In hopes of bulking up her graduate school application, University of Houston senior Erica Fletcher entered a Glamour magazine contest and landed a spot on its coveted "Top 10 College Women in the U.S." list.
For 53 years, the magazine has recognized the most impressive female college seniors around the nation. Fletcher, who is profiled in the October issue, was honored for her academic excellence, personal involvement in the community and leadership experience. She received a $3,000 scholarship and a trip to New York. She is the only senior outside the East Coast to be honored on this year's list.
The magazine dubbed Fletcher "The Documentarian" and cited her first documentary, Marianismo, which explored HIV/AIDS among Hispanic women. Marianismo was screened last spring on campus, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and as part of the Voices Breaking Boundaries series "La Voz Femeninia," in conjunction with UH's Arte Público Press.
A triple major in anthropology, sociology and psychology with a dual citizenship in the United States and Brazil (her Missourian father and Taiwanese mother met in South America), she got interested in the topic after discovering that Latinas in the United States are diagnosed with AIDS five times more frequently than white women.
Fletcher, 19, aspires to become an "ethnographic filmmaker" — a documentary filmmaker focusing on people, culture and sociology. "I'd like to get my PhD in either visual or activist anthropology, become a professor and then later a diplomat or ambassador," she said over coffee at Waldo's in the Heights.
During research for Marianismo, she became interested in the problem of sex trafficking in Houston and decided to make it the subject of her next documentary.
"Lots of people don't know that it goes on in Houston," Fletcher said. "And Houston is actually an international hub [for sex trafficking]."
She has reached out to Rescue and Restore Coalition and the Houston Area Women's Center for information and hopes to secure interviews with victims of sex trafficking. She says it's hard to get interviews because there's usually a wall of shame keeping the women quiet about their experiences. "If I don't get one, the film will focus on the system," she said.
Fletcher uses camera equipment from the UH Honor's College lab and edits on Window's Movie Maker. "I just got done taking some courses on using Final Cut, so I'll be using the big kids' toys soon," Fletcher said.
Other than spending time with her boyfriend, Fletcher says her social life is pretty much nonexistent now as she works on her film and scholarship applications to graduate school.
But she told Glamour that she loves cooking. "Maple syrup is the special ingredient in my beef chili," she said.