Jillian Mercado: Latina Model Seeks To Bring Inclusivity to Fashion
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By Rosario B. Diaz

The modeling and fashion industry has been notorious for showing consumers a distorted image of what it means to be “beautiful.” With unrealistic beauty standards that display stick-thin (and often photoshopped) images of women, the business has convinced an entire generation of young minds that the fashion industry is exclusive only to those who fit these standards. Fortunately, recent years have shown a backlash against these images, and there’s now a movement to dispel the myth that only one type of body can be displayed. Jillian Mercado is a part of that movement, and it all started when the young Latina, who also happened to have been born with muscular dystrophy, decided she wanted to not only work in the fashion industry, but to be up front and center.

At 28 years old, Jillian has modeled for the IMG/WME Worldwide modeling agency, has been contracted to work at several fashion events, and just earlier this year, starred in merchandise ads for Beyoncé’s Formation tour. But these things did not come easy for Jillian. As someone who had been accustomed to using her wheelchair since the age of three, nothing ever came easy for her. Still, she worked through it all—from enduring the cruel taunts of middle school bullies to seeking out a mentor who looked like her (and at the time, finding none). Jillian’s resilience was all thanks to the lessons she had been taught by her Dominican parents. Though they were concerned for how their oldest daughter would fare through life, they were ultimately determined to ensure that Jillian knew one important thing—that the only person who can stop you in your goals is yourself.

Jillian carried this lesson throughout her life, and it was likely what encouraged her, when she was starting, to try out for an open casting call for Diesel Jeans. In the audition, Diesel representatives asked her why she wanted to model for them, and she replied that she “wanted to change the world of modeling.”

Diesel took her up on that goal, and she was not only featured in her full glory, but the image of a model in a wheelchair spurred an inclusivity movement for Diesel Reboot, with the campaign slogan being “We Are Connected.” Now, when she is asked by others how she would like to be seen—as she is not only representing people with disabilities on the runway, but also Latinas—she simply answers, “A model…like every other model.”

When it Comes to Advancing Latinos, Adam Rodriguez Gives 100 Percent
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Adam Rodriguez at the "Empire" Series Season 2 New York Premiere

By Sarah Mosqueda

Adam Rodriguez is 100 percent that guy.

That guy can be an actor, writer, director, husband or father; he is always trying to give each role 100 percent.

“The best way to learn is by giving a 100 percent of yourself, whether that is in a relationship you are in, your job or as a parent,” says Rodriguez. “The only way to really learn from something is by committing yourself to it. Because if you are only putting half of yourself in, I am sorry, I know it’s cliché, but that is all you are going to get out of it…”

Rodriguez says dedicating himself fully to his acting career, to the advancement of Latinos in Hollywood and to his family is how he’s allowed himself to learn, grow and find success.

“When I learned to give that same 100 percent of myself, I wanted to give it to everything,” he pauses and then amends, “actually maybe I want to give my family more. Maybe I give them 110 percent,” he laughs.

Where it all Started

Rodriguez was born in Yonkers, New York, to a Puerto Rican/Cuban family. His father, Ramon Rodriguez, serves as an executive at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and helped him advance his acting career early on.

“I moved to LA when I was 21,” says Rodriguez, “I had been doing some extra work and working in theater, trying to find my way into the business for about three years. My father had been in the military with a guy who ended up as a technical advisor for a show called NYPD Blue.”

Through a series of events, his father got in touch with his connection, Bill Clark, which led to an audition for Rodriguez.

“He gave me an opportunity that might have taken me a few more years to get. I will always be grateful to him for that. I got a show called Brooklyn South, and that was really the beginning of my career.”

He followed Brooklyn South with roles on Roswell, Felicity, Law & Order and eventually CSI: Miami, where he joined the main cast and even had the opportunity to write and direct an episode. He has appeared in Jane the Virgin and Empire. In 2016, he took on the role of Luke Alvez on Criminal Minds, where he stayed until the show ended this year.

“I was there for three seasons and I had a great time with that group,” he says. “We really bonded and we all really understood how lucky we were to be there.”

Adam Rodriguez poses with the Magic Mike XXL cast
Adam Rodriguez poses with the Magic Mike XXL cast

Rodriguez hasn’t only made his mark in television. He has appeared in music videos like Jennifer Lopez’s “If You Had My Love” and films including Magic Mike XXL and Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself.

“I loved playing the character of Sandino in Tyler Perry’s movie,” he says, “I felt like he had something really important to say.”

Penny Dreadful: A Game-Changing Role

This past spring, Rodriguez stars as Raul Vega on Showtime’s Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, a supernatural crime drama set in 1938 Los Angeles. The show focuses on the political and social tension, the rise of radio evangelism, and the powerful forces that attempt to pull a Mexican-American family apart.

Starring on the show is a game-changer for Rodriguez. He feels a kinship with the character of Raul. “I really believe in everything Raul believes in,” says Rodriguez.

Of Penny Dreadful, Rodriguez stated, in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith, “This is the most incredible production I’ve ever worked out. There are some important themes that people really need to pay attention to right now more than ever.”

“This show takes place in 1938 and here we are 92 years later and we’re dealing with all the same challenges without having made very much progress in almost 100 years,” Rodriguez continued. “We’re dealing with compromising people who we believe have lesser value than us and we come up with every reason under the sun to decide why they have lesser value. They have a different socioeconomic class, different skin color, different ethnic origin, you name it. We do that as human beings, and it makes it easy to really dehumanize people and move them out of the way for whatever we think out grand cause is.”

Creating Space for Latinos

Miami Walk of Fame-Adam Rodriguez
Adam Rodriguez at the Miami Walk of Fame

Aligning himself with characters with a message is important to Rodriguez. And getting involved in writing and directing, like he did on CSI: Miami and later Criminal Minds, is one way he is making an effort to create space for Latinos in Hollywood.

“I think that we [Latinos] have to increase our presence on the creative side,” he says. “We have to grow writers and directors and executives and people that become people of influence within the system. We can’t expect a business that is not run by us to all of sudden decide they want to include us. We have to do the work to get in there and make ourselves important.”

And Rodriguez says we have to support each other.

“When we do get into those positions of power, when we are creating the content we want to see; we have to show up to consume it,” he says, “We have to show up for ourselves. For instance, a show like Penny Dreadful comes out, we have to show up and watch it.”

Rodriguez says the show as a whole is tackling big and timely issues.

“I really love that the show is addressing some things that were very relevant in the news cycle before COVID hit in terms of who we want to consider to be American,” says Rodriguez. “And how you are treated when you are considered not to be American, even though you very well may be… I was really happy to participate in telling this story.”

Flourishing Family

Another role Rodriguez has flourished in is fatherhood.

“Becoming a husband and father more than any other event, has changed my life,” he says.

He has three children with his wife, Grace Gail. Their newest addition, Bridgemont Bernard Rodriguez, was born on March 16, 2020 amid California’s stay-at-home order because of COVID-19. While Rodriguez admits it hasn’t been easy, it has afforded him more family time.

“I am sure it is a thing in many cultures, but I know it is a thing in Latin cultures, where you stay in for the first 30 days with a new baby. So, we would have been doing some version of that anyways,” he says. “I have enjoyed this time tremendously. I don’t know that I will ever get this much time to be with my family and have no one expecting me anywhere else…I have really chosen to look for the silver lining.”

Adam Rodriguez & Wife pose together at entertainment event
Adam Rodriguez & Wife

Growing through Positivity

Looking for the positive angle is one way Rodriguez has been able grow.

“I have learned something in every single job. Some of things that I have been in that were bad, that I wouldn’t consider high quality that I have been a part of, I have learned plenty doing those,” he says. “And I have learned plenty doing things that I thought were extraordinary. The challenge of constantly working to get better and never letting the ego get in the way of me learning – that is a challenge to me every day.”

Which he says goes back to giving it all you’ve got.

“You are not going to get the full lesson out of it unless you are giving 100 percent of yourself.”

¡Mi Triunfo!
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Meet the Latino and Latina Power Houses that are gaining the world’s attention.

Patty Rodriguez

Patty Rodriguez is best known for her role as on-air talent for KIIS.FM’s morning show with Ryan Seacrest.

“I never saw myself on-the-air,” she tells HipLatina. After 13 years On Air With Ryan Seacrest, she finally became comfortable with telling stories of local heroes. “People on social media would always tell me, ‘oh you don’t have the voice for it’ and I guess I just believed it,” she adds. She didn’t pursue it for a long time because imposter syndrome was holding her back.

Rodriguez is co-founder of “Lil’ Libros”, a bilingual children’s publishing company, and founder of the “MALA by Patty Rodriguez” jewelry line.

Rodriguez found it difficult to find bilingual first concept books she could enjoy reading to her baby, and so she and her childhood friend Ariana Stein came up with the idea of “Lil’ Libros”.

Sources: Hiplatina.com, Lillibros.com, Malabypr.com

Sergio Perez

Mexican driver Sergio Pérez, also known as Checo Perez, has amassed more points than any other Mexican in the history of the F1. But Perez is yet to match his hero Pedro Rodriguez and take the chequered flag in first.

Perez recently committed to a long-term deal with Racing Point beyond 2021. Perez has been with the team since 2013, when he signed with the group, then called Force India. The group reformed as Racing Point in 2018.

“I feel very confident and very motivated with the team going forwards,” Perez said, “with how things are developing, with the future of this team, the potential I see.”

It was also recently announced that the Mexican Grand Prix, an FIA-sanctioned auto race held at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, in Mexico City, will stay on the F1 calendar for the next three seasons.

“It was great news,” Perez said of the renewal. “It’s a massive boost on my side to know that for the next three years I’ll be racing home. Three more years to have an opportunity to make the Mexicans very proud.”

Source: formula1.com

Juanes

The 2019 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year gala honored 23-time Latin GRAMMY and two-time GRAMMY-winning singer, composer, musician, and philanthropist Juanes for his creative artistry, unprecedented humanitarian efforts, support of rising artists, and philanthropic contributions to the world.

Juanes (born Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez) is a Colombian musician whose solo debut album Fíjate Bien won three Latin Grammy Awards. According to his record label, Juanes has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide.

Source: Latingrammy.com, Voanews.com

Remembering Silvio Horta

Silvio Horta, best known as an executive producer of the hit ABC television series Ugly Betty, died in January. He was 45. Horta was an American screenwriter and television producer widely noted for adapting the hit Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea into the hit series, which ran  2006–2010. Horta served as head writer and executive producer of the series.

Source: Wikipedia

Photo by Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Latinas on the Rise
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Selena Gomez smiling at the camera at a press event

From the arts to activism, here are five Latina Woman that are making strides, breaking boundaries and that you should be paying attention to.

Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez

Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez is an American labor organizer and author. On August 12, 2019, Ramirez announced her intention to challenge incumbent United States Senator John Cornyn in the 2020 United States Senate election in Texas. Tzintzún began organizing with Latino immigrant workers in 2000 in Columbus, Ohio, and then moved to Texas. At graduating from University of Texas, Austin, she helped establish the Workers Defense Project (WDP), serving as its executive director from 2006 to 2016. Following the 2016 election, Ramirez launched Jolt, an organization that works to increase Latino voter turnout. Her bid for the Senate has been endorsed by New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Texas representative Joaquin Castro, and actor Alec Baldwin.

Mariah

A rising star in the male-dominated world of urbano (Ozuna, J Balvin, Bad Bunny), Mariah Angeliq, who goes simply by her first name, is here to prove that the girls can be bosses, too. On debut single “Blah,” the Miami-born and raised singer of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent lets the men know that their money (and their bragging) don’t impress her much, while her latest track “Perreito” is dripping with swag as she boasts about stealing the show with her flow as the one that shoots and never fails.

Lineisy Montero Feliz

Lineisy Montero Feliz is Dominican model known for her work with Prada. She is also known for her natural Afro hair. She currently ranks as one of the “Top 50” models in the fashion industry by models.com, including Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Roberto Cavalli, Versace and Céline.

Rico Nasty

Rico Nasty is one of the leading voices in the current style of hip-hop that adopts elements from hardcore and punk rock. Rico released a new song in January titled “IDGAF;” it’s built around softly echoing electric piano sounds and finds the DMV rapper in melodious sing-song mode.

Selena Gomez

The singer announced the summer launch of her cosmetics company, Rare Beauty, via Instagram on Feb. 4. The cosmetics company shares a title with her most recent album of the same name.

“Guys, I’ve been working on this special project for two years and can officially say Rare Beauty is launching in @sephora stores in North America this summer,” she captioned in the Instagram video.

“I think Rare Beauty can be more than a beauty brand,” the singer says in the video. “I want us all to stop comparing ourselves to each other and start embracing our own uniqueness. You’re not defined by a photo, a like, or a comment. Rare Beauty isn’t about how other people see you. It’s about how you see yourself.”

Selena Gomez Photo: TIBRINA HOBSON/GETTY IMAGES

Mario Lopez: Renaissance Man
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Mario Lopez pictured with arms spread out, smiling, Ashley Garcia poster in background with pictures of the cast

By Brady Rhoades

Who is Mario Lopez to you?

Access Hollywood host?

Creator of the Latinx series, The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia, which debuted on Netflix in February?

Saved by the Bell icon?

Radio personality?

Best-selling author?

Broadway star?

Latino pioneer?

Lopez is many things to many people—a modern-day Renaissance Man.

Currently, he’s rebooting Saved by the Bell—which stole the hearts of a generation during its run from 1989 to 1993—and overseeing the already-popular Ashley Garcia, about a teenage robotics engineer and rocket scientist who works for NASA.

Lopez said Saved by the Bell, which features many of the original cast members, is off to a rousing start.

“We’ve gotten great reviews,” he said. It’s a fun, charming, sweet show that shows us in a great light.”

Ashley Garcia is a different animal. There have been other programs about young geniuses (Doogie Howser, MD comes to mind), but this series features a Latina lead and layered storylines. For one thing, Ashley, who earned a PhD at 15, has a complicated relationship with her mother, so she moves from the East Coast to Pasadena to live with her uncle Vito, a high school football coach (Lopez made an appearance in the show’s pilot episode, as uncle Vito’s friend Nico).

“The actors have great charm and the whole show has gentle tween appeal with strong pro-girl messages,” a review in Common Sense Media stated.

Lopez is indeed a Renaissance story, and it traces back to Dick Clark, the original host of the iconic Bandstand and a staple in the lives ofMario Lopez pictured with a quote that reads about opportunities TV viewers.

“He persuaded me to look at myself as a brand, as a host,” Lopez, the 46-year-old husband and father of three, said. “He influenced me in a big way.”

Taking advice from a legend was a pivotal moment in Lopez’ career. It’s easier to list what he hasn’t done than what he has done.

Across many platforms, Lopez has served as a role model for Latino and Latina entertainers and entrepreneurs.

He prefers to lead by example. Becoming a powerhouse brand is what allowed him to create the groundbreaking Ashley Garcia.

“We need more people to tell our stories,” he said of the Latinx community. “And that comes from writers and producers.”

Asked about Latino values, he chuckled.

“I just celebrate good values,” he said. “Good values are good values. We raise our kids in a faith-based environment.”

Lopez, who in 2018 was baptized in the Jordan River, said his own faith plays an important role in his prosperity as well as his peace.

Mario Lopex holding up his book Extra Lean
Lopez signs copies of his new book Extra Lean at Barnes & Noble on May 11, 2010 in Huntington Beach, California. PHOTO BY JOE SCARNICI/FILMMAGIC

“It helps me be still,” he said. “It helps me be humble and focused. It balances me.”

Mario Lopez Jr. was born on October 10, 1973, in San Diego, California, to Elvira, a telephone company clerk, and Mario Sr., who worked for the municipality of National City. Lopez was raised in a large Catholic family of Mexican descent. He started to learn to dance at the age of 3, training in tap and jazz. He also did tumbling, karate, and wrestling at his local Boys and Girls Club when he was 7 years old.

A fitness fanatic to this day, he competed in wrestling in high school, placing second in the San Diego Section and seventh in the state of California in his senior year while attending Chula Vista High School, where he graduated in 1991.

Lopez was discovered by a talent agent at a recital when he was 10 years old and landed jobs in local ads and commercials.

In 1984, he appeared as younger brother Tomás in the short-lived ABC comedy series a.k.a. Pablo. That same year, he was cast as a drummer and dancer on Kids Incorporated for three seasons. In March 1987, he was cast as a guest star on the sitcom The Golden Girls as a Latino boy named Mario who faces deportation. He was cast in a small part in the movie Colors.

Mario Lopez and Saved By The Bell cast
Lopez in a private photo shoot at Ron Wolfson’s Studio on June, 17, 1990 in Studio City, CA. PHOTO BY RON WOLFSON/GETTY IMAGES

Then came his big break. In 1989, Lopez was cast as A.C. Slater in the hugely successful sitcom Saved by the Bell.

His career was off and running.

In 1997, Lopez starred as Olympic diver Greg Louganis in the television movie Breaking the Surface: The Greg Louganis Story. The following year, he was cast as Bobby Cruz in the USA Network series Pacific Blue. In In 2006, Lopez joined the cast of the daytime soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful, playing the role of Dr. Christian Ramirez.

In the fall of 2006, Lopez appeared on the third season of Dancing with the Stars, where he placed second in the competition and once again stole the hearts of women across the country.

Lopez began hosting Access Hollywood in 2019.

Asked about his most memorable interviews as a radio and TV host, he mentioned President Barack Obama.

Mario Lopez with his two children pictured at Hollywood event
(L-R) Dominic Lopez, Mario Lopez, and Gia Francesca Lopez attend the premiere of Sony Pictures’ Jumanji: The Next Level at TCL Chinese Theatre on December 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. PHOTO BY STEVE GRANITZ/WIREIMAGE

“He knew who I was and that was pretty flattering,” Lopez said. “He’s very down to Earth and a cool guy. We talked about our kids.”

Lopez branched out to radio in the 1990s. Today, he hosts a nationally syndicated radio show, ON with Mario Lopez. In addition, he’s starred on Broadway and published three books: Mario Lopez Knockout Fitness, Extra Lean, and Mario and Baby Gia, about Lopez and his daughter.

At the end of the day, Lopez is a family man, a businessman, his own brand and an advocate for the advancement in all walks of life for Latinos.

Admirers often cite his heartthrob looks, but Lopez is all about hard work and… no excuses.

He recently cited the fact that Latinos are opening more small businesses than anyone in the United States. Not everyone can build a brand like Mario Lopez, but they can strive to be their best every day.

“No opportunity?” Lopez said, “We’ll make our own opportunities, and flourish!”

The Original Broadway Showing of Hamilton is Coming to a TV Near You
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Lin-Manuel Miranda standing on stage as Alexander Hamilton

By Natalie Rodgers

A fully taped production of the Broadway hit, Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is being released to Disney+ in its entirety on July 3, 2020, just in time for Independence Day.

Originally due to premiere as a theatrical release on October 21, 2021, the movie has been moved up to provide a sense of hope and comfort due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the cultural and historical impact that Hamilton has had since its Broadway debut in 2015, Disney plans to make the experience more captivating and to include as Disney quoted, “the best elements of live theater, film, and streaming.”

Creating this kind of atmosphere will not be a difficult task, due to how the filmmakers have already produced it. The production was filmed from various camera angles from the show’s original Richard Rodgers Theatre home and filmed across three different performances in in 2016.

The production will include all of the original Broadway cast members, including Leslie Odom Jr., Renee Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, Jonathan Groff, Daveed Diggs, upcoming In the Heights star Anthony Ramos, and of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton.

Photo: Getty Images 

Cinco De Mayo’s True History
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cinco de mayo

By Sarah Mosqueda

As we shift into warm, drinking-on-a-patio weather, you might be looking forward to celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo has become popularized as the drinking-on-a-patio holiday. But the origins of Cinco de Mayo have less to do with Tequila and more to do with unexpected victory.

“It really is an underdog story,” says Ruben Espinoza, Assistant Professor & Director of

Latinx and Latin American Studies at Chapman University in Orange, California.

Cinco de Mayo is often incorrectly billed as Mexican Independence Day, but that’s September 16. Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates the Battle of Puebla.

In the early 1860s after the Mexican Reform War, Mexico had fallen into debt to France, Britain and Spain. As a result, Mexican President Benito Juárez placed a moratorium on repayments of interest on foreign loans. This prompted Spain, Britain and France to send joint forces into Mexico. Spain and Britain withdrew, however, when they learned French Emperor, Napoleon III, was planning to overthrow the Juárez government and conquer Mexico. French troops, led by General Charles Ferdinand Latrille de Lorencez, headed toward Mexico City. But first they had to go through Puebla.

“The French forces were very equipped,” Espinoza says.

In contrast, the Mexican troops, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, were more of a militia than an army made up mostly of farmers. And yet, in a victorious battle that took place on May 5, 1862, Mexican forces beat the French.

Juárez wasted no time declaring the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla a national holiday known as “Battle of Puebla Day” or “Battle of Cinco de Mayo.” Some sources claim the declaration of the holiday was made as early as May 9, 1862.

“That battle wasn’t the end of the war,” Espinoza says, “France occupied Mexico for five years.”

The French retreated for a year but ultimately overtook Mexico when they returned in 1863, where they remained until 1867.

“And there is certainly French influence in Mexican culture today as result. For example, with the pastries,” says Espinoza.

Mexicans and Mexican Americans may have grown up dipping orejas in coffee or hot chocolate, but these crunchy, buttery pastries are known as palmiers, or “palm trees” in France where they originated.

Today, in the city of Puebla, more than 20,000 people celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a civic parade routed along Boulevard Cinco de Mayo. There is also a historic reenactment of the battle. But beyond Puebla, it isn’t a big holiday in modern Mexican culture.

“It is not celebrated on large scale in Mexico anywhere outside of Puebla,” Espinoza says.

Cinco de Mayo is a very popular holiday in the United Sates, however. There are several opinions about how it fell into favor here.

Some point to the fact that during the time period the Battle of Puebla took place, the United States was embroiled in its own Civil War. Napoleon III was rumored to have considered supporting the confederacy, and a French takeover of Mexico could have possibly made Mexico a Confederate-friendly country. The news of the victory of Battle of Puebla might have been a moral boost for West Coast Latinos living in free states.

Others believe President Roosevelt’s attempt to improve relations with Latin American countries with the creation of the “Good Neighbor Policy” in 1933 may have had an influence. The holiday was also claimed by Latino civil rights activists in the 1960s as a way to celebrate their heritage.

Beginning in the 1980s and on into the aughts, liquor and beer companies began to capitalize on the holiday as way to market to Spanish speaking audiences.

Fast forward to present day, where Cinco de Mayo has become predominately associated with margaritas and sombrero-wearing.

But Espinoza stresses Cinco de Mayo isn’t a time to perpetuate inaccurate Mexican stereotypes.

“Wearing a costume isn’t celebrating someone’s culture,” he says, “It’s actually demeaning it…don’t treat is an opportunity to wear a costume that you think represents a population of an ethnic community.”

There are actually plenty of respectful ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo that don’t involve drinking or fake mustaches.

Often, museums and parks in areas with large Hispanic populations host family friendly activities on the 5th of May. For example, Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, hosts an annual Cinco de Mayo Festival that features traditional Folklorico dancing and Mariachi music performances, along with face painting and crafts.

“We will be having a Cinco de Mayo event at Chapman,” Espinoza said, “And one of the good things about having it on a university campus is there is going to be a lecture to go along with the celebration.”

The city of Los Angeles sponsored a Cinco de Mayo Parade & Festival at Oakwood Recreation Park in Venice, California, as well. The festival included Aztec Dancers, Mariachi, a classic car show, the Venice High School Band and of course, Mexican food.

“It’s a holiday that is big in US now,” Espinoza says, “and it seems like it’s here to stay. As individuals, it is important for us to learn some of that history.”

The Human Evolution of TikTok
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tikTok text on smartphone with girl giving the ok sign

Since the beginning of time, humans have thrived through social interaction. While bonding with friends still consists of getting together to talk, laugh and share with one another, the physical aspect of social interaction is no longer necessary. TikTok’s content and ability to connect people mimics what we love about interacting with each other.

The most popular videos on the app usually fall into two categories: comedy and dance. To this day, some of our most important social gatherings, such as birthday parties and weddings, still revolve around laughing and dancing with one another. While done in a more virtual setting, TikTok’s algorithm has allowed for the same enjoyment to take place within the app. Comedy skits or joke setups are mimicked, built upon and applauded by other members of the community. Dancing on the app is easy to do and can be filmed with multiple people from around the world, with a “duet” feature that allows creators to film their own content to coincide with an original video they have found.

So, while TikTok may not be the traditional form of bonding that we are used to, it is still the type of bonding that we seek. Plus, given the climate of today’s world, perhaps social bonding on TikTok is even the best form of socializing, as we are doing our part to self-isolate and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

J-Lo and Alex #waitforit
https://www.tiktok.com/@jlo/video/6802043441015442693

Jenga with Golden Retriever #levelupchallenge
https://www.tiktok.com/@goldenretrieverlife/video/6811469447929269510

Natalie Rodgers
HISPANIC Network Magazine contributing writer

From Wilhemina Model To Skid Row
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Former Wilhemina Model pictured talking homeless woman on a sidewalk holding a pet

Iliana Belinc, a first-generation Mexican American, shares her inspiring journey from life in the fast lane as a model, to founding a groundbreaking nonprofit – PalsNPets – that supports homeless people and their pets with the belief that anyone with the right support and motivation can make a change – either within their own life, or within the lives of others.

By Tracy Yasinni

Iliana Belinc lived a seemingly glamourous life as a model signed with the legendary Wilhelmina Agency. However, the reality behind the makeup, clothes, and travel to exotic locations was much darker. She struggled with alcoholism, eventually putting both her personal and professional life in jeopardy.

At the most challenging time for the model, she happened to see a trivial incident that ultimately inspired PalsNPets, a nonprofit established to help homeless pet owners and their pets. She shares, “As I was crossing the street, I saw a homeless man sitting with his pet dog beside him. I asked myself the natural question: Why would a homeless person keep a dog – it must make life harder on them both?”

As she passed, a stranger stopped to pet the dog, and he and the homeless man exchanged natural, genuine smiles. This interaction opened her eyes to the positive energy a pet can bring to the life of someone who has almost nothing. It seemed to tap into an awareness just beneath the surface, an understanding of the importance of dogs to the lives of humans.

Fashion Photoshoot in Tulum with Iliana Belinc holding a surfboard
liana Belinc Fashion Photoshoot In Tulum, Mexico

Iliana grew up in Los Angeles, alongside three sisters, as a first-generation Mexican Americans. After high school, she began studying at college, with the dream of gaining a PHD in psychology.

In addition to the eye-opening chance encounter, she also credits her own grandfather’s capacity for compassion and bond with dogs. He rescued and cared for stray dogs in their native Mexico – a culture that didn’t see his actions as the norm for that time. Iliana notes, “I know he’d be proud that family members who after years of being unconnected are now involved with PalsNPets. Together, we’ve found a deep healing energy in the work of helping others; this energy continues to attract people who join us in our efforts.”

If there’s a message to take away, it’s that anyone with the right support and motivation can make a change – either within their own life, or within the lives of others.

PalsNPets also works to break down barriers and change perceptions, just as her grandfather did. Inspired by her grandfather’s compassion for the stray dogs no one cared about, PalsNPets has become successful very quickly. At times, she feels that PalsNPets wasn’t truly her idea at all, but a continuation of the work her grandfather began over seventy years ago.

For more information about PalsnPets visit, PalsnPets.org

‘Gentefied’ leading actresses talk about Spanglish, tacos and being ‘Latina enough’
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The cast from Gentefied are seated on a couch during an NBC interview

The three leading female stars of the new Netflix series “Gentefied”say there’s a reason why the bilingual, bicultural show has been so fun to make.

“It’s fun because it’s us,” says Karrie Martin, who grew up in a Honduran-American household and plays a young artist, Ana, on the show. “The world is now seeing what we see at home.”

The series, executive produced by America Ferrera, features three Mexican-American cousins living in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights in L.A.

They’re trying to figure out their own lives, which are intricately intertwined with their grandfather’s taco restaurant — and the struggle to keep the business viable amid rising rents and the slow gentrification of the neighborhood.

Annie Gonzalez, who plays Lidia, a Stanford-educated, brainy young woman on the show, was born and raised in East LA. She is now an actress in Hollywood, and uses her own life as an example of the show’s title, which is a play on words.

“If I were to go back and want to buy a piece of property, I would essentially be replacing or displacing a group of people that live there — for my benefit,” she said. That’s gentefication: the process by which more affluent Latinos are gentrifying working-class Latino neighborhoods. The title is a play on the words gente, which means people in Spanish, and gentrification.

The issue of younger, affluent professionals displacing working-class Latino families is an ongoing issue in several parts of the country, whether it’s in Brooklyn, Los Angeles or San Francisco.

The show delves into serious topics about work, gender, economics and family, but with humor. It’s also one of the few shows that move seamlessly between languages, with the older Latinos speaking Spanish to the younger generation, who answer in English.

The bilingual nature of the series is personal for Gonzalez who, as a fifth-generation Mexican-American, didn’t learn Spanish at home because her family was reluctant to teach it.

“We were forced to assimilate,” said Gonzalez. “My grandma would get hit if she spoke Spanish in school.”

“Gentefied” deals with the themes of Latino identity and authenticity, which Gonzalez said were relatable for her. Growing up, she experienced being questioned by other Latinos over whether she was embarrassed by her culture or how Mexican she really was.

“I couldn’t be more Mexican if I tried,” she said.

Continue on to NBC News to read the complete article.

Adelfa Callejo sculpture, Dallas’ first of a Latina, expected to land downtown in Main Street Garden park
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bronze statue of Adelfa Callejo

The bronze statue of Adelfa Callejo, a staunch civil rights advocate believed to be the first practicing Latina lawyer in Dallas, will soon land in a downtown park — right next to the University of North Texas Dallas College of Law and the municipal court building.

A Dallas City Council committee on Tuesday accepted the $100,000 sculpture as a donation with plans to place it in Main Street Garden. It would be Dallas’ first sculpture of a Latina, according to city staffers.

Dallas city officials and the Botello-Callejo Foundation Board agreed to the new location after Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano quietly delayed the plan to place it in the lobby of the Dallas Love Field Airport, which is in his district. Medrano didn’t respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

The Dallas City Council is expected to approve the donation at its Feb. 12 meeting. The board wanted to tie the sculpture’s public unveiling to the six-year anniversary of Callejo’s death, which was in January 2014, after a battle with brain cancer.

The foundation’s board commissioned the roughly 1,000-pound piece by Mexican artist Germán Michel shortly after she died. It is currently being stored in a Dallas warehouse.

Callejo’s nephew J.D. Gonzales said he was thrilled the sculpture will be downtown near the university, where it’ll be visible to students and attest to her trailblazing in education and law.

“I hope that what Adelfa stood for, and what she did and what she accomplished lives on forever,” Gonzales said.

Monica Lira Bravo, chairwoman of the Botello-Callejo Foundation Board, said she met with Medrano and Council member Omar Narvaez last month to discuss where to place the sculpture.

Lira Bravo said she suggested Main Street Garden Park as an alternative after the two council members expressed concerns over the Dallas Love Field Airport option.

Continue on to the Dallas Morning News to read the complete article.