This year has been a huge year for Zoom, as families and friends around the world have turned to the video chat service to stay in touch during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Microsoft Teams just barreled into the room to make Zoom look a little silly by comparison.
According to The Verge, Microsoft’s primarily business-focused video call app is getting a free tier with a 24-hour time limit on calls just in time for the holidays.
As many as 300 people can jam into one room, with a gallery view that can display up to 49 of them on one screen. (Zoom has a max of 100 participants for Basic and Pro users.) There’s also a feature called Together Mode that will arrange everyone’s video feeds so it looks like they’re sitting together in a theater or coffee shop. If your family is that big, feel free to go nuts with Microsoft Teams — and good luck following the conversation.
Calls can be started and joined from a web browser so you don’t need to download an app. Whoever starts the call will need a Microsoft account, which you should have on hand if you’ve ever used Office or an Xbox but is pretty easy to set up if you haven’t. Crucially, folks who don’t have Microsoft accounts can join calls.
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On January fifth Apple announced that Monica Lozano, president, and CEO of College Futures Foundation, has been elected to Apple’s board of directors. Lozano brings with her a broad range of leadership experience in the public and private sectors, as well as a long and storied track record as a champion for equity, opportunity, and representation.
Prior to joining College Futures Foundation, Lozano spent 30 years in media as editor and publisher of La Opinión, the
Image Credit – (Monica Lozano is the newest member of Apple’s board. Photo: Getty Images)
largest Spanish-language newspaper in the US, helping shine a light on issues from infant mortality to the AIDS epidemic. She went on to become chairman and CEO of La Opinión’s parent company, ImpreMedia. Lozano continues to serve on the boards of Target Corporation and Bank of America Corporation.
“Monica has been a true leader and trailblazer in business, media, and an ever-widening circle of philanthropic efforts to realize a more equitable future — in our schools and in the lives of all people,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Her values and breadth of experience will help Apple continue to grow, to innovate, and to be a force for good in the lives of our teams, customers, and communities.”
“Monica has been a pioneer in every organization fortunate enough to benefit from her vision and expertise,” said Arthur Levinson, Apple’s chairman. “After a thorough and fruitful search, I couldn’t be more confident in the positive impact Monica will have on our board and Apple as a whole.”
“I’ve always admired Apple’s commitment to the notion that technology, at its best, should empower all people to improve their lives and build a better world,” said Lozano. “I look forward to working with Tim, Art, and the other board members to help Apple carry those values forward and build on a rich and productive history.”
Throughout her accomplished career as a business leader, public servant, and philanthropist, Lozano has made an indelible impact on companies and communities in the US and around the world, earning awards from organizations like The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
In her role as CEO of College Futures Foundation, Lozano has been a tireless advocate for expanding access to higher education, partnering with philanthropic organizations, state and local governments, and local communities to improve opportunity for low-income students and students of color.
Lozano is a co-founder of the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program, and a former chair of both the University of California Board of Regents and the board of directors of the Weingart Foundation, a private philanthropic organization. Lozano is also a former board member of The Walt Disney Company.
Former NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez spent most of his youth working the fields.
So many kids have struggled with remote learning, but Hernandez wants them all to know when it comes to their future, the sky’s the limit.
As a young boy, Hernandez picked fruits and vegetables alongside his family.
“We spent nine months in California, three months in Mexico, but those nine months I went to three different school districts,” he explained.
The family settled in Stockton. Jose couldn’t speak English until he was 12 years old, but STEM subjects spoke to him.
“I gravitated towards math because 1 + 3 is 4 in any language,” Hernandez said.
When he was ten, Jose told his dad he wanted to be an astronaut, so his father laid out a five-part recipe for success.
First, set a goal. Then recognize how far away you are from that goal.
“The third thing is you have to draw yourself a road map to know where you’re at to where you want to go,” Hernandez added. “And then I asked what’s the fourth? He said you’ve got to get an education.”
The University of the Pacific grad called hard work the fifth ingredient.
But his path was a difficult one.
“NASA rejected me not once, not twice, not three times but 11 times. It wasn’t until the 12th time that I got selected,” he said.
Hernandez would blast off with the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2009.
“It’s a ride that even Disneyland would be envious of because you go from zero to 17,500 miles an hour in eight and a half minutes,” he recalled.
Jose worked on the International Space Station during the 14-day trip, which covered 5.4 million miles.
“I wish we had a frequent flyer program,” Hernandez laughed.
He circled the globe 217 times but remains a down to Earth guy who tells kids how to realize their own dreams.
“Hard work and perseverance and not being afraid to dream big,” he said.
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This inspiring group of innovators is changing the Latinx community’s perspective, featuring plus-size model Ady Del Valle, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, WNBA Diana Taurasi, writer, actor, rapper, and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda and activist Luis Miranda, supreme court judge Sonia Sotomayor, fiction and non-fiction author Carmen Maria Machado.
Luis A. Miranda, Jr., left and Lin-Manuel Miranda at the
IMDb Studio at Acura Festival Village.
(Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Acura)
Lin-Manuel Miranda and Luis Miranda Writer, actor, rapper, and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda has grown quite the platform since the success of his Broadway hit musical Hamilton. But even before the hip-hop musical’s success, Miranda has used his growing platform to advocate for causes that are important to him, from issues of racial equality to the need to vote, and has done so with his long-time activist father, Luis Miranda. Luis has been an integral part of Latino rights in the United States, working directly on Senate campaigns, serving as the Director of Hispanic Affairs in New York City, educating Latinx people on voting, and in his latest endeavor, providing direct relief to Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. In honor of Luis’s dedication to activism, Lin and Luis have produced the HBO documentary, Siempre, Luis, which follows Luis Miranda’s life fighting for equality and preservation. The documentary aired on October 6, with the goal of using the Miranda family’s platform to educate more people and to raise awareness of Latinx issues.
Ady Del Valle and the Latinx Creative The modeling and fashion industries have shaped the world’s perception of beauty for years, but the models displaying these beauty standards are often portraying only one body type, race, and sexuality. However, plus-size Latinx model Ady Del Valle decided it was time to share the voices that often aren’t heard. Through his organization, The Latinx Creative, Del Valle has showcased an array of Hispanic creatives and their work, including other plus-size models. Del Valle, in collaboration with other Latinx plus size models Frankie Tavares, Luis Cruz, Taylee De Castro, Yaznil Baez, and Kengie Smith, has been credited to sparking a “plus-size revolution” serving as a representation of beauty that defies the norm. De Valle further uses his platform for inclusivity to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and defying gender norms.
Alex Padilla California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has been a beacon of change throughout his entire political career. Padilla has been on government committees since he was just 26 years old and served as the first Latino and youngest president of the Los Angeles City Council at age 28. Working in the very community he was brought up in when his parents immigrated to the United States, Padilla has used his role on City Council and as the Chair of the Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications to advocate for the needs of the community. Under Padilla’s leadership, Los Angeles has received improved legislations on public and private educations, stopping crime rates, increasing budget, decreasing obesity and diabetes cases, better utilize technology, and much more. In Padilla’s new position as State Secretary, he has focused much of 2020 on properly handling COVID-19 health procedures and ensuring voting accessibility throughout the state of California.
Diana Taurasi The recipient of countless WNBA awards, four Olympic gold medals, five scoring titles, three FIBA world cups, and numerous offers to play for the All-Star teams, Diana Taurasi is one of the biggest names in basketball in the modern age. Playing for the Phoenix Mercury since 2004, Taurasi has become the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, often making the crucial last-minute plays that give Phoenix its victories. Despite suffering recent injuries, Taurasi has been using this year to better improve her game and the world around her. She worked diligently to honor Kobe Bryant after his passing in early March, is an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, and is back to playing at peak performance post-injury, giving her great consideration to be the WNBA’s MVP of the Year.
Sonia Sotomayor Even before she became the first Latina supreme court judge in 2009, Justice Sonia Sotomayor has always worked hard for her success. Being inspired by her single mother, who always emphasized the importance of receiving an education, Sotomayor attended Princeton University and Yale Law School, earning her J.D. and passing the bar exam by the age of 26. After working as a trial lawyer for a District Attorney and within her own practice, Sotomayor was appointed to the Southern District of New York at age 38, Bush the U.S. Second Circuit Court at age 43, and the Supreme Court at age 55. On the Supreme Court, Sotomayor has played an integral role in advocating for equal opportunity and civil liberties, helping pass the Affordable Health Care Act and the legalization of gay marriage. As of 2020, Sonia Sotomayor has been donating much of her time to advocating for immigrants, racial equality, and protection from COVID-19.
Carmen Maria Machado Carmen Maria Machado is a fiction and non-fiction author who uses a blend of genres to create stories that raise awareness of social issues in a Jordan Peele like fashion. Of the 20 plus stories she has written, Machado has received an especially high amount of success for her books, Her Body and Other Parties, an analogy on the dehumanization of the woman’s body, and In the Dream House, the heavily inspired true story of Machado’s abusive relationship. Her stories have earned her published spots in big-name titles such as The New York Times and The New Yorker, has received tremendous praise and an overwhelming number of awards, nominations, fellowships, grants, and residencies. Machado’s non-fiction works also contribute to enhancing conversation and bringing awareness as she often writes of personal experiences, Latinx culture, and women’s rights.
“Sí se puede” is a powerful phrase that was coined by labor activist Dolores Huerta, who pushed for better working conditions and rights for farmworkers.
(It was also used as an empowering chant by a group of Latina cheerleaders in the Disney Channel Original Movie, Gotta Kick it Up! featuring award-winning actress America Ferrera).
Today, the phrase continues to serve as an empowering message for Latinas in the form of a new nonpartisan digital community platform known as “She Se Puede” (with a particular emphasis on the word, “she”).
She Se Puede—launched by actress-activists Eva Longoria Baston and America Ferrera, and a group of passionate Latina leaders—aims to empower Latinas “to realize and act on their own power.”
The platform gives Latinas an opportunity to celebrate their impact and achievements, connect with community resources, and be inspired by diverse lifestyle content highlighting Latinas.
“America and I worked with Dolores for decades and we just wanted to have her blessings because there’s such history in ‘Sí se puede,'” Eva told GMA.
“It was birthed from me and America and Zoe Saldana, and we were all campaigning in Florida, advocating for yet another candidate on a stage, giving talking points and we were going, ‘Why aren’t we advocating for ourselves? Where’s the community? And not only of Latinos, but specifically of Latinas,'” Eva said.
Too often, Latinas are underrepresented in entertainment, government, and other aspects of society. Their voices are often excluded from the narrative, which is why the idea for “She Se Puede” came into conception to embolden and inspire Latinas to trust in their power.
“Unless and until we believe in our own potential and realize our own power, we will remain underrepresented as a political and cultural force,” said America Ferrera.
The goal for “She Se Puede” is to build a unique digital community and lifestyle platform “for Latinas, by Latinas” by publishing relatable and inspiring, everyday lifestyle content ranging from health, food parenting, beauty, to civic engagement. It’s also an opportunity to help provide Latinas with the tools they need to own their power.
Eva and America have both encouraged Latinas to share their “She Se Puede” moments on social media to engage and inspire a growing and close-knit Latina community where women see themselves reflected through everyday, raw moments.
Eva recently shared a Facebook photo of herself breastfeeding her son while working on set as a director. Eva posted, “This is my She Se Puede moment! This [photograph] was taken when I was directing right after my son was born. Breastfeeding on set, pumping milk on my breaks, and directing a television show was challenging. But I did it! And I knew I could because we (Latinas) can accomplish anything! Follow @she_sepuede and celebrate a moment you’re proud of with #shesepuede for a chance to be featured.”
In September—just a few weeks before the presidential election—She Se Puede posted a call out on Instagram encouraging Latinas interested to join the “She Se Puede Power Squad.” It was part of an effort to encourage Latinas from across the country to step up and transform their lives, communities, and country by acting as community ambassadors.
For Eva, the platform is very much an empowering state of mind for Latinas:
“So when we say empowerment, we mean we want Latinas to feel empowered in everything that they do, from their careers, to their workouts, to what food they eat, and even how they can request their mail-in ballot,” said Eva.
The digital platform was officially created by a team of Latina leaders passionate about mobilizing and creating change in the community: Alex Martínez Kondracke, America Ferrera, Carmen Perez, Christy Haubegger, Elsa Collins, Eva Longoria Bastón, Jess Morales Rocketto, Mónica Ramírez, Olga Segura, and Stephanie Valencia.
Eva Longoria: From Desperate Housewives to Political Activist
Eva has used her influence as a Latina actress, director, producer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist to make a positive impact in the Latina community.
Known as the character Gabrielle Solis in the comedy-drama series, Desperate Housewives, Eva has often looked to the show’s storytelling and execution in her own journey as a producer. The show first aired its pilot in October 2004, putting her in the spotlight.
“For her, the Desperate Housewives pilot was a masterclass in how to create and launch a TV show, and she says she still uses what she learned from that experience as a producer launching her own shows,” Variety said.
The 2017 Philanthropist of the Year has also used her platform as an actress to shed light on other critical issues ranging from politics to better education and entrepreneurship opportunities for Latinas.
Eva has also been a prominent advocate for disability rights and amplifying the voices of Latinos in politics.
She has been associated with many different charities and foundations over the years, with a focus on advocating for various causes affecting women and children.
In 2006, she co-founded Eva’s Heroes, an organization that aims to enrich the lives of individuals with intellectual special needs.
Eva’s Heroes is an organization that is very near and dear to her heart, as she has a sister with special needs. “I am blessed with a sister who has special needs. Now, I want to impact the lives of similar young adults nationwide,” said Eva.
With her entrepreneurial spirit and inspiring advocacy career, Eva has long been fighting for more representation of Latino political leaders, co-founding Latino Victory Fund, a progressive political committee to help grow Latino political power and influence.
Most recently, she headlined and opened up the 2020 Democratic National Convention with an inspiring speech about saving our democracy and making our voices heard:
“So, tonight we stand together, united by the values we cherish: Decency, respect, justice, and the opportunity to rise up. We always hear that line about this being the most important election of our lifetimes, but this year, it really is.”
In her keynote speech, she also acknowledged the lives lost and impacted by COVID-19, compounded by immense job loss and division. “Yet, in the middle of the fear and sorrow and uncertainty, people have come together because they know we are better than this. America is better than this,” she added.
It wasn’t long until Eva received criticism for headlining the convention from Marco Rubio in a tweet that said, “Brilliant move! No one is more in touch with the challenges & obstacles faced by everyday Americans than actors & celebrities.”
Eva hosted the DNC, not just as an actress, but also as a Latina woman with immense influence and advocacy for different important causes affecting women and the Latino community, said Refinery29.
Beyond her trailblazing work and committing to better Latino representation, she is also committed to empowering and supporting the Latino community through education and entrepreneurship opportunities.
In 2013, Eva received her master’s degree in Chicano Studies from California State University, Northridge. She has also worked tirelessly to help advocate for more Latino representation and job opportunities for Latinos in the Hollywood entertainment industry. USC Annenberg reported that between 2007 and 2013, only 3 percent of films featured leads or co-leads with Latino actors. And, of the films that were analyzed, only 4.5 percent of all speaking characters were Latino in the past decade.
Through her work with the Eva Longoria Foundation, Eva has been committed to investing in Latino community leaders and entrepreneurs. She recently joined forces with the Latino Community Foundation to continue supporting Latina entrepreneurs in California during the “Coming of Age” 15th anniversary gala in May 2020.
During the gala, Eva announced a new initiative aimed at investing and supporting Latina entrepreneurs in California. Proceeds from the gala supported Latino organizations that provide vital services to low-income families that are impacted by wage loss as well as California farmworkers and their families.
Eva has long been an outspoken advocate for Latino representation and has empowered Latina youth through various mentorship and STEM programs at the Eva Longoria Foundation.
The foundation’s programs help narrow the opportunity gap that many Latinas face through culturally relevant programs, such as STEM education, mentorship, parent engagement, and entrepreneurship.
The Eva Longoria Foundation says Latinas are a rapidly growing demographic with immense potential, but they “disproportionately lack educational opportunities and face economic challenges.”
The goal of the foundation is to close the education gap and help Latinas build better futures through education and entrepreneurship.
Along with supporting and empowering Latino youth, Eva is passionate about civic engagement, empowering Latino voters, and advocating for more Latino representation in politics.
She co-founded the Latino Victory Project—a progressive political action committee–to elevate the voices of Latinos through politics and increase representation “at every level of government.”
In July, Eva headlined a kickoff event announcing Latino Victory Fund’s launch of the First Latinas program geared toward electing “trailblazing Latinas” to increase Latina representation in government and other aspects of political life.
Whether it’s saving our democracy to empowering youth and advocating for women, Eva has become an outspoken and much-needed voice in the Latina community.
America Ferrera: From Ugly Betty to Advocating for the Rights of Women
As an award-winning actress, producer, director, activist, organizer, and the proud daughter of immigrants from Honduras, America Ferrera has paved the way for Latina representation, speaking out about pressing political issues, and encouraging women to be in “decision-making roles” by getting a seat at the table.
In the early 2000s, America appeared as a Latina lead in the cult-favorite ABC comedy series Ugly Betty and the movie Real Women Have Curves, along with countless other groundbreaking lead roles. She has also gone on to star in the NBC show Superstore and has produced and directed several TV shows.
She has also received countless awards and was recognized as the first Latina to win an Outstanding Lead Actress Emmy for her lead role in Ugly Betty.
“I don’t fit in traditional boxes for women on screen. When I became an actress, my mere presence was a revolution because I wasn’t supposed to exist in this industry,” America told net-a-porter in an interview.
America has spoken out about the need for Latinas to see themselves represented on television. In an interview with the New York Times, America talked about the importance of diverse storytelling and representation:
“Our writers aren’t sort of pulling issues from the headlines. They are mostly driven by the characters in the show. And this is where the real necessity for diversity is exemplified. It’s so that the storytelling is rich and compelling and relevant to today because that is what our world actually looks like. That is what our culture should be reflective of—all the different points of view and real-life experiences that one has as an America.”
America is also a storyteller herself: She wrote a New York Times bestselling book, American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures, which highlights the experience of growing up between cultures.
Perhaps America’s most notable role off-screen is one as an advocate for women and helping Latinas and women of color recognize their true power and influence.
She has continued to advocate for women across the globe. She recently served as a keynote speaker for the Texas Women’s Foundation virtual luncheon September 29, 2020.
Her keynote address highlighted the importance of creating opportunities for women and empowering them to speak out about their experiences. It was also an opportunity to discuss her book, which features essays of 31 other first-generation American artists and activists who share their personal accounts of assimilating in America and staying connected to their roots.
One of her most impactful and life-changing moments was when she was invited as the opening speaker at the historic inaugural Women’s March in D.C. in 2017, where she used her platform as an actress and women and civil rights advocate to create and inspire change.
America is no stranger to speaking out against injustices. She has also spoken out about various issues concerning immigration, the environment, and healthcare. She talked about the importance of the Women’s March and how that day continued to impact and inspire change:
“None of us knew how historical the march would be. We’ve lost so much ground in this country going backwards, making people’s lives less equal and dignified. I think back to that day: we’re not alone, people will show up,” America told net-a-porter.
America’s experience at the historic Women’s March was something that continued to inspire her advocacy through her nonprofit organization, Harness. She began thinking of innovative ways to mobilize and bring communities together through the power of love, relationship building, and sustaining movements.
In an excerpt from “Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World” as quoted by Time Magazine, America talked about the impact of the Women’s March and the need to continue talking about channeling energy into sustaining the movement: “Our gatherings grew into an organization called Harness. We bring people together in the hope that those wanting to use their voices can do it from a deeper, more rooted place, because they are invested in real, personal relationships. That’s the fuel. The people you meet, the bodies you hug, the stories you hear. We don’t have to worry about people going home and forgetting what they heard and what they need to do. You don’t forget about people you know and love—you carry them in your heart. If we can bring that ethic of community and love into our daily lives, I believe we can sustain the movement.”
In 2016, America addressed the Democratic National Convention and later that year. After the events that transpired after the election, she launched Harness, along with her husband, Ryan Pier Williams, and Wilmer Valderrama.
The organization features a robust community of artists, activists, as well as entertainment leaders to elevate the experiences of marginalized communities. Today, Harness is more critical than ever during a pandemic that has claimed the lives of 200,000 Americans and continued racial injustice.
In an interview with Vogue, America talked about the decisions that others make about the lives of others and the importance of art and spreading political awareness:
“People make decisions every single day that impact my life—the air I breathe, my ability to walk down the street and be safe, how much money I make for the job I do, whether I can choose what happens to my body. And at every important social moment in our history, artists have played a role. It doesn’t have to be about marching. The art itself has a role to play. At the end of the day, it’s about wielding that sword with awareness.”
America also hasn’t shied away from getting political and speaking out about inequalities and injustice to women. She shared her personal experience as a survivor of childhood sexual assault during #MeToo:
“First time I can remember being sexually assaulted I was 9 years old…I told no one and lived with the shame and guilt thinking all along that I, a 9-year-old child, was somehow responsible for the actions of a grown man,” America told Variety.
She also went on to show solidarity with leaders and activists during the launch of the Time’s Up Movement, an initiative that aims to address issues related to sexual harassment in the workplace and the need for more advocacy for women. Several Hollywood leaders and celebrities like America and Shonda Rhimes committed to the movement’s mission in solidarity.
According to InStyle, America was one of the “first women in Hollywood who listened when 700,000 blue-collar women wrote an open letter offering support for those who’ve publicly shared their sexual harassment stories.”
In 2019, America helped mobilize and lead a group of actors including Eva, Kerry Washington, and others to meet with immigrant lawyers and migrant families seeking asylum.
America was deeply concerned about the Trump Administration policies and treatment of refugees. She told NBC News that the visit to the shelter in Tijuana was an opportunity to educate others on important issues.
She referenced being a mom and holding her newborn just the previous year, and thinking about the lack of running water or clean food that many refugees who are trying to seek asylum are denied: “How dire would my situation have to be to grab this brand new child and walk for a month, with no access to clean water and food, not knowing what I would meet along the way, to try and seek asylum and safety and refuge because my situation was so bad?” America questioned.
Over the years, America has become an empowering force in the Latina community. She’s been a much-needed voice speaking out about issues that concern women.
The Future of ‘She Se Puede’
Both America and Eva have made an impact speaking out about important issues affecting our communities, while empowering Latinas to tap into their inner strength and power.
The launch of She Se Puede comes at a critical time in the wake of important movements amplifying the impact of women, particularly Latinas.
As prominent Latina women with immense influence, both Eva and America are committed to continuing to uplift the voices of Latina women both online and offline.
She Se Puede continues to be a hopeful and optimistic digital community platform that addresses Latinas’ unique needs and provides ongoing support and resources to empower change.
“She Se Puede is the destination for the modern Latina who wants to level up her life. We celebrate our diverse experiences and dreams, and provide the tools we need to own our power. She Se Puede is a community for Latinas, by Latinas.”
Even for celebrated Latinx performers like John Leguizamo, finding success in the entertainment industry is a hard-fought and seemingly never-ending battle. But as a newcomer to the business, Leguizamo recalls being galvanized by the struggle into telling his own stories.
“I just kept getting put into these really negative roles that I felt I was contributing to the downgrade of the Latinx image in the media,” he tells Variety. “I wanted to write my own stuff, so I could portray my people the way I saw them and felt them.” And that’s exactly what the Leguizamo did. His 1991 off-Broadway production of “Mambo Mouth” was a hit. Despite being forced to perform in the hallway of the theater, the show brought in big names including Arthur Miller, Al Pacino and John F. Kennedy Jr.
“All of a sudden I felt like I have something to offer,” Leguizamo says. “I have something that white America, Black America, that Latin America wants. This became the impetus of my whole life.”
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Variety brought together prominent Latinx creatives who have all had to carve their own path on the road of success in Hollywood. Cristela Alonzo, Benjamin Bratt, Stephanie Beatriz, Julio Torres and Leguizamo joined Variety’s film awards editor Clayton Davis for a “#Represent” roundtable discussion looking to learn what each individual’s definition of career prosperity is, and what that looks like moving forward for Latinx creators and artists in the future.
Torres, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer who has made both a comedy special and series with HBO, says he uses the word “success” very cautiously. “I have that immigrant thing where I feel like it can go away any second,” he explains. But he reveals that a highlight of his career, thus far, has been developing his standup special “My Favorite Shapes,” which prominently features a rotating selection of objects to which he has a special connection.
“One of my happiest moments was going to the warehouse where this conveyor belt was being made for this show. I thought like, ‘Oh my God, how’d I trick HBO into greenlighting this thing?’” he says. “I feel like I fooled enough people into investing in me.”
Alonzo first felt like a success when she signed a deal with ABC to develop her own show. “I was writing for other Latinos and I could actually control the authenticity,” she explains.
“Cristela” ran for one 22-episode season on the network between 2014 and 2015 before its cancellation. The show debuted alongside “Black-ish” and the now-canceled “Fresh Off the Boat” — both series that have accumulated well over 100 episodes to date. Making the case that representation must extend behind the scenes and into the executive suite, Alonzo says that “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Black-ish” had the benefit of having Black and Asian executives in their corners, something her show lacked.
“There were no Latino executives or anybody at that network [that worked on ‘Cristela’]. I had to fight with them all the time to explain my existence,” Alonzo says. “If my story didn’t fit their version of what Latino life is, it was inauthentic to them.”
Advocating for authenticity has long been a priority for the actor and comedian, who says her own creative ambitions were born out of a desire to push beyond stereotypes. Alonzo started doing stand-up comedy because she “wanted to write the words” she was going to say. “I was sick and tired of playing the maid… Every audition, the accent got thicker and thicker,” she recalls, adding that she even went so far as to refuse auditions for those roles, a move her agent advised against.
Sunny Hostin will never forget where she came from. Before the Emmy Award-winning co-host joined the cast of The View in 2016, she was a senior legal correspondent for ABC News, a legal analyst for CNN and before that a federal prosecutor.
“I’m a lawyer first,” says Hostin, an active member of the National Black Prosecutors Association. As a lawyer, advocacy—especially for underserved youth of color—has always been a big priority. “The 15-year-old kid who got arrested for marijuana possession, does that have to be a felony?” asks Hostin. “Or can that be a diversion program where he gets drug treatment or he gets community service and it gets wiped off his record?”
As a television host and correspondent, she’s sought to advocate for social justice issues. But when it came to systemic racism, it didn’t occur to Hostin until recently that her testimony could expose and, hopefully, help correct it. That realization informed the basis of her new book, I Am These Truths, a detailed account of her journey from the housing projects of the South Bronx to her seat on The View.
Hostin, a proud “Afro-Latina” woman, as she calls herself, hasn’t always embraced her multicultural roots. Born in 1968 to a Puerto Rican mother and a Black father, she spent much of her life feeling ostracized for checking more than one box. “I grew up living in the grey,” she says. “I was otherized.”
The memoir, published in English and Spanish at the suggestion of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, was published in September. It was originally slated to be one of two books released by Hostin this year. But the other, Summer on the Bluffs, her debut novelabout the Black beach community of Martha’s Vineyard, was postponed until 2021. In light of heightened police brutality and racial injustice, Hostin believed releasing her memoir was more important.
“When you’re telling a story, you have to humanize it; people need testimony,” says Hostin. “I thought, ‘I’ll be the face of this story.’” It wasn’t an easy feat for a journalist used to telling others’ stories. But the book is filled with honest, unfiltered stories, including one about her parents’ experience with housing discrimination.
The book is, in many ways, a risk for Hostin, who exposes a great deal about the discrimination she’s faced as a public-facing media professional, even at her current employer, Disney. Requests to remove such content didn’t hold her back. Hostin’s experiences not receiving her own dressing room like other hosts, being told to “stay in her lane” when it came to coverage and getting paid less than her white colleagues with fewer credentials all made it into the memoir. “I think it’s important to call out that kind of behavior,” Hostin says. “Whether it was intentional or not.”
Gymnast Laurie Hernandez’s living room is decorated with many photographs. But two are the most special—one shows her parents praying before her performance at the 2016 Olympics and the other is of them hugging her afterwards.
“I love those photos,” Hernandez told NBC News. “Going to the Olympics, competing and then looking into the crowd and seeing my parents, that was one of the sweetest things I could possibly ever have witnessed…It’s just a big reminder as to how much support my parents have given me in all of this.”
Her Puerto Rican parents, Wanda and Anthony Hernandez, were watching their then-teenage daughter make history as the first Latina gymnast to represent the United States at the Olympics since 2004 — while also bringing home some medals. Hernandez won silver on the balance beam and gold on the team event alongside fellow USA gymnasts, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, and Madison Kocian.
“There was so much representation, from Black women to white women, a Hispanic girl, so I think that was a really important thing for just the globe to see,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said her fans will learn more about how she trains during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as “how I was raised and who my parents are” in the new Peacock Original documentary series “True Colors,” starring her and other Hispanic trailblazers, such as the actor Mario Lopez, the former professional baseball player Alex Rodriguez and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others.
“You’ll be able to get a really good feel as to why I am the way I am and why my siblings are the way we are,” Hernandez, who’s currently training for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, said. “It’s been, definitely, a crazy ride. I’m only 20 and I feel like I’ve lived three lives already.”
Hernandez remembers being very passionate about the sport since a very young age. When she was still just a little girl training in New Jersey, she looked at her parents and said: “Hey, like I want to go to the Olympics. … I have all these crazy dreams.”
“They could have very easily been like, ‘You’re a child. You came out of the womb nine years ago, maybe let’s try something else.’ But they didn’t. Instead, they hit me with the ‘well, if this is what you want, then how can we help you?'” Hernandez recalled.
At the 2016 Olympics, her parents were praying “that I don’t wipe out,” while competing, she said.
“I didn’t realize it until after Rio. We had all sat down away from cameras and talked about it. And they were like, we really questioned if we were being good parents by letting you stay in it because you’re getting hurt over and over again, which is part of the sport,” Hernandez said. “But after getting surgery in 2014, they saw how determined I was and they were like, ‘OK, we can’t pull that away from her.'”
When Luis Miranda arrived in New York City from Puerto Rico in the 1970s, he looked like many young students of his time, with his jeans and shaggy hair. In the Big Apple, though, he realized that not everyone wanted people like him. Instead of culture shock, he experienced discrimination. “It didn’t matter if you were a janitor or a PhD student,” Miranda recalled, “what they saw was Puerto Rican, some brown person, some brown kid. Not a real American.”
Miranda went on to become an activist, a government official, a political consultant, and a loving father to three children—including his son, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the Broadway smash, “Hamilton.” Now the older Miranda, who has long been a behind-the-scenes player in Democratic politics, is in the spotlight in a new documentary, “Siempre, Luis,” debuting October 6 on HBO and HBO Max.
A camera crew spent a year following Miranda around, capturing his family life, political work, heath issues and humanitarian efforts. Watching the film, Miranda told NBC News, was an emotional experience for him.
“What comes to mind is how many great people I have met and known throughout my life; people who either convinced me that I had to join their fight, or I convinced that they had to join me, and together we have moved forward,” he said. “It was a reminder of how many people have helped me, (and) that I didn’t have time to thank them all.”
Luis A. Miranda Jr., 66, was born in the town of Vega Alta in Puerto Rico. A sharp student, he headed for New York City in the 1970s to continue his graduate work, inspired by—of all things—the character played by Debbie Reynolds in the 1964 movie musical, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”
In Nueva York, Miranda became an advocate for the city’s Latino residents, who were then predominantly Puerto Rican. By the 1980s, Miranda was a special advisor to Mayor Ed Koch, eventually becoming the Director of the Mayor’s Office for Hispanic Affairs.
In 1990, Miranda founded the non-profit Hispanic Federation, and has also been a key Democratic political consultant, working on U.S. Senate campaigns including Hillary Clinton’s as well as Rep. Adriano Espaillat’s, D-NY, who became the first Dominican American in the U.S. Congress.
Miranda has been a champion of his son’s ambitions as well. When a young, struggling Lin-Manuel received an offer for a full-time teaching job, his father advised him to follow his dreams instead. He helped promote his son’s off-Broadway musical “In The Heights” until it became successful and transferred to Broadway.
In fact, the younger Miranda credits his Dad as being part of his inspiration for “Hamilton”—Founding Father Alexander Hamilton also arrived in New York from the Caribbean—he was from the island of Nevis. “When I was playing him, I was just playing my father,” said Lin-Manuel.
“Siempre, Luis” highlights the devastating impact that Hurricane Maria had on Puerto Rico in 2017, and in the documentary, Miranda cries as he recalled the destruction. “For me, Puerto Rico is this untouchable, perfect place,” he says in the film, “that all of a sudden, doesn’t exist anymore.” A central focus of the film is the lengthy process, that was not without controversy, by which Miranda and Lin-Manuel bring a production of “Hamilton” to the island as a way of raising funds for Puerto Rico’s recovery.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, about 25% of the United States’ children are a part of the Latinx community, yet they are the most underrepresented ethnic group in children’s books.
In a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, they found that only 5% of the thousands of children’s books available had Latinx main characters. This is not only odd in terms of the importance of representation and racial equality, but economically as Latinx community makes up for about $1.5 trillion of the United States’ buying power.
One of the main beliefs for this underrepresentation appears to come from the publishing industry itself. Over 70% of publishers are Caucasian and as a result, create stories that are more familiar to their own stories or are out of touch with the Latinx community.
To combat this underrepresentation, twelve authors of the Latinx community have come together to form LatinxPitch, an organization dedicated to creating proper Latinx representation in literature and increasing the number of Latinx people in the industry. Beginning on September 15th, the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, the group invited Latinx authors to use their Twitter platform to pitch ideas for children’s and young adult stories of varying genres. At the same time, LatinxPitch also invited Latinx publishers and agents to browse the pitches in search for new clients to represent. The work being done through LatinxPitch is not only working to create more representation, but is providing Latinx people a place to receive work, network, and make their ideas known.
The LatinxPitch is made up of twelve founding members: Mariana Llanos, Jorge Lacera, Sara Fajardo, Cynthia Harmony, Ana Siqueira, Mona Alvarado Frazier, Ernesto Cisneros, Nydia Armendia, Darlene P. Campos, Stephen Briseño, Denise Adusei, and Tatiana Gardel.
Zigzag. That’s the advice Georgia Sandoval, a high-performance architect at Intel, has for STEM students.
“You think there’s only one path for you and if you fail, everything’s going to fall apart,” recalls Sandoval, 28. That’s when you learn to zigzag.
Sandoval bases that insight on her own story. “If you don’t get an internship, then try for a research opportunity,” she says. “If one path doesn’t work, try another until you get where you want to be. Nobody has a linear path in life.”
In high school in Tuba City, Arizona, Sandoval was often the only girl in math classes. Because she was shy, she never applied for extracurricular programs. “It was a lack of confidence,” she explains. “I didn’t think I’d get in any, so why bother?”
Things didn’t click until she was a junior at Arizona State University and took a coding class. “I really loved it,” she says. A year later, she graduated with a degree in computational mathematics.
Today, after stints at Boeing and Raytheon, she’s at Intel helping create the world’s first exascale computer. Able to perform a quintillion floating-point computations per second, this new breed of ultra-supercomputer will help scientists model climate change, map the brain, and conduct advanced physics research.
Sandoval’s job involves making performance projections, a role that entails far more than crunching numbers. “We have brainstorming meetings throughout the day on how we’re going to solve the next problem,” she says, and collaborates with scientists from multiple national labs, who send her bundles of their code to evaluate.
Her Navajo heritage has guided and strengthened Sandoval along her path, which has not always been easy. She was single mother in college who had to work her way from tribal college to community college and finally to Arizona State University. Being a role model for her child inspired her to finish her college degree.
“My parents continue to say, remember who you are, and remember who your people are, so you’re grounded,” says Sandoval.
She has a special fondness for her masani (her mother’s mother) who told her, “The way to succeed in this new world of technology is to use your brain, study, and always walk on dirt to remember where you came from.” Sandoval offers that advice to today’s students: “Find the balance between culture and modern society, without sacrificing your core identity.” Above all, she wants students to remember they’re not alone. “In college I was pushed to network, even when I didn’t want to,” she recalls. “But I made sure to be myself. People can see when you’re faking it. Explore new areas — there are so many opportunities out there.”
Succeeding in college networking was a big step from her days as a shy high school student. She wishes that back then she had learned an important lesson. “It is okay to admit you need help, to admit you’re scared,” she explains. “The most important thing is to talk to someone, to ask for help — to figure out what you want and build your confidence.”
Georgia Sandoval has come a long way. “I was always the quiet girl in the corner,” she says. “I’m far from that now.”