Latin women in Hollywood are still often portrayed as stereotypes such as trouble makers instead of serving as strong, powerful lead characters. Latina characters in film are also often shown as sexy sirens, stealing boyfriends away from other women with their sultry looks and intoxicating accent. Latinas are more than just stereotypical pretty faces or saucy comments that many screen writers and producers tend to play up while writing and directing. These roles, like that of Santana Lopez in Glee, create an image that many envision when talking about Latinas. Luckily, some Latina leaders like Eva Longoria, Salma Hayek and Shakira are using their stardom to break stereotypes and show that Latinas can be strong leaders and make a difference. The truth of the matter is that Latina women are just as powerful and ambitious as their male counterparts. The following women broke the stereotype and have been working to succeed in the industry, despite the glass-ceiling trying to keep them down.
Texan Eva Longoria, was born to Mexican-American parents in the city of Corpus Christi. Longoria speaks about her days as a teenager; they were not all fun and games. She started working at a fast food restaurant at the age fourteen. “I went to Wendy’s to work to pay for my own quinceañera,” she told Latina Magazine. “I paid for my cheerleading and everything through that.” She attended Texas A&M University-Kingsville where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology. In 2009, she enrolled at Cal State University, Northridge to earn her Master’s degree in Chicano Studies and Political Science. Longoria started her career in small soap opera roles until she got her big break in Desperate Housewives. The role of Gabrielle Solis earned her a nomination at the Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series. Eva Longoria founded Eva’s Heroes, a foundation where the goal is to help developmentally disabled children. Longoria grew up with an intellectually disabled sister and has been “involved with all facets of this community since [she] could walk and talk.” She is also a spokesperson for PADRES Contra El Cancer and has known to support the Clothes Off Our Back Foundation, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Council of La Raza, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, amongst others.
Salma Hayek was born in Veracruz, Mexico and attended the Academy of the Sacred Heart where, at the age of twelve, she learned she was dyslexic. Despite her learning impediment, Hayek graduated from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City with a degree in International Relations. In 2002, Salma Hayek co-produced the critically acclaimed film, Frida, where she took on the role of the troubled artist, Frida Kahlo. With this movie, Hayek earned herself a nomination for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. Hayek continued her endeavors with the production of Ugly Betty, a show about a Latina who overcomes obstacles and works her way up her career ladder. Salma Hayek is quite vocal about her various philanthropies. She has been known to raise awareness in opposition to violence against women. She partnered up with the Avon Foundation for the “Speak Out Against Domestic Violence” campaign. She has donated over $75,000 to battered women’s shelters and anti-domestic violence groups in Mexico. “No woman has to be a victim of physical abuse,” Hayek says. “I am involved because I want women to know, in their dark hour, they are not alone.” Salma Hayek is the spokesperson for the Pampers/UNICEF 1 Pack = 1 Vaccine partnership, which helps stop the spread of maternal and neonatal tetanus. In 2011, Hayek was inducted into the French Legion of Honour, a grand tribute.
Shakira was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, where she spent most of her childhood. At a young age, she was already interested in writing, and by the age of seven, she got her first typewriter and started writing her poetry. In Bogotá, Shakira auditioned for Sony Colombia and was signed to record three albums. Her first two albums, Magia and Peligro, were seen as commercial failures and were not well-received. Shakira did not let this discourage her, in 1995 she released her third album, Pies Descalzos. This album debuted as number one in eight different countries. In 1996, the album was certified platinum. Shakira has released six more albums since then, each as popular as Pies Descalzos. Shakira’s childhood was plagued by her father’s bankruptcy. She found this to be catastrophic, but her father wanted to show her that things could be worse, so he took her to visit an orphanage. This experience caused her to think, “one day, I’m going to help these kids when I become a famous artist.” That is exactly what she did. In 1995, she founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation in Colombia, which helps children who have fallen victim to poverty. This foundation grew to include the Barefoot Foundation in the U.S., working to make education available for all children. Shakira is one of UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassadors. In 2010, the UN International Labor Organization awarded Shakira with a medal for being an excellent representative of children facing social injustices.