115+ degree weather, but producing this show was a career highlight.

My job has taken me a lot of places, from backstage at the Oscars to the shores of Martha’s Vineyard where Jaws was filmed, from the Twinkies factory in Kansas City, Missouri to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, and from the red carpet of a movie premiere to an outdoor “tent city” jail in Phoenix, Arizona. There’s always something interesting going on with my job…and that is why I love it.

I intend to stay in the “biz” and hope to continue making important, socially significant shows and documentaries.

 

My ultimate TV job would be to host a travel show, the kind that includes world travel! My other dream is to start a green small business. I’m currently working on a business plan for my idea and am excited about this “next chapter” of my life.

Diva Visionary Questions:

1. What was the best decision you made in your life?

After college, I did an exchange program called BUNAC (www.bunac.org/), and spent a year in Europe. I lived and worked in London for six months, Dublin for four months and backpacked extensively throughout Europe. As if squeezing everything I needed for two months into one small pack wasn’t enough, I was also tied to a shoestring budget that demanded what I call “creative travel skills.”

This meant eating bread and cheese for five straight days (but hey, I was in Italy) and sleeping in less than desirable hostels with 22 people to a room, many of whom were Europeans who didn’t wear deodorant. But this also meant meeting fascinating people from all over the world, camping in the Swiss Alps, relaxing on a nude beach in Greece, having a fabulous meal for $2 in Prague and going to the underground wine caves in the Czech Republic.

Ah, the adventures!

My travels broadened my horizons on so many levels and I learned volumes about myself. It forced me to hone my “street smarts” and become a pro at problem solving and risk assessment in tough situations. For example, when I wasn’t able to communicate by speaking the native language in a country, I found that common denominators like a smile, music or laughter bridged the barrier.

That year was the most exciting, challenging, mind-expanding, intimidating, inspirational, fun and transformational time and best decision of my life.

2. What is your most memorable travel moment?

My most memorable travel moment happened in Belize when I decided to bring home a stray dog from the island of Ambergris Caye. There was an instant connect after this “fuzzy souvenir” playfully presented herself with a rusty spray paint can in her mouth. BELIZA, as we aptly named her, has been the world’s best dog, companion, friend and great love of my life.

A close second was an early morning hot air balloon ride over the majestic plains of the Serengeti. I remember the sun peeking over the horizon and the dawn of a new day beginning while watching wild game such as zebras, hippos and elephants frolic in their natural environment below. It was a spiritual experience.

Following the hot air balloon ride, a champagne breakfast was prepared by a gourmet chef and served by an army of people under a shady acacia tree in a remote corner of the Serengeti. This had all the trappings of a fancy dinner party—china plates, glass stemware, silver utensils and even place-seating cards—except for the fact that there were wild hyenas running by!

Third place: Scaling and jumping off a vertical 65-foot “rock” in the middle of the ocean off the coast of Corfu, Greece in nothing more than a pair of Tevas and a bikini. Out of 40 people that went cliff jumping that day, only 11 did the “65,” 10 guys and me. It was terrifying but soooo exhilarating!

3. What was the worst travel experience you had?

I’ve had many daunting travel experiences and frustrating predicaments but, in the end, they were just part of the fun (even though it didn’t seem like it at the time).

However, if I had to cite one of the worst travel experiences it would be during my dive trip to Belize, the same trip I found Beliza. I was frolicking in the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea and got stung by a Portuguese Man-o-War jellyfish.

It wrapped its tentacles around my arm three times and left a scar for months. When I jumped out of the water and realized what happened, some people went in search of something to kill the pain. In the end, suffice to say I had my very own Friends moment, the one where Chandler pees on Monica’s arm after she’s stung by a jellyfish!

4. What have you learned about yourself through traveling?

I credit my travels around the world with giving me a higher education, specifically, a masters in LIFE. I think you’re humbled when you travel. Visiting exotic locations allows you to see how other people live and helps to develop a respect for different cultures. It’s important to appreciate diversity and recognize that we ALL make the world go round.

5. What moment in your life did you feel the most alive?

As a kid, I always felt most alive while riding my horse, Boots. Galloping through the fields or trotting up into mountains was an unbelievable freedom and made me feel very connected to nature. It represented a period of simple innocence. I still get that feeling when I’m on a horse.

As an adult, I feel invigorated and alive with the possibilities of each new day. I intend to keep sucking the juice out of life in my 30’s, 40’s, 70’s, 90’s and beyond and I look forward to what each new chapter brings.

6. If money and time were no object, where on earth would you go?

The moon! Seriously. You can do that now for a cool $250,000 or so.

Back down here on earth…the Galapagos Islands, Patagonia, Indonesia, Australia, Montana & the Wild West, Santorini, Greece. Heck, I’d just take a year and a half or more to explore every fabulous place I’ve ever heard of!

7. Who is your hero?

My mother. My mother’s love and devotion is the foundation of who I’ve become as an individual. She made sure I was exposed to diverse opportunities that often meant her own self-sacrifice, both emotionally and financially. I credit my mother with giving me my wings and allowing to me fly. Her encouragement and support is the cornerstone of all my endeavors.

As a kid, you can never truly appreciate the sacrifices a parent makes for their children or understand how much they love you. Time gifts us the gift of maturity and wisdom and I appreciate my mother more each day.

Other heroes: Public school educators, social workers, animal rights activists, environmental advocates. I admire people who stand up for what they believe, follow their passions, stick to their convictions and dance to their own beat, no matter how insistent society is to conform them.

8.. Name a place in the world you know a lot about and would make a great resource for our Divas. Tell us about it.

For you adventurous types…

A few years ago my friend Ashley told me about two different wildlife camps in Thailand and Laos. The first, the Maesa Elephant Camp, is home to the largest group of elephants in north Thailand. There, you are assigned your own elephant to feed, train and care for over a period of time. At the end you even get an official certificate. Wow!

The second camp called, “The Gibbon Experience,” is in Laos. They provide treetop accommodations (yes, in the trees!) and local guides “fly” you over the forest on zip lines to meet the wildlife.

Ashley has told amazing stories about her experiences at these camps that have inspired a number of our friends to go, all of whom have reported back rave reviews. I have a trip planned for next summer!

9. And finally a word from our Featured Diva: Give us a stirring, Diva-worthy battle cry for women everywhere to hear!

BE FIERCE. DREAM BIG. LIVE PASSIONATELY. FIND YOUR BLISS. KICK ASS DOING IT!

When you follow your heart, you’ll always make the right decisions. When you follow your head too much, you usually end up with a headache! There is nothing to stop you in this life but yourself.

Be empowered, Divas!

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For More Information:

Stay up-to-date with this powerful Diva producer at www.laticiaheadings.com!

My most recent project, CHAIN GANG GIRLS, a two-hour documentary about the only all-women’s chain gang in the country, is airing TUESDAY, JUNE 24th, 2008 at 8/7c on We TV (Women’s Entertainment).

About CHAIN GANG GIRLS:

What do a car thief, a meth addict, and a prostitute have in common? 30 feet of steel-linked chains. They’re part of a 15-woman chain gang, helmed by a man who calls himself “the toughest Sheriff in America,” Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Chained together and wearing jail-issued stripes, the women pick up trash, clear highway brush, paint over graffiti and bury homeless people. Some say it’s inhumane. Others say if you’re going to do the crime, you should do the time.

CHAIN GANG GIRLS reveals how these women got where they are and exposes them as much more than criminals—mothers, daughters, sisters, wives. The women are all equal on the chain. When one goes to the bathroom, they all go. When one’s dragging, the rest have to pick up the slack. This intense military-style program pushes the women to their emotional limits.

But, ultimately, the chains are just the beginning…

My production team and I were granted special permission by the Sheriff to “chain up” for a day at the end of their six-week shoot in Phoenix, Arizona. Like all the other women on the chain gang, we donned jail stripes, shackled up and adhered to the military standards enforced by the sergeant and detention officers.

It was an experience we will never forget!

CHAIN GANG GIRLS Air Dates and Times:

Premieres Tuesday, June 24 at 8pm | 7c

Wednesday, June 25 at 12am | 11c

Friday, June 27 at 9pm | 8c

Saturday, June 28 at 3am | 2c

Saturday, July 5 at 8pm | 7c

CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS…time for the West coast may be different.

2 thoughts on “Visionaries: We TV’s Chain Gang Girls Producer Laticia Headings!

  1. My friend was a chain gang girl in this documentary. She has been trying to watch it and we can’t find the whole show. How would I go about finding the whole program? I would love to surprise her with the show. It is no longer on Netflix.

  2. Hello my name is Shelley Cooper. I am one of the 2007 az chain gang girls. Want to see the documentary havent been able to find it can you help.. Hi to latica and her crew thanks for your cadence that was cool

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