The other day I wrote about how seemingly times are a changing for Latinos in the entertainment industry. At least to me, it seems more opportunities could be on the horizon. Not only for the artists at the forefront of these changes, but also for the millions of us who have been asking for more adequate representation of ourselves and our cultura in the mainstream media for years. If in fact we are at the cusp of a new era for Latino entertainment and Latinos in entertainment, then these 10 artists are definitely among the many who have been paving the way for these changes.
Jennifer Lopez: On average she’s on the tube four to six hours every week, both in English and Spanish. That’s not including the countless advertisements in either language that more often than not feature the Bronx born Latina talking about her heritage in some way. It seems in taking on the job of judge on American Idol JLo has once again become America’s sweetheart. In Spanish, her television show with ex-hubby Marc Anthony (Q’Viva The Chosen) has introduced Jennifer in a new, much more intimate way, to Latin America and the US Hispanic Market.
Marc Anthony: For what feels for the first time, through Q’Viva The Chosen Marc Anthony has opened up and shared more about himself than ever before. We’ve seen him cry; we’ve seen him get angry; we’ve seen him and Jennifer argue; and most importantly, we have witnessed his commitment to bringing out the best in our cultura hispana for the world to see. This show alone, which highlights the diversity and far too often overlooked talent in Latin America, is reason enough to earn him a spot on this list. Even more impressive, Q’Viva is broadcast on both Univision and FOX in English and Spanish without any awkward voice dubbing for translation.
Christina Aguilera: Though her Hispanic heritage is rarely up for discussion, Christina Aguilera is bringing on the Latin flair every week on The Voice. In case you didn’t know, Christina is part Ecuadorian on her father’s side. Her mother is of German, Irish, Welsh and Dutch decent. And while you won’t hear her talking Spanglish on The Voice, that doesn’t mean Christina doesn’t consider herself a role model for Latinas. Plus she loves her curves: “As long as I’m happy in my own skin… that’s all the confirmation I need. I’m happy where I am, I have a boyfriend that loves my body, I love my body, my son is healthy and happy. That’s all that matters.”
William Levy: The Latin hottie, as ABC introduced the Cuban-born William Levy to US audiences when they revealed their new cast of Dancing With The Stars earlier this month, is definitely no strangers to US Latinas. He’s the cause of their desvelos and many would likely say the subject of their wildest fantasies. Even JLo jumped on the bandwagon when she recruited William to play her love interest in the music video for her song, I’m into you. Yet what makes William unique is that a major US English-language network has recognized his star wattage and appeal, and that they are banking on him bringing in a whole new audience of Latinos to the network.
Kate del Castillo: How could Kate del Castillo not be on this list? Not only did she rock La Reina del Sur and that little movie titled Under The Same Moon – I still think she deserved an Oscar nod for that role – but Kate has also appeared on shows like Weeds and CSI: Miami. Like many mexicanas before her, del Castillo left Mexico for Hollywood. Only unlike many of her predecessors she seemed to have found critical acclaim as soon as she was cast in her first role. And yes, even despite that little Twitter hiccup, I’d say Kate del Castillo is one of the actresses to watch out for. It’s probably only a matter of time before the Academy Awards are knocking at her door.
Salma Hayek: Salma! Salma! Salma! Those curves and that accent have made her a household name despite what she herself at one point identified as the lack of opportunities for Latinos in the entertainment industry. To counter this shortage of open doors Salma has been creating oportunidades for herself and other Latinos. She was nominated for an Academy Award as best actress for her role in Frida in 2003, and since then she has signed on to be the CEO of MGM’s Latin themed film production company, Ventanarosa. Hayek is currently developing projects for ABC as well. She’s also the newest Latina face on the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign.
Eva Longoria: Not only was she one of the most memorable stars on one of television’s longest running shows in recent years, Desperate Housewives, but Eva Longoria has also become quite the philanthropist and activist for Latino causes. The Texas born Latina founded Eva’s Heroes, a charity which helps developmentally disabled children, in 2006. She is the national spokesperson for PADRES Contra El Cancer. Longoria also supports the Clothes Off Our Back Foundation, OmniPeace, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the National Stroke Association, Project HOME and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Most recently she was also one of the co-producers of the documentary The Harvest, which highlights the plight of 500,000 child migrant farm workers in the US.
Robert Rodriguez: I told you about his new Comcast cable channel, El Rey Network. Mr. Robert Rodriguez will soon have an entire channel to fill with fresh and interesting new content… by January 2014 to be exact. The film director has taken on the role of producing original content for the US Hispanic market through El Rey Network. While it’s definitely a tall order, Rodriguez hopes it will be an opportunity to discover new talent and open new doors for Latinos in the industry. He’s certainly done it before. El Mariachi, Spy Kids, Sin City, Machete, and Once upon a time in Mexico are only a few examples of his work and skill.
Demián Bichir: He set the internet on fire as soon as he was nominated for an Academy Award as best actor this year. Though he didn’t win, Bichir definitely raised the bar for what Latinos in Hollywood can achieve. A Better Life, in all honesty, was not the greatest film, nor was it one of my favorites this year, but despite that Bichir managed to deliver a knockout performance. His nomination was a beacon a hope for our community, especially because the role he was nominated for dealt with such a politically charged issue – immigration. If nothing else, Demían’s nomination made the folks at the Academy very publicly choose between “undocumented” and “illegal.” Fortunately they made the right decision: undocumented.
Sofia Vergara: Three words. Saturday Night Live! Sofia Vergara will be hosting the live show on April 7th for the first time! I can hardly wait. Sofia has charmed an entire country with her signature accent and humor on ABC’s Modern Family. Yet, what most people don’t know about the real colombiana is that she has been a celebrity on Spanish-language television for decades. She first appeared as a host on one of Univision’s variety shows in 1995, and even then it was clear her personality was meant for much bigger things. Today, Sofia is the belle of the ball in Hollywood and I’ll reiterate it, she’s making accents very cool and very mainstream.