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.
Bloomberg Digital: Why Skin Lightening Is Big Business In Some Parts of the World
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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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.
“I think what is important to me is never giving up,” the 90-year-old Puerto Rican actress, dancer, singer and activist said in a recent phone interview, “Things do change and times do change, and the people who weren’t listening to me and what I stand for let’s say, 20 years ago, are listening more.”
Moreno’s determination plays a large role in her successful and expansive career. During Hispanic Network Magazine’s 30 years, Moreno has graced our cover more than once. She is a legend, with accolades that include EGOT status, with Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards to her name.
While she is proud of her recognition, she stills sees room for improvement in terms of substantial Latinx representation within the entertainment industry. It is a challenge that has been present throughout her entire career.
“I see strides, and I don’t see enough,” Moreno said. “I think we are definitely underrepresented.”
As a young actress at MGM Studios in the 1950s, she was stuck playing ethnically ambiguous female roles she refers to as “dusky maidens.”
West Side Story in 1961 was a turning point for Moreno, who became the first Latina to win an Academy Award for acting for her role as Anita.
Moreno has been vocal through the years of how badly she wanted the role and the chance to play a Hispanic character with substance. She has also spoken candidly about the little difference the Oscar made in the roles she was offered after the win.
“It’s like, ‘How does it feel to have all those awards that no other Latino has?’” Moreno said, “Well, it feels wonderful, but it doesn’t get me the work. It has never gotten me the work.”
After her Oscar win, Moreno did Broadway and television but didn’t make another motion picture for seven years.
For most of the 1970s, Moreno was a main cast member on the PBS educational children’s program, The Electric Company, and won a Grammy for the show’s children’s album.
She won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for The Ritz in 1975. Moreno won her first Emmy Award in 1977 for her appearance on The Muppet Show, and received a second Emmy the following year for The Rockford Files.
In her 2021 documentary, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, Moreno shares that as a young actress starting out, she looked up to Elizabeth Taylor simply because there were no role models for a young Puerto Rican girl. There was no one on screen who looked like her.
Ironically, Moreno’s time on the stage and screens both big and small, mean many of today’s Latinx stars grew up looking up to her.
In Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, Eva Longoria reflects on watching Moreno in The Electric Company and recognizing her as someone that looked like her. In Jennifer Lopez’s own documentary, Half-Time, she specifically names Moreno as her inspiration for aspiring to dance, act and sing.
Another Latinx entertainer who grew up watching Moreno is Ariana DeBose.
DeBose took on Moreno’s most famous role in Steven Spielberg’s 2021 adaptation of West Side Story, which Moreno also starred in and served as an executive producer for. In 2022, DeBose received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing Anita. She is the first Afro-Latina, the first openly queer actor of color and the first openly queer woman to win the award. It’s a recognition that may not have been possible without Moreno’s own groundbreaking win.
“First of all, I am so happy for her, and I am happy for the Hispanic community,” Moreno said of DeBose, “She is Afro-Latina and that opens another door, which is fantastic. She is obviously very aware of the exclusion that we suffer from.”
Moreno places a lot of hope on the younger generation to lend their voice to changing things for the Latinx community.
“I am very hopeful that she will bring the attention of the younger people whose ear and interest we definitely don’t have,” said Moreno.
Moreno knows how to speak up too.
She has talked openly about her experiences with sexual assault, abortion and suicide and has long been an advocated for women’s rights. Her early social activism began at the March on Washington, where she was present during Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famous “I Have a Dream” speech and stretches today, when she again recounted her own abortion story in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. In 2004, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 2009, President Barack Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts.
“It is a question of never, ever giving up on what you have to say that is important to helping our community,” said Moreno.
Speaking up takes courage, but Moreno admits she has never had trouble being loud.
“I am a raucous person, and that is the Latina part of me. I am noisy, I laugh too loud,” Moreno said, “But that is who I am. I love that part of me.”
From 2017 to 2020, Moreno took on the role of Lydia, in One Day at a Time, the sitcom inspired by Norman Lear’s 1975 series of the same name. The reboot focused on Penelope, a newly single Army veteran, and her Cuban-American family. As Lydia, Moreno embraced the best parts of Latin culture, without slipping into stereotypes, and demonstrated what is possible when we are able to lovingly tell our own stories.
“I have a deep love for my people,” Moreno said, “I love who we are, and I love what we represent, because we represent deep values. I love our food; I love our music; I am never unaware of the Latin-ness of all of that.”
There is plenty of new Moreno content coming out later this year too.
This summer she will be filming a Christmas movie for Lifetime in Nashville, and she is also joining Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Tom Brady for football-themed road-trip movie, 80 for Brady.
Moreno also has a role in Vin Diesel’s upcoming Fast and Furious movie, Fast X, as Grandma Toretto, Dom Toretto’s abuela.
“I had an absolutely fabulous time,” Moreno said of the filming, which took place in London. “We were freezing; we’re talking 50 degrees. But I loved it, I had a great time.”
Moreno said she had such a good time she might even make an appearance in the next film.
“I may do one more, so that would be insane,” Moreno said, “I mean, I am 90 years old and look at me!”
Two Mexican Americans who have dedicated their lives to fighting for equality and the advancement of Latinos were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, at the White House on Thursday.
Raúl Yzaguirre is the founder and former leader of the National Council of La Raza, considered the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy group, renamed UnidosUS, and Julieta García is a former president of the University of Texas at Brownsville — the first Latina to serve as a U.S. university president.
Born a decade apart in the Rio Grande Valley, Yzaguirre and García took lessons from their upbringings in the South Texas region to achieve positions of power, which they then used to dismantle discrimination and fight for the advancement of Latinos and other people of color.
Yzaguirre, 82, born in San Juan, Texas, took a small organization with about $500,000 and 23 affiliates and grew it into a formidable one with a $40 million budget and 250 affiliates.
The group helped shape policy on immigration, education, voting rights and more. Yzaguirre stepped down in 2004, after 30 years at its helm.
He also served as the ambassador to the Dominican Republic under President Barack Obama.
García, 73, born in Brownsville, Texas, was president of UT-Brownsville and helped oversee its merger with University of Texas Pan American to become UT-Rio Grande Valley, which serves mostly Latinos. She fought for money from the state’s Permanent University Fund, which holds 2.1 million acres and revenue from oil and gas leases on the land, to create the university.
UT-Rio Grande Valley is ranked in the top three schools awarding bachelor’s degrees to Latinos.
Yzaguirre and García are among 17 people awarded the medal Thursday by President Joe Biden. Among the honorees are former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz.; Olympic gymnast Simone Biles; U.S. soccer player Megan Rapinoe; the actor Denzel Washington; and posthumously, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple.
Yzaguirre’s work with UnidosUS rested heavily on bringing together the nation’s increasingly diverse Latino population to forge a stronger political force that could command the attention of Washington power brokers. The 2020 census counted 62 million Latinos in the U.S.
“What Raúl doesn’t get enough recognition for is how much of a visionary he was,” said Lisa Navarette, who worked with Yzaguirre and now is an adviser to UnidosUS President Janet Murguía.
“In the early ’70s he was already envisioning what would become the Latino community,” Navarrete said.
Yzaguirre was raised by his grandparents and was heavily influenced by his grandfather’s own story of nearly being lynched by Texas Rangers when he was out past a curfew imposed by the state on Mexican Americans and Mexicans at the time, according to a 2016 biography, “Raul H. Yzaguirre: Seated at the Table of Power,” by Stella Pope Duarte.
Yzaguirre was a protégé of the civil rights leader Dr. Hector P. García, a Mexican American physician who formed the civil rights group American GI Forum after witnessing mistreatment of Mexican American World War II veterans. Navarette said García helped Yzaguirre channel his anger over discrimination into activism.
Yzaguirre’s work in Washington continues to have an impact. Charles Kamasaki, a senior adviser at UnidosUS, recalled Yzaguirre deciding to agree to compromise on what became the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. He didn’t like the enforcement levels in the bill and had worked to improve it until finally agreeing to a compromise in 1986, giving about 3 million immigrants without legal status in the U.S. a chance to become lawful permanent residents.
Yzaguirre helped produce a scathing report on the Smithsonian Institution’s failure to serve and hire Latinos, a report that was instrumental in last year’s approval of a National Museum of the American Latino.
His tenure was also marked by clashes with administrations. He quit a commission on education and Hispanics in the 1990s in frustration over its partisanship and delays and picketed President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration over its lack of Hispanics.
Golden State Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson has become the first player of Mexican descent to win an NBA championship.
The 27-year-old Oakland native won the title with his hometown team Thursday night (June 16). The Warriors beat the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the NBA Finals 103-90 to win the series 4-2.
During the trophy presentation ceremony, Juan Toscano-Anderson held the Mexican flag proudly after the coveted Larry O’Brien championship trophy was handed to the team’s owners. This year’s championship marks the fourth one in eight years that the Warriors have won. In those eight years, the Warriors have been to the NBA Finals six times.
Later, Toscano-Anderson can be seen chanting “MVP” from the stage when his teammate Stephen Curry was named Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals for the first time in his career.
“Everybody on this stage has a part in this – from the front office, coaches, players,” Curry said.
Toscano-Anderson’s road to an NBA Championship was a challenging one. He played four years for Marquette University before going undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft. He then started playing professional basketball in Mexico’s Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional. He also played in the Liga Profesional de Baloncesto in Venezuela and for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the NBA’s G League.
In February 2020, Toscano-Anderson was signed by the Warriors for three years. His deal was converted to a full-time contract in May 2021. Earlier this year, he participated in the 2022 NBA Slam Dunk Contest at the All-Star Game wearing a pair of customized Nike tennis shoes designed to look like the Mexican flag.