Behind the scenes, Latinx artists and writers have helped create some of the most iconic comic book characters. But there is still a lack of on-screen representation when it comes to the Latinx community and the “big two,” aka Marvel and DC.
“Combined, there are possibly close to 30,000 characters, heroes and villains at both Marvel and DC,” Edgardo Miranda-Rodrigeuz, creator of the graphic novel La Borinqueña, told Teen Vogue in 2019. “Of that, there probably are about 3% that are Latinx.”
The first Latinx superhero, White Tiger, was introduced by Marvel in 1975 — almost 40 years after the first superhero, The Phantom, was ever created.
While Latinx readers have seen themselves in independent graphic novels and comics, it’s about time for Latinx leads to star in mainstream superhero films — and the lineup for 2022’s upcoming releases promises a lot more Latinx representation.
Who’s been cast in upcoming Latinx superhero roles?
Sasha Calle has been cast in the feature role of Supergirl, who will debut in DC Universe’s The Flash in November 2022. Calle is a Colombian actress and is the first Latina Supergirl ever. She beat out over 425 actresses for the role.
Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Life.
Assemble a collection of cons, including Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Ratcatcher 2, King Shark and everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn. Then arm them heavily and drop them on a remote, enemy-infused island for a search-and-destroy mission led by Colonel Rick Flag.
If anyone’s laying down bets, the smart money is against them.
As it turns out, Ben Affleck created even more goodwill with Jennifer Lopez after recently attending her latest concert.
A source tells E! News that Ben “really wanted to be there” to watch J.Lo at the Global Citizen Live event in New York City on Saturday, Sept. 25, and that the Hustlers star appreciated him making it happen.
“She’s been working hard, and it meant a lot to her to have him there,” the insider shares. “She was excited to spend the weekend with him. They went to dinner after the show and had some fun.”
The insider points out that the couple has been “soaking up every last minute together” before they head to different locations for work in the coming week. Ben will soon be hunkering down in Austin, while Jen sets up shop in Vancouver.
“They had a great time and loved spending the weekend together,” the individual continued. “They will make every effort they can to come out and support the other. Ben was very impressed with Jennifer’s show and loves watching her perform.”
According to a source, Ben also spent time with his kids—Violet, 15, Seraphina, 12, and Samuel, 9—before flying to New York.
Ben Affleck is truly the biggest Jennifer Lopez fan.
On Saturday, Sept. 25, the actor was on hand to support his girlfriend at the Global Citizen Live event in New York City, which marked her first gig since they confirmed their rekindled romance.
The singer performed songs such as her hit “Jenny From the Block”—whose 2002 music video stars Ben, as well “I’m Real and “Ain’t It Funny” with Ja Rule and “All I Have” with LL Cool J. Offstage, Jennifer, 52, and Ben, 49, were seen embracing and holding hands.
A day later, the two were seen smiling and walking together in a park in the city.
J.Lo last performed music at the VAX Live event in Los Angeles on May 2, where Ben appeared separately onstage. After that concert, the two vacationed together in Montana, fueling rumors of a rekindled romance. The couple, who dated in the early ’00s and used to be engaged before their 2004 breakup, confirmed in July they were officially back together with a sizzling photo on J.Lo’s Instagram that was taken during a trip to the South of France.
Initially, Jordan Brand sought out reggaeton artist J Balvin as a partner in a series of Hispanic Heritage Month campaigns, with photographs of him in upcoming products and key releases.
But J Balvin didn’t think the brand was thinking big enough.
After all, he was the first Latin artist to perform on the main stage of Coachella. First Latino artist to headline the Lollapalooza festival. First urban Latino artist to surpass a billion views on YouTube. Most nominated artist in a single year for his 13 nominations at the Latin Grammys in 2020. A regular in the front row at fashion week.
“Showing them the fact how global our presence is, our numbers and the reach we have,” he said in an interview with The Undefeated and ESPN Deportes for Hispanic Heritage Month. “It took a year to explain, that it was going to be a statement to have me on it.”
So finally he went straight to His Airness.
The Colombian artist was in Paris for fashion week in 2019 at the same time basketball legend Michael Jordan was in town for the brand’s annual Quai 54 streetball event. A marketing executive made the connection and the two men were able to meet, tucked away in an exclusive lounge, just as midnight struck. Jordan — cigar in hand — was joined by his wife Yvette Prieto. Of Cuban descent, she had long enjoyed J Balvin’s music and even attended his concerts.
The group talked for nearly four hours, trading stories of their upbringings, their work ethic and their drive to the top of their respective crafts. J Balvin told Jordan about landing in Oklahoma as a high school exchange student, sharpening his English and later linking with cousins in New York for his first taste of American culture. It was there, in the early 2000s, that he’d find his love for sneakers, getting his first pair of Air Force 1s just as Nelly’s instant classic celebrating the sneaker had been released, and taking in the style of New York’s streetwear scene.
And he described the influence of Latin music and the impact he could have on Jordan’s brand.
No matter what time it happened to be some 5,000 miles away in Beaverton, Oregon, Jordan texted his brand execs: “We’re giving J Balvin a shoe.”
“I was really blessed to close the deal with Michael Jordan by himself,” J Balvin says now. “It’s a real blessing.”
After a process nearly three years in the making, his official Air Jordan 1 collaboration — he likes to call ’em the “Air Balvins” — was released in December 2020, the first Latin artist to launch his own Jordan sneaker.
It was a dream come to life for the longtime sneakerhead and Jordan Brand fan. Not long after he had beaten out Drake in 2018 as the world’s most-streamed artist on Spotify, with nearly 50 million monthly listeners, he told an audience in New York what he was aiming for.
“I want to have sneakers with my name,” he said at a YouTube TV event. “I want to do something with Jordan. … Have you ever seen a Latino collaboration with Jordan or Nike? Never. So we gotta change the game, and make it global. I’m not going to do sneakers for Latinos. I want to make the J Balvin collab with Nike or Jordan, [available] to the world — because they’re ready.”
Like many of his dreams and goals, which he’s jotted down and dated in a detailed notepad over the years, he was looking to speak his aspiration into existence.
Around the same time, Jordan Brand had also taken an interest in J Balvin, whose chart-topping success was equally matched by his growing sense of style, his front-row fashion week visibility and his global influence rooted in promoting a positive, fun and vibrant expression of his native Colombia.
“We come from a beautiful country and a beautiful city, but it used to be also known for being one of the most dangerous cities on the planet,” he said. “Medellin was the most dangerous city on the planet 40 years ago. It’s like, how can we turn the darkness into light?”
His music has helped make that turn, with record-setting streaming numbers, an extensive collection of awards show trophies and sold-out live dates around the globe. Yet still, brands were reluctant to fully embrace him as a collaborative partner.
The list of musicians to receive their own Air Jordan is brief. While the brand has made friends and family special editions of its retro models for multiple artists, before J Balvin, only Eminem, Justin Timberlake, Travis Scott and Drake had released their own Jordan shoes to the public.
“I always dreamed to have my Jordan 1. I was born in ’85, that’s when they were officially released,” J Balvin said. “It’s iconic. When you think about Jordan, you think about Jordan 1, period.”
From the white and red “Chicago” colorway to the black and royal blue original execution, J Balvin has been buying up original 1985 pairs in his size 9 in recent years. He’s also been spotted in every colorway of the Off-White editions by Virgil Abloh and the brand’s more recent remixes on the classic silhouette.
Click here to read the full article on The Undefeated.
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.
Click here to read the full article on Now This Is News.
Jennifer Lopez is still giving back to the block that raised her.
The star made an appearance in New York City to support Latina small business owners in her hometown of the Bronx of Sunday, which comes as the first part of a new philanthropy push for Lopez.
The Hustlers actress, 52, stopped by indie bookstore The Lit. Bar alongside Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon and Isabella Guzman, the administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, and announced a new partnership with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses meant to help elevate and support Latina entrepreneurs.
While there, the trio spoke with the store’s founder Noelle Santos and other Latina business owners about growing their businesses and how they’ve navigated the pandemic, just in time for National Hispanic Heritage Month, which kicks off this week.
Lopez’s new partnership with Goldman Sachs will work to recruit more Latina entrepreneurs to 10,000 Small Businesses, a program that offers support and opportunities to help owners grow their companies and create new jobs.
It’s the first initiative for the “On the Floor” singer under an upcoming philanthropy push called Limitless Labs.
Photos and video published by TMZ show that Lopez — who made a surprise appearance at the MTV VMAs hours later as a presenter — was accompanied to the event by boyfriend Ben Affleck, with whom she recently rekindled her romance nearly 18 years after they called off their engagement.
When music artists were asked who they were looking forward to seeing during the red carpet pre-show for the 2019 MTV VMAs, one name kept coming up again and again: Rosalía.
And well, the Spanish singer lived up to all the hype with a show-stopping performance of her hits “A ningún hombre,” “Yo x Ti, Tu x Mi,” and “Aute Cuture.”
But it wasn’t just her soaring voice or impressive dance moves that caught everyone’s attention — her stiletto nails were also worthy of applause.
It was impossible to miss Rosalía’s studded black manicure as she clutched the microphone during her performance and held her trophies for Best Latin Video and Best Choreography at the end of the night.
The extra-long, bedazzled manicure was the perfect addition to her head-to-toe black ensemble with silver detailing.
If you’re not familiar with Rosalía, statement nails are her signature.
Just one glimpse at her music videos or past performances, and you’ll see her with the most elaborate manicure designs — like the golden, rose-adorned claws she wore for the “Aute Cuture” music video.
Statement nails were everywhere at the MTV VMAs: Lizzo wore a shimmering grape look that complemented her bright red dress, and Cardi B opted for long, gold-dusted nails.
All the effort the stars put into the small details didn’t go unnoticed, as one fan tweeted with a heart-eye emoji: “The nails tonight.”
Click here to read the full article on Refinery29.
Camila Cabello is setting the record straight when it comes to her opinion of society’s beauty standards and how she’s not allowing them to control her.
On The Late Late Show with James Corden, the 24-year-old singer recalled a recent body-shaming incident where she explained that she was secretly photographed by paparazzi while going on a run in West Hollywood, Calif. “I had my belly out, I didn’t know anybody was taking pictures of me,” she said. But once she saw photos of her body making the rounds in tabloids, she began to have “anxious thoughts” about having her stomach exposed and not “tucking in” — until she made the decision to speak to the photos directly and control how they were being perceived.
“I was like, you know what, this is normal. It’s like my weight is gonna go up and down, also we have these crazy beauty standards from freakin’ Instagram of people that are photoshopped or if they’re not photoshopped, it’s not every woman’s body,” Cabello said. “And I was just like, you know let me get on TikTok and just talk about this.”
The Cinderella actress posted a video captioned “I luv my body” to her TikTok on July 16 speaking to her 12 million followers about how she was “existing like a normal person” while photos were being taken of her.
“And I talk about in the video like, we’re real women and we have curves and we have cellulite and we have fat. And it’s just like a lot to just have these crazy, unrealistic standards that make us feel bad about ourselves and make us feel like in order to go out I have to hide my body or put on a big T-shirt,” Cabello explained to Corden. “It’s like, why should I have to do that? Why can’t I just like be me?”
By the next day, Cabello was made aware of the impact that the video had made.
“I got so many women coming up to me being like, ‘Woah, that so resonated with me,’” she shared. “These standards are ridiculous and so toxic. I just feel so much more confident now, honestly, after I posted that video because I feel like I just kind of controlled the narrative on it.”
Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Life.
Camila Cabello gave a whole new meaning to a princess gown at last night’s premiere of Amazon Studios’ “Cinderella.”
Taking the red carpet by storm at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, the film’s leading lady wowed in an edgier-than-expected look. The outfit credits come courtesy of celeb stylist duo Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn, who tapped Oscar de la Renta for Cabello’s wow-worthy evening dress.
The design featured a semi-sheer bodice coated in glittering metallic leafing with a contrasting black high-low puffed skirt.
To contrast the already edgy twist on Cinderella’s style, the “Havana” singer opted against glass slippers or classic pumps and instead broke out a sleek set of boots. The tall leather silhouette skimmed the musician’s thigh for an added level of boldness, all in a Casadei design.
Similar silhouettes from the footwear label clock in at almost 6 inches in heel height and retail for over $1,600 at Farfetch.
Knee-high and thigh-high boots are the must-have boot silhouettes this season. From leather twists on the trend to edgy lace-up styles, you can find the taller shoes on everyone from Ciara to Lily Collins and Gwen Stefani amongst other major names. In colder temperatures, the silhouettes offer coverage to counter skirts, dresses and shorts as well as provides an extra layer to any leggings or jeans look.
As for Camila Cabello’s own style, the Fifth Harmony alumna tends to include footwear styles from a wide range of brands — think everything from Converse to Naturalizer to Ivy Park x Adidas to Christian Louboutin. When it comes to red carpet duds, the former X-Factor star prefers designs from Zuhair Murad, Versace and Givenchy amongst other major labels.
It may come as a surprise that radio personality Geena the Latina — formally Geena Aguilar — never pictured herself on the air. If it wasn’t for a morning show audition 15 years ago that brought her to the city she considered a second home, San Diego might have missed out on one of the market’s more popular radio hosts.
While her path began as an intern at a Los Angeles radio station in college, she was working as a sales associate for a television station after college, when her two brothers were shot and killed within five months of each other.
“After that, I stopped working altogether for a year because I was so depressed. My old boss from the radio station called me after that year and told me to come back to the station. He said I could work as little or as much as I wanted. He just wanted to get me out of the house,” she says. “I am forever thankful to him for that.”
Aguilar threw herself into her work, befriending colleagues, working late hours and pitching in to help out and learn any aspect of the job that needed an extra pair of hands. Although she was initially resistant to the spotlight that came with the job, it’s helped her realize that her voice matters, and she’s used it to help others.
One of those ways is through her Girls Empowerment Conference with the Positive Movement Foundation. The foundation is a San Diego nonprofit that works with schools and other organizations to provide educational tools, empowerment events, and other resources to vulnerable children. They’re hosting their “Cocktails for a Cause” fundraiser 6 to 10 p.m. today at 1899 McKee St., San Diego. The Girls Empowerment Conference is one of the beneficiaries of the event.
Aguilar is an on-air personality at Channel 933, co-host of “The Geena the Latina and Frankie V Morning Show,” and lives in the East Village section of downtown San Diego. She took some time to talk about her radio career, the Girls Empowerment Conference, and finding her voice.
Q: Most of us who listen to the radio know you as Geena the Latina on Channel 93.3. What led you to choose a career in radio?
A: When I started out as an intern at 102.7 KIIS FM in Los Angeles during college, I was eventually hired in the promotions department, and continued working there throughout college. I never wanted to be on the air; I worked there because it was fun and all of my friends worked there. I always wanted to work in the entertainment industry, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I thought of myself as more of a behind-the-scenes person.
[After the deaths of her brothers] I started working at the radio station again and completely threw myself into everything I could do there, probably just to keep myself busy. I’d stay at the station all day long, talking to people, helping whoever needed help, or sitting in on show meetings. I became the street reporter for the station and worked red carpet events, which eventually led to morning shows asking me to audition. I didn’t want to audition because I still didn’t think that being on the air could be a career, but one of those auditions was for a morning show in San Diego and I just loved San Diego. I grew up visiting the city, all of my friends had attended college here, and I’d already felt like San Diego was a second home. I got the job 15 years ago and I’ve been here ever since!
After being on Channel 933 for a year, I wanted to quit because I couldn’t handle all of the negative comments, messages, and emails. I hated the spotlight (and still don’t love it), but one morning, I shared the story about what happened to my brothers, and the response was overwhelmingly supportive. People were saying how much my story touched them, helped them, or how they related to me because of it. I finally realized that maybe I was supposed to be on the radio. If people listened to me when I had something serious to say, then I could put up with all of that other stuff. I realized that it was important to have a voice about things that mattered, and there was no bigger platform than on one of the biggest radio stations in San Diego, talking to a million people a week.
Q: Can you tell us about how you came to be known on air as “Geena the Latina,” and what it means to you to represent this part of your identity and culture?
A: When I first started, they were trying to think of a catchy name for me. At the time, there weren’t many Latinos on the radio, if any. They wanted a name that captured who I was, but also communicated that I was Latin. One day, one of the on-air DJs started calling me “Geena the Latina” and it stuck. I like the name, I think it defines who I am, and I am good with that. I am American first, of Latin descent, and my family is Mexican, but I was raised here in the U.S. We speak both English and Spanish, we grew up eating Mexican food and going to low-rider car shows, and my Spanish could be a lot better, but that’s also a product of us growing up with everything American. We grew up heavily immersed in the Mexican American culture, but also grew up very American. We’re an interesting mix of Latino that I feel represents a lot of people who were raised the same way, here in the U.S. We are proud of our Latin/Mexican roots and heritage, but are also proud to be American. I’m part of a generation that grew up with both cultures that shaped us to become who we are, and I’m proud of that.
What I love about downtown San Diego …
I love that it’s right in the middle of downtown San Diego and Little Italy. It’s a five-minute ride either way. Depending on what I feel like doing, everything is pretty accessible. I also love that I’m so close to North Park, as I frequent that neighborhood almost daily. I love having visitors and them being able to be so close to so much to do! Downtown, the harbor, Little Italy, Barrio Logan—I’m close to everything.
Q: Tell us about your Girls Empowerment Conference.
A: I’d been a keynote speaker at conferences for girls at both Mount Miguel High School and at the University of San Diego. After speaking at both conferences, I thought about combining them in order to maximize resources and to provide a massive conference for teen girls from all over San Diego. I spoke to the organizers of both conferences, and we started our Girls Empowerment Conference in 2017. The girls are provided with food throughout the day, along with empowering activities, speakers, performances, and interactive workshops.
During the smaller breakout sessions with a moderator, girls are able to comfortably talk about the issues affecting their lives, like body image, confidence, or life at home. Empowerment groups from different high schools perform spoken word and put together empowering videos that are played during the day. The girls from these high school empowerment groups are highly involved with everything from the topics of the conference to the themes, speakers, and more. We really try to hear them out and listen to what they say they want and need, as we plan the conference. It’s a fully interactive, immersive day, specifically geared to teen girls from ninth through 12th grades, and the costs of admission and transportation are covered at no cost to the girls.
Q: Why was this conference something you wanted to create?
A: We wanted to provide resources and outlets for teen girls who probably wouldn’t be able to have access to them otherwise. We wanted to uplift girls and give them examples of what they can become if they work hard and stay motivated. We wanted to provide a safe place for them to learn, grow, and have fun, and we ultimately wanted to inspire these girls to be the best that they can be. We wanted to allow them to see examples of others who were in their position once, and to see how far those women have come.
Q: What does the idea of “empowerment” mean to you, personally?
A: Empowerment is a state of being. It’s a state of feeling completely comfortable with who you are and what you believe in; of feeling confident that you can do whatever it is you want to do; of being confident in who you are and what you bring to the table; of knowing that your contribution to this world is important; and it’s a state of knowing that anything is achievable when you put your mind to it and dedicate yourself to making it happen. Empowerment gives you the feeling that nothing is unattainable.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: Don’t take things personally. So many times, we won’t pursue our goals or dreams because someone told us we couldn’t, or because we got turned down or rejected. I think never taking things personally — whether it be a rejection or something said about us — allows us to not be hindered by things we can’t control. All you can do is be you, be a good person, work hard, and everything will happen as it’s supposed to happen.
Click here to read the full article on the San Diego Tribune.
It seems like everyone is talking about “Yellowstone,” Paramount Network’s hit series.
John Dutton. Beth. Kaycee. Rip Wheeler. And Chief Thomas Rainwater, played by renowned actor Gil Birmingham.
It’s the role of a lifetime. And an important one.
“I couldn’t be happier that there’s a Native American that’s portrayed in an educated and powerful way.
That’s more realistic of what our community does have to offer,” Birmingham has stated.
Birmingham said there are more opportunities than ever for Native-Americans to play genuine, complex characters, and that Hollywood is doing a much better job of avoiding stereotypes. What is particularly intriguing about playing Rainwater, he said, is that the chief of a reservation near the Dutton ranch in Montana is a contemporary character. “Yellowstone” is not a period piece.
Birmingham said the show’s creator, Taylor Sheridan, deserves plenty of credit. “I knew Taylor would have a sensitivity with the Native world because he had a lot of interaction with them in his younger life,” he said.
A Body of Talent
Gil Birmingham, of Comanche ancestry, was born in San Antonio, Texas. His family moved frequently during his childhood because of his father’s career in the military. He learned to play the guitar at an early age and considers music his first love.
After obtaining a bachelor of science degree from the University of Southern California, he worked as a petrochemical engineer. He knew that wasn’t what he wanted to do long-term; in fact, he was pursuing a side-career in bodybuilding.
That’s how he was discovered. A talent scout pegged him for a Diana Ross music video. The Motown icon had hit the charts once again, this time with “Muscles.”
Next was a gig at Universal Studios, where he played Conan on the theme park’s newest attraction: “The Adventures of Conan: A Sword and Sorcery Spectacular.”
Birmingham made his television debut on an episode of the series “Riptide.” By 2002, he had a recurring role as the character Oz in the medical drama “Body & Soul,” starring Peter Strauss. In 2005, he was cast as the older Dogstar in the Steven Spielberg six-part miniseries “Into the West.”
He has appeared in a number of television series, including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Veronica Mars,” “10 Items or Less,” “Nip/Tuck,” “Castle,” “The Mentalist,” “House of Cards” and the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” He has also had roles in several television films.
In 2008, Birmingham landed the role of Billy Black in “The Twilight Saga” film series. It’s what he was most famous for before “Yellowstone.” Now, the two might be neck-and-neck.
“Yellowstone,” which is set to start its fourth season in the fall, centers on the Dutton family, most notably, no-nonsense patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner). The sixth-generation homesteader and devoted father must juggle running the largest contiguous ranch in the United States and dealing with a family full of problems. Land developers, an energy company and a tribal reservation have eyes on a massive swath of Dutton’s land.
Birmingham’s Thomas Rainwater is a complicated man. He was not raised on a reservation and believed he was of Mexican descent until he was 18 and saw his adoption papers. That was, obviously, pivotal for him. He earned a master of businesses administration from Harvard. He is now chairman of the Confederate Tribes of Broken Rock. He is usually the smartest guy in the room.
And he wants Dutton’s land or, as he bluntly states in the show, he wants to take back what rightfully belongs to the tribes, meaning he wants to expand the Broken Rock Reservation and keep outsiders as far away as possible.
His relationship with Costner’s John Dutton makes for must-watch TV. On one hand, the two have little in common. Rainwater is Native American. Dutton is White. Rainwater and his tribes have, over the centuries, been robbed of land, resources, wealth.
Dutton is a product of generational wealth and, yes, hard work too.
On the other hand, they’re both shrewd, true to their causes, even respectful. And they’re both unflappable; it’s hard to know what they’re going to do until they do it.
“I think Taylor so brilliantly established a character that’s empowered with education, and a means by which he can operate within the guidelines of a system that’s been structured, and empowered that character, to be able to operate and reclaim the resources that have belonged to him for centuries,” Birmingham said.
It takes a great actor to play a worthy foe of the legendary Costner, but Birmingham is pulling it off.
Here are two of his more memorable statements to John Dutton, astensions between the two rise:
— “Nothing we say here is going to change our goals. Our paths will always collide. We fight. One of us will win. But you’ve been a good enemy, John. A fair enemy”;
— “I will erase you from the future… see, I’m the opposite of progress, John. I’m the past catching up to you.”
“Yellowstone’s” Facebook page has a thread that starts with the question, “What is your favorite Thomas Rainwater moment from Season 3?
Wrote Dianne Montgomery Hocut: “I’ve enjoyed watching Thomas Rainwater scene where he is in full ceremonial headgear and dress. He has achieved honor, wisdom and power of many. Just fits him!”
Birmingham, who recently turned 68, continues to be a steadfast advocate of Native American rights. In a case, perhaps, of life imitating art, on June 25 he retweeted the Lakota Law Project (@lakotalaw): “The U.S. Department of Interior announced Wednesday the restoration of more than 18,800 acres of land, known as the National Bison Range, so it can be returned to Indigenous tribes in Montana.”
Native Americans in Hollywood and Native Americans in society have come a long way.
Birmingham mirrors that progress. No longer is he relegated to period-piece, revisionist roles. He has become one of the most authentic and powerful Native American voices on television, which he uses as a launchpad for his activism.
“I feel a responsibility to represent a Native character who has that strength and determination,” he told IndianCountryToday.com, “that all of our ancestors, that survived what they have survived, and then to put in the context of a contemporary piece with that soul to come to it, and based on trying to do everything that he can for his people, for his rez.”