Rudy Galindo’s life story of joy, heartbreak and triumph over adversity is legendary in the skating world, and he’s seen as a Latino and LGBT pioneer.
Throughout his childhood and adolescence, figure skating was a way for Rudy Galindo to escape his hardscrabble upbringing and dysfunctional home life. As a young man, he medaled in national and world championships, becoming America’s most decorated Latino figure skater and a pioneer for LGBT athletes. Now with the eyes of the world on the skating events at the Pyeongchang Olympics, Galindo is still making his mark on the sport he loves, coaching and nurturing a new generation of hopeful skating champions.
At 7:30 in the morning at the cavernous Solar4America Ice at San Jose complex, Galindo, 48, has already been on the ice for several hours. Swathed in a heavy parka and a thick scarf, he watches one of his students practice her moves.
“We have to work on your axel, those are big points,” he calls out. “Good! Now do one more!” As a dozen skaters practice their routines, the frosty air is filled with the sound of blades skimming over the ice.
Galindo raises his voice so his young charge can hear him. “Hey, why are you looking down at the ice? Don’t look down, there’s nothing down there for you!”
His student skates over for a swig of water. “Very nice, high five! Now go back and do the footwork at the end.” Galindo eyes the skater’s ponytail with a sly smile. “Hey, why are you wearing a scrunchie?! That’s very ‘80s!”
While coaching is the latest chapter in Galindo’s life, over the years he has experienced spectacular professional highs and devastating personal lows. His life story of joy, heartbreak, and triumph over adversity is legendary in the skating world.
Of Mexican-American descent, Galindo was born in the working-class neighborhood of East San Jose. His childhood was far from idyllic. His family lived in a trailer, his truck driver father was on the road for long stretches and his mother suffered from bouts of mental illness. Galindo found his escape on the ice, where his older sister was taking skating lessons at a local rink. Before long, Rudy was taking lessons too, and participating in local competitions.
His aptitude for skating came at great cost. “My dad gave everything, his whole paycheck, so my sister and I could have skating lessons and stay off the streets,” Galindo said. “He worked hard, and we never could afford to move into a house because all of his earnings went for our lessons.”
Before long, Galindo was paired up with another promising young skater from the Bay Area, Kristi Yamaguchi. “I was 11, and he was 13. He was very energetic, even at that young age,” Yamaguchi told NBC Latino. “Once we started skating together, things took off, and he was so creative. We would choreograph our own programs, and he was always full of ideas.”
Galindo even lived with Yamaguchi’s family for several years so that they could focus on their training; a typical day found them training for 6 to 8 hours, and doing their homework in the backseat of Kristi’s mother’s car as she drove them to practice sessions. “Rudy was like my brother,” Yamaguchi recalled.
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Sesame Street has debuted TJ, its first Filipino muppet. TJ joins Ji-Young, the show’s first Asian American character, who was introduced in a special Thanksgiving episode in 2021.
In a recent segment of the children’s TV show, TJ spends time with fellow muppets Ji-Young and Grover, and actor Kal Penn, who discusses the word of the day: confidence. “Confidence is when you believe in yourself and your abilities, or in the abilities of others,” Penn explains.
TJ then talks about his growing confidence while learning Tagalog, one of the main languages spoken in the Philippines. “I’m confident because I can always ask my lola for help when I don’t know a word,” he says, using the Tagalog term for grandmother.
Filipino American animator Bobby Pontillas collaborated with puppeteer Louis Mitchell to create the muppet. On Instagram, Pontillas shared concept artwork for the character, who he said was inspired by Max and Mateo, the children of lifelong friends. TJ is played by voice actor and puppeteer Yinan Shentu.
Rosemary Espina Palacios, Sesame Workshop’s director of talent outreach, inclusion and content development, also posted on Instagram about TJ’s debut, saying that his arrival came “just in time for API Heritage Month to show the range in our diaspora.”
Academy Award-winner Ariana DeBose will portray the first Afro-Latina princess.
The trailer for Disney’s latest animation film, Wish, is here, and we’re already in love with the leading princess, voiced by West Side Story Academy Award-winning actress Ariana DeBose.
The musical follows the story of Asha, a 17-year-old “driven, incredibly smart and an optimist, a sharp-witted leader in the making who sees darkness that others do not.” She partners with the magical wishing star, named Star, and soon realizes sometimes dreams do come true.
DeBose will be playing Disney’s first Afro-Latina princess sporting the prettiest set of braids.
She made history as the first Afro-Latina and first openly queer woman of color to win an Academy Award for acting after taking home the win for “Best Supporting Actress” for her performance in the iconic role of Anita in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story.
The studio elevated its creativity using a new style of animation technique, which blends elements of watercolor with 3D CG animation that the studio had reportedly long sought after and even attempted in earlier films such as Tangled.
The film also stars Chris Pine as King Magnifico, the charismatic leader of the kingdom of Rosas, and Alan Tudyk as Asha’s pet goat Valentino. Frozen’s Chris Buck and Raya and the Last Dragon story artist Fawn Veerasunthorn is set to direct. The film hits theaters on Nov. 22.
Watch the first trailer below!
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Photo courtesy of Disney
Acclaimed music artist José Feliciano, visual artist and muralist Judith Baca, and graphic artist and painter Antonio Martorell were honored with the National Medal of Arts, while poet Richard Blanco (pictured left) was awarded the National Humanities Medal.
The four artists were part of a group recognized by President Joe Biden at a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday.
Trailblazing music icon José Feliciano, 77, is known around the globe for his chart-topping hits like “Feliz Navidad” and his rendition of “Light My Fire.”
Considered one of the first Latino artist to cross over into the English market, paving the way for others, the Puerto Rican musician’s career has spanned 60 years and has garnered him more than 45 gold and platinum records, multiple Grammy wins and nominations, and Billboard’s first Legend Award.
“Blind since birth, he picked up a guitar at age 9. A pioneering art — artist bridging cultures and styles, winning Grammys, and opening doors for generations of Latino artists and the heart of our nation,” Biden said of Feliciano, who couldn’t accept the award because he was touring.
Feliciano has produced more than 600 songs and released 60 albums.
Medal recipient Judith Baca’s work has left a deep imprint in California’s cultural history. Baca, 76, is most known for “The Great Wall of Los Angeles,” which spans a half-mile and focuses on California’s ethnic history. The project was recognized by the National Register of Historic Places in 2017.
Baca, who was born in Los Angeles to Mexican American parents, is the artistic director of the Social and Public Art Resource Center, or SPARC, Los Angeles’ first mural program, which she helped co-found. The program has produced more than 400 murals in the city since 1974.
Her large-scale public artworks focus on the lives and communities of diverse Californians including women and youth and immigrant communities. Baca is also an emeritus professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Her groundbreaking murals depict the strength and scope of human nature and tell the forgotten stories — and tell a fuller story of who we are as Americans,” Biden said of Baca’s work.
Puerto Rican painter, graphic artist and writer Antonio Martorell was honored for his contributions as “one of Puerto Rico’s greatest cultural ambassadors,” Biden said.
Martorell has created prolific contemporary art pieces that are displayed in exhibits in Puerto Rico, the U.S. and abroad.
Having created early poster drawings of the Puerto Rican experience in his early career, his work was crucial to the development of posters as a form of expression during social commentary in the 1960s and 1970s.
“His work challenges and unites people across languages, classes and generations,” Biden said. “His creations span genres — painting, writing, sculpture, theater design. Always daring to try something new while building on what came before.”
Richard Blanco, who was the nation’s first Latino and openly gay inaugural poet, was recognized with a National Humanities Medal, which is awarded to people who have helped deepen and broaden humanities with contributions in history, literature and philosophy, among other subjects.
Read the complete article posted on NBC News Latinos here
Growing up as a child actor and moving on to the world of slasher horror films, Jenna Ortega is no stranger to the screen. But at just 20-years-old, Ortega has received tremendous praise for her work on the screen and off screen, especially in the last year. In 2022, Ortega debuted one of her biggest projects yet, Wednesday, a Netflix series that tells the story a college-aged Wednesday Addams of Addams Family fame. Calling it one of her most pivotal career choices yet, Ortega, who plays the titular role, garnered widespread acclaim for her performance with critics calling it the best rendition of the character yet.
The show has also been highly praised for its majority casting of Hispanic and Latinx actors, with Ortega’s performance bringing in a record-breaking 341 watched hours on its debut weekend.
When she’s not on screen, Ortega spends much of her time in the world of activism. She has been an advocate for the Pride over Prejudice, an organization dedicated to accepting the LGBTQ+ community, since she was 13 years old and has advocated for immigration and equity rights throughout her career.
Photo: Jenna Ortega poses in the IMDb exclusive portrait studio at the Critics Choice Association 2nd Annual Celebration of Latino Cinema & Television at Fairmont Century Plaza on November 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for IMDb)
Sources: Wikipedia, Deadline
For the first time in the event’s almost 100-year history, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), hired six of the best women referees in the industry to be a part of the 36 referees and 69 assistant referees overseeing the World Cup. One of these six women was Karen Diaz, who oversaw several World Cup matches as a referee assistant, making her the first Mexican woman to ever officiate the event.
Certified as a FIFA assistant referee since 2018 and garnering 12 years of officiating experience, Diaz is no stranger to breaking records and receiving praise for her expertise.
In 2020, she became the first woman to officiate in Liga MX matches and has overseen several high-profile games for Concacaf (the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) games. Though she has expressed a tremendous love for her job and the game itself, Diaz’s expertise expands to more than just sports, having earned a university degree in agro-industrial engineering.
They say that laughter is the best medicine and for comedian, activist and podcaster, Aida Rodriguez, this couldn’t be truer. First gaining media attention during the eighth season of Last Comic Standing, Rodriguez is best known taking some of the world’s most painful, uncomfortable and important topics and creating a platform where she can speak about them in a comedic way.
In her stand-up comedy debut special, Fighting Words, which premiered on HBO Max, Rodriguez showcases this style by using comedy to discuss everything from her own experiences with anorexia, divorce, death and traumatic experiences to the need to address misogyny and racism, especially towards the Hispanic and Latinx communities. “You should be able to laugh at things that are uncomfortable and inappropriate as long as it’s not being harmful,” Rodriguez told Vulture of her comedic style. “Because for me, that’s the only way that we’re having an honest conversation.”
While Rodriguez is best known for her work on the stage and in front of the camera, she also utilizes her passion for advocacy in other ways. She is currently a co-host for the news commentary channel, The Young Turks, where she candidly speaks on issues of importance and has worked with other equity-focused artists such as Tiffany Haddish.
Sources: Vulture, Wikipedia Photo credit: Michael Tullberg/Getty Images
During the 2020 pandemic, Mayan Lopez took to TikTok in an attempt to discuss an often-taboo topic in the Hispanic and Latinx community, the effect the absence of a father can have on children.
Mainly using comedy, Lopez began to use the social media platform to talk about her own experiences with her father, comedian and actor, George Lopez, and documented the reconciliation that took place between the two during the pandemic.
With Lopez’s content gaining millions upon millions of views across her videos, the experience landed the father-daughter duo a new television comedy show, Lopez vs. Lopez, which stars both George and Mayan.
The show, heavily based on the reconciliation between George and Mayan, will attempt to create dialogue about taboo conversations in the Hispanic and Latinx communities and bring the older and younger generations together.
Source: Refinery29 Photo Credit: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for City Year Los Angeles
If 2022 was the year of any author, it was the year of Xochitl Gonzalez. Though she has worked on numerous writing projects for news outlets and as a screenwriter, Gonzalez didn’t release her first novel until January of last year entitled Olga Dies Dreaming. The fictional story follows Olga, a Puerto Rican wedding planner and her experiences navigating love, life, loss and her Puerto Rican roots in the midst of Hurricane Maria.
The novel was praised for its representation of Puerto Rican people and life, quickly climbing the ranks as a New York Times bestseller by the end of its debut month. The novel additionally received rave reviews from renowned book reviewers at The Washington Post, Jezebel and Kirkus Reviews and won several honorable titles such as the Barnes & Noble Discover Pick, Amazon’s Featured Debut of the Month and an Indie Next Pick.
As the novel continues to gain popularity over a year later, Gonzalez is already hard at work at the story’s Hulu adaptation of the same name. It will star Aubrey Plaza and Ramon Rodriguez, and Gonzalez is a co-executive producer and writer for the television series with a currently unknown release date.
Sources: IMDb, Wikipedia, Book Browse Photo Credit: Mayra Castillo
Pulling from her own life experiences and causes that are near to her heart, contemporary artist Juliana Plexxo is using her artistry to spread her messages on an international scale. Growing up in Colombia, Plexxo takes inspiration from the violence that plagued her hometown and ultimately led to the death of her journalist father, Óscar García Calderón when she was a child.
Specializing in a red, white and black color palate, Plexxo’s abstract, geometric painting style has attracted attention from art connoisseurs around the world not only for its unique style, but for its messages in culture, activism and equality. She has had her work displayed in some of the most prestigious galleries in the world such as the Wynwood Art District in Miami, the Taller 46 in Barcelona and the Van Gogh Art Gallery in Spain.
She also specializes in murals and currently has three murals on display in the United States, Ecuador and Spain. In 2022, Plexxo was nominated for the University of Berkley’s “Young Talent of the Year” at the Berkley World Business Analytics Awards, becoming the first Latina under 30 to be nominated.
Sources: BeLatina, Van Gogh Art Gallery Photo Credit: Michael Tullberg/Getty Images
Not every actor can play a lawyer, cop and galactic senator, but Puerto Rican actor Jimmy Smits has slipped seamlessly into each role. “If you want a long career, it seems to me the more versatility you show as an actor, the better chance you have,” Smits said in a recent phone interview with Hispanic Network Magazine.
And a long and illustrious career he has.
Smits has made a name for himself in television, film and even on stage. He is a pioneer of the police procedural television series, among the first Hispanic actors to have a large role within the Star Wars franchise and enjoyed stints with New York’s Shakespeare Festival. In terms of versatility, Smits is practically a Swiss Army knife.
The award-winning performer credits part of his success to the casts and crews he has worked with.
“I would venture to say all of the shows that have been successful and satisfying in a professional way, whether it be “The West Wing” or “Sons of Anarchy,” have been because of the sense of ensemble,” Smits said. “A group of people getting together, there is a fellowship and camaraderie that is palpable on the screen.”
Smits has likened a cast of actors to the spokes of a wheel when it comes to storytelling, all working together to push a story forward. The importance of community was learned early and it is a theme that has continued throughout his life, both on and off screen.
The ‘Law’ Changed His Life
Born in Brooklyn in 1955 to Cornelis and Emilina Smits, Smits grew up in a working-class neighborhood after briefly living in Puerto Rico. He attended Brooklyn College where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1980 and earned his MFA at Cornell University in 1982.
But the stage was where Smits felt most at home. “I was doing theater in New York and I was doing soap opera work to support myself while I was doing plays,” said Smits. “”L.A. Law” brought me to Los Angeles and changed my life in a lot of ways.”
In 1986, Smits landed his first regular role on Steven Bochco‘s NBC legal drama, “L.A. Law,” as Victor Sifuentes. While he earned a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 1990 for the role, Smits again credits the cast and crew as a whole.
“The good thing that I remember about that show is the fellowship, the ensemble was really tight,” Smits said. “We knew that the show was ground breaking in a lot of ways, and Steven Bochco had a lot to do with that.”
Smits said his heritage played a part in his role as Sifuentes, but it was important to Bochco that the character develop in a way that was authentic, rather than making him a caricature.
“On that particular show, with Steven, it was important to him to establish that character first and foremost as a good attorney,” Smits said. “The fact that he was Hispanic, Latinx, Chicano —those other things would come into play, but first and foremost was to establish him as a good attorney. That stands out to me.” Smits’ role on “L.A. Law” lead to another television role on ABC’s “NYPD Blue” as Detective Bobby Simone, and he was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series Drama in 1995, as well as a Satellite Award in the same category in 1998.
He went on to play Congressman Matt Santos in NBC television drama, “The West Wing.” Smits said he recently stumbled across a West Wing marathon on TV and was struck by the storytelling.
“I don’t do this very often, but I started watching it and it happened to be the last couple episodes of the show,” Smits said. “I was so appreciative of the fact that I had that opportunity and that John Wells wanted to explore something in terms of a person of color in the political arena.”
Diversity in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Stories centered around people of color — and who gets to tell them — is something Hollywood has been grappling with in recent years, and Smits says he’s noticed a shift in the entertainment industry.
“The flourishing of the #MeToo movement and the BLM movement that happened and the pandemic, it left us assessing a lot of social norms and inequities in a different way, I think,” said Smits. “We felt vulnerable.”
He believes those movements created a change in the way the industry thinks about inclusion.
“It opened another door for more opportunities,” he said. “In regards to the Latinx community, we’ve had big jumps because of that, but I still feel that there is a disparity in regards to what our population numbers are in this country.”
Smits has always worked to create more equity within the industry and is proud to bring representation to the big and small screen.
In 2002, he played Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan in “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones,” one of the first Latinx actors to enter the galaxy far, far away. It is a role he reprised for “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” in 2005, “Rogue One” in 2016, and most recently in 2022 for “Obi-Wan Kenobi.“ Smits said the possibility of bringing diversity to the Star Wars franchise influenced his decision to take the role.
“It definitely was in the mix in terms of making the decision to do it, not only on my part but on George’s [Lucas’] part when we had our initial conversations,” Smits recalls.
Today’s Star Wars franchise is notably more diverse than when Smits first became involved.
“That has changed with this franchise a lot,” he said. “In a good way.”
Moving the Needle Forward
Smits himself has also worked to create more equity in the industry. In 1997, he was involved in the founding of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts — an organization dedicated to the advancement of Latinos in the media, telecommunications and entertainment industries.
“We are making a lot of progress, but of course I want our community to be able to reach its full potential,” Smits said. “Those kinds of steps and the progress that we have made has always been to me, incremental.”
Smits said in each decade, you can name five or six Latinos who’ve made an impact, but the ones he credits with doing the most to move the needle is Latin women.
“When I look to my sisters in the Latinx community, there is no greater example in our community,” Smits said. “J.Lo, Eva Longoria, Sofia Vergara…I can give you 10 names of woman that are really making a wonderful path.”
Smits said he also applauds their leadership behind the scenes.
“They are not content with just being in front of the camera, but they have taken on this other aspect of creating content,” Smits said. “That is a really an important notch in terms of taking our community to the next level.”
Smits says he hopes to continue his work pushing for representation.
In his most recent role, Smits has gone home again, so to speak. He’s returned to a police drama role, starring as Chief John Suarez in his new CBS series “East New York,” which is set in his hometown of Brooklyn. William Finkelstein, who served as an executive producer on “NYPD Blue” in the later seasons, is co-creator of” East New York.”
“I am excited about continuing with them,” Smits said.
He is even more excited about seeing what kind of impact his next character will have, and continuing his long career.
“I had the good fortune and the blessing to be lucky in terms of the roles I have gotten to do and hopefully, I have been able to expand that platform.”
Along with Selena Gomez, Jenna Ortega, Aubrey Plaza, Diego Calva and others, Latinos are represented in about half the award categories in this year’s Golden Globes.
Latinos are represented in about half the award categories in this year’s Golden Globes, including nine nominations for Latino performers and filmmakers.
Their nominations showcase a younger generation of Hollywood, given that six of them are under the age of 40. They also echo a larger nationwide pattern showing Latinos as the second youngest racial or ethnic groups in the U.S., with a median age of 30.
Several of them landed their first Golden Globe nominations this year, most of them for main roles in film or TV.
“The conversation this year is, we made it into the lead,” said Jack Rico, a Latino film critic. If enough Latinos win in their respective categories, it could set the tone for the rest of the awards season.
“We could have one of the best years for Hispanic actors,” said Rico.
Actor Jenna Ortega could become the youngest person to win a Golden Globe for best performance by an actress in a musical or comedy TV series.
Ortega, 20, earned her first Golden Globe nomination for her captivating performance as Wednesday Addams in the Netflix comedy horror series “Wednesday,” which follows the iconic “Addams Family” character’s journey at Nevermore Academy as she investigates a murder spree.
Of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, Ortega went viral on TikTok as many on the social media platform tried to recreate one of the show’s most memorable scenes: a dance sequence showing Wednesday ghoulishly grooving to The Cramps’ “Goo Goo Muck” at Nevermore Academy’s annual Rave’N dance.
The show became the second most-watched series on Netflix after it premiered in November. It was also nominated for best TV musical or comedy TV series.
Ortega has said she choreographed the sequence despite not having any previous dance experience. She was inspired by such punk and rock performers as Nina Hagen and Siouxsie and the Banshees, as well as by watching archival footage of goth kids club dancing in the 1980s.
Another first-time nominee in the same category as Ortega is Selena Gomez.
Gomez, 30, was nominated for her performance as Mabel Mora in Hulu’s true crime satire “Only Murders in the Building.” The nomination serves as vindication over last year, when Gomez’s co-stars Martin Short and Steve Martin received acting nominations and she did not. Short and Martin also received acting nominations this year.
Gomez, who has roots in Mexico, also serves as an executive producer for the show alongside her co-stars.
“Only Murders in the Building” centers on three true-crime obsessed New York City neighbors who suddenly find themselves caught up in a murder mystery. The show was also nominated for best musical or comedy TV series.
Also joining the club of first-time Latino Golden Globe nominees are Aubrey Plaza, Diego Calva and Diego Luna.
Plaza, 38, who is half Puerto-Rican, was nominated for best supporting actress in a limited series for her performance as Harper in HBO Max’s “The White Lotus,” which follows the exploits of various guests and employees at a luxurious Sicilian resort.
Her deadpan humor and sarcasm on “White Lotus” made her a fan favorite, alongside fellow cast mates Jennifer Coolidge and F. Murray Abraham, who were also nominated for their supporting roles. The show was also nominated for best limited series made for TV.
Amara La Negra, singer, reality show star and rapper, is known for embracing her afro and her Blackness. But despite all her success, there’s one battle she’s always had to fight: defending her Afro-Latin Blackness. “I still feel there’s a lot of African Americans that don’t even know that there’s other parts in the world where there’s people like us and don’t speak English,” she told ABC News. “We’re not all African Americans. We are diverse in every single possible way you can imagine.” In a society that clings to categorizing people, Amara La Negra says she’s always having to explain herself.
Born Diana Danelys De Los Santos to Dominican parents, sometimes Amara La Negra finds herself being questioned by African Americans about Ber blackness, like on the radio show “The Breakfast Club.” “Simplify it for me, what exactly is the struggle that you’re facing?” Charlamagne Tha God, one of the show’s hosts, asked her. “You sure it’s not in your mind?” She’s also faced questions from other Latinos, including some in her home state of Florida, who she says questioned why she would participate in a Black Lives Matter march in Miami.
“They were like, ‘Why are you out there protesting? You’re not Black. You have to pick. Are you Latina? You Dominican? Are you Black? You kind of have to pick,’” Amara La Negra told ABC News. “They were saying a lot of negative things toward me. I guess that there was a part of them that didn’t understand how important this is. … It’s a humanity thing.”
In the wake of George Floyd’s death and a renewed outrage over racial inequality in America, there’s a growing spotlight illuminating the diversity of Blackness in the U.S. It’s a lesson that educator Jennifer Whyte says she’s been teaching for years.
The Spanish teacher is the only Latina and the only teacher of color at The Donoho School in Anniston, Alabama. In the rural South, she makes it a point to educate her students about Afro-Latin culture.
“I need to be true to myself. … I know who I am as a Spanish teacher and teaching culture,” Whyte told ABC News. “We’re the ones that teach culture. We’re the ones that bring up these uncomfortable conversations about race and history, too, because we do history. So it’s like we bring up these uncomfortable conversations about race, colorism.”
Pedro Noguera, dean of the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education, focuses on race and policy and believes the United States’ historically poor treatment of African Americans created a massive divide among Latino immigrants — even those who are Black.
“When many Latin Americans come to this country, there’s a tendency to try to distance themselves from Black Americans. And that’s true even among people who, phenotypically from Latin America, are Black,” Noguera said. “You think about American baseball, someone like Big Poppy, the great slugger from the [Boston] Red Sox, who is clearly Black, very dark-skinned, does not identify as Black. [He] identifies as Dominican, as if that were separate somehow from being Black.” Adding to the complexities in the United States, the Latino community encompasses families from many different countries.
“So many Latinos identify more with nationality. They will say, I’m from El Salvador. I am from Panama,” Noguera said. “Latino doesn’t mean a whole lot. It only means something to second- and third-generation Latinos who’ve been in America who understand the way race in America works. And so they will claim a Latino identity. But in their identity, there’s incredible diversity.”
In the U.S., most people strictly think African American when they hear of someone who is “Black,” but according to the the Slave Voyages Project, during the colonial period, about 15 times as many slaves were taken to Latin America than the United States.
Almost nine years ago, Jessica Torres launched a style blog to help build her resume as an aspiring fashion journalist. A self-described plus-sized Latina from the Bronx, she didn’t see herself reflected among staffers at the magazine where she interned. She eventually came to the conclusion that the path to success would require striking out on her own.
Today, Torres has 138,000 Instagram followers. Instead of writing stories, she’s paid by the likes of Sephora and Ugg to promote their products, raking in as much as $25,000 for posts and projects on behalf of some brands. But Torres isn’t your typical online influencer: she’s part of a wave of Latinas looking to expand their online footprint and boost corporate respect for one of the largest U.S. consumer demographics.
Especially in the realm of beauty products, Hispanics are increasingly driving and shaping the industry as consumers and business owners. In 2020, Latinos spent 13% more than the average shopper on beauty and personal care, according to research firm NielsenIQ. And there’s a growing number of internet personalities and Hispanic-owned startups getting the message out, from influencer Mariale Marrero and her 6 million Instagram followers to Treslúce Beauty, a makeup brand launched in June by Billboard top 5 Latin female artist Becky G.
Now 31, Torres finally does see herself—she’s part of a burgeoning group of Hispanic entrepreneurs and social media stars. “It’s been really cool to see how much power Latinos are having—and taking,” Torres, who is Ecuadorian-American, said. “It’s game changing.”
This growing prominence in the retail space has accelerated a push to dispel media portrayals that often ignore the diversity and evolving identity of Latinos. Hispanics boast a wide range of skin tones and hair types, which means that no single commercial approach can meet all beauty needs.
“There’s still a lot of education that needs to be done,” said Marrero, who was born in Venezuela and last year launched an eye and cheek palette in collaboration with Too Faced. She said there’s still an outdated idea “of what a Hispanic or Latina has to look like.”
Natasha Pongonis is the chief executive officer of multicultural consumer research firm O.Y.E. and a partner at marketing agency Nativa. She said most advertisements featuring Hispanic models don’t reflect the wide spectrum of Latino looks, like hairstyles ranging from locks in tight curls to pin-straight. The range of shades for certain skincare and makeup products also remains limited, while marketing campaigns by big skincare companies often feature models with lighter complexions, Pongonis said.
Representation of Hispanics in content across platforms was 6% in 2020, according to analytics company Nielsen, even though they make up almost 19% of the U.S. population. And when Hispanics do appear online or in a magazine, they’re often depicted as “exotic,” according to Deyanira Rojas-Sosa, an associate professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
Indigenous and Afro-Latino people in particular get little representation in personal care and makeup ads, said Danielle Alvarez, founder of public relations firm The Bonita Project.
Despite the rise of Hispanic-owned brands, they’re still a small part of the beauty market. In a recent panel featuring Latino entrepreneurs by think tank Ready to Beauty, 88% said improved access to capital was critical to expanding the sector. But some entrepreneurs are done waiting for investors.
“I think many people are going ‘well, what the heck?’ I might as well just do it myself,’” said Margarita Arriagada, who served as Sephora’s chief merchant for nine years.
Arriagada, 68, launched refillable-lipstick company Valdé Beauty in the fall of 2020. The name is an homage to her mother, Carolina Valdelomar, who immigrated with her children from Peru. She always wore lipstick as a “glamorous coat of armor” while working three jobs to make ends meet, Arriagada said.
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Then there’s Latina music star Rebbeca Marie Gomez, better known as Becky G. Her song “Mayores,” featuring Puerto Rican sensation Bad Bunny, has racked up more than two billion views on YouTube.
A former CoverGirl, the 24-year-old realized she didn’t just want to be one mainstream brand’s Hispanic face, saying she’d rather show that Latinas could start their own product lines and craft their own narratives. Like Torres, she too saw minimal representation of people like herself in the media and advertising.
These Latina designers are carving out space in the fashion and arts community by bringing their cultural backgrounds to their clothing, and accessory designs, among other creations. Their work has gained international attention, and many attribute this success to the inspiration they’ve derived from their cultural backgrounds. Here are five visionary Latina designers you should know about:
1. Patty Delgado
At 30 years old, Patty Delgado already has founder and CEO in her title after starting Hija de tu Madre, a lifestyle brand for which she also acts as a designer. Hija de tu Madre sells clothing, accessories, and stationary and is intended to celebrate the modern Latina community.
“I started the company back in 2016 during the Trump era and I really wanted to create a safe space for folks to celebrate their Latina identity and really take up space and create this new narrative of what it means to be Latina, despite all the negative stereotypes that were like really dangerous during that era,” Delgado told NowThis.
Delgado was born in Los Angeles, California, and is the daughter of two Mexican immigrants. As a self-taught designer, Delgado said she was inspired to start the line as a way to connect to her own heritage and to communicate that “being Latina isn’t a one size fits all narrative.”
“I’ve always struggled with my own identity. Like never really fitting in with my Mexican side, but also not really knowing what it means to be American,” Delgado continued. “And I think that this brand really celebrates these nuances.”
2. Johanna Ortiz
Elegant couture designed by Johanna Ortiz’s label hangs in stores across the world, including major names like Neiman Marcus andBergdorf Goodman, and online at Net-a-Porter. Jennifer Lopez was photographed wearing one of her designs recently while on vacation. But before Ortiz gained international recognition, she brought her talent and business back to her home country, Colombia. Ortiz graduated from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in Florida before returning to her home city of Cali, Colombia to start her brand in 2001. After showcasing her designs in Colombia’s fashion scene for many years, Ortiz was given the chance in 2014 to create a collection for Moda Operandi.
Ortiz’s designs are based on her Colombian heritage and incorporate ruffles and beautiful prints. In an interview with Vogue, she said her own experience with fashion played a role in how she creates clothes: “I’m Latina, so I’m short and curvy – I’m not like the models!”
Ortiz also opened up a training program in Colombia through whichshe offers sewing and embroidery courses for people in the community.
“We have plenty of talented hands,” Ortiz told Vogue. “But they haven’t been exposed to learning.”
3. Cristina Palomo-Nelson
As a co-founder and designer for FRĒDA SALVADOR, Palomo-Nelson made sure the products for her shoe company were made in her home country of El Salvador, along with her co-founder’s country of origin, Spain. Palomo-Nelson and Megan Papay launched FRĒDA SALVADOR in 2012 with the idea to combine style with comfort in quality shoes.
“We focused on updating and modernizing classic styles like oxfords, loafers and jodhpur boots,” Palomo-Nelson told San Francisco Magazine.
Palomo-Nelson grew up in El Salvador and comes from a family of shoemakers. The design process for FRĒDA SALVADOR starts in California, where the two founders now live. The designs are then brought to life by their family factories in El Salvador and Spain.
4. Luiny Rivera
Luiny Rivera was initially studying to become a teacher when she realized designing jewelry was her true passion. The Puerto Rican native, whose creative skills have been mostly self-taught, moved to New York City after discovering her knack for upcycling jewelry and design. “It wasn’t in my plan to become a jewelry designer. lt just happened and I realized that I was good at it,” Rivera told Journal NYC. “Now I am attached forever to something that I love to do. I keep a balance on what really inspires me and what’s on trend to maintain the uniqueness of my line.”
Rivera was designing jewelry for Urban Outfitters and Free People when she decided to launch her own brand — Luiny. The designer said she likes to be in full creative control of the whole process; from conception and design to photographing the products and acting as the art director. Rivera’s brand also uses recycled metals and creates her jewelry using sustainable methods.
5. Cristina Pineda
Christina Pineda is the co-founder of Pineda Covalin, a clothing and accessories brand dedicated to bringing Mexican and Latin American-inspired designs to life. The fashion house was created in 1996 by Pineda and Ricardo Covalin in Mexico City. Now, the brand has a presence in North America, Asia, and Europe. The intricate designs and colors are rooted in Pineda’s Mexican background and were initially sold in museums and later in hotels. Pineda Covalin now sells men’s and women’s clothing, bags, scarves, ties, and more. Many of the brand’s designs draw inspiration from indigienous people, including the Mayans and Zapotecs.
Pineda has an extensive background in design, with a bachelor’s degree in textile design, along with a master’s degree in art history. Her portfolio extends even further beyond her brand: Pineda was selected to create a character called Xico the Xoloitzcuintle, a hairless dog breed believed to date back to the ancient Aztecs,as a mascot for Mexico. Pineda also works with philanthropic groups including Discovering Latin America, which promotes the culture and arts of Latina people.
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