Latin American Stars Take on American Entertainment Industry

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Growing up as a Latina, I never saw many actors or actresses that looked like me. Maybe that explains my obsession towards Spanish soap operas when i was younger. That’s why when Orange is the New Black (OITNB) premiered in 2013, I was mesmerized by the amount of Latina actors that were in the show.

Three Latina cast members from OITNB: Pictured from left to right Selenis Leyva, Jackie Cruz, and Diane Guerrero

They may not have had leading roles, but the roles they did hold were critical to the show. I’m not saying that there haven’t been other shows with Latino characters either. Some prominent Latina roles also include Devious Maids starring Eva Longoria and Modern Family starring Sofia Vergara.

This increase in Latino actors has created the perception that there is equality in this industry of entertainment. In reality, a study done by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg school, found that Hispanics, who make up 17% of the U.S. population, were underrepresented and only compromised 4.9% of film roles. The study also found that the characters played by Latinos were often sexualized. Below is one of the scenes from Desperate Housewives, Eva Longoria’s character “Gaby” is being highly sexualized. There are many other clips that could’ve been chosen, but this is a more conservative one.

A relatively new CW TV show, Jane the Virgin, has also caught my attention tremendously. It not only has a leading female Latina, but the sexualization that is usually seen in other shows or movies is non existent. I often find myself relating to different aspects of the show. It’s a perfect mix of Latino and American culture without having typical Latina stereotypes being intensified. Gina Rodriguez, who portrays Jane, went on to win a Golden Globe for her role. The last time a Latina was nominated for a Lead Actress Golden Globe was in 2009.

The creation of shows like Jane the Virgin, gives me hope that one day the entertainment industry and other aspects of life will be equal and everyone will hold similar opportunities to pursue their dreams.

List of Movies and TV Shows staring Latino Actors and Actresses*

  • The Fast and Furious (2001) – Michelle Rodriguez
  • Machete (2010) – Danny Trejo
  • Hot Pursuit (2015) – Sofia Vergara
  • Addicted (2014) – William Levy
  • The Wedding Planner (2001) – Jennifer Lopez
  • Ugly Betty (2006 – 2010) – America Ferrera
  • The Secret Life of an American Teenager (2008 – 2013) – Francia Raisa
  • Prison Break (2005 – 2009) – Amaury Nolasco
  • Wizards of Waverly Place (2007 – 2012) – Selena Gomez, Jake T. Austin, & Maria Canals Barrera

*This list is highly limited

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4 thoughts on “Latin American Stars Take on American Entertainment Industry

  1. Michelle, nice first post on this important issue. The lack of representation is an ongoing subject of debate and discussion, and it’s good to see more shows finally reflecting the diversity of the United States. Orange is the New Black is one of my favorite shows in recent memory and its cast of characters is great. I would have loved to read more specific details about Jane the Virgin as it’s not a show I’ve seen before.

  2. This is a very interesting topic! I have never thought about it much but women Latina characters are often sexualized in the various roles that they portray. I like the picture you included at the top of a bunch of different Latina stars and I like how you included a caption to the picture that summarized your article.That was a smart idea. I also like how you included videos into your article. It was also helpful that you included a list of movies and shows with the Latino actors and actresses that were in the the movie or show. It would have been interesting to hear your personal review or perspective on the different movies and shows that your mentioned. Overall the article was good and offered me a new perspective on Latina representation in the entertainment industry.

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