Actors, directors, and producers are not always simply celebrities. They are human beings and citizens as well. This may seem like a no-brainer but the truth is many celebrities get push-back for taking stances on anything from politics to whether they like Marvel or DC better. Despite push-back, especially when it comes to politics, many celebrities feel the backlash is worth it when it comes to taking a stand.
To honor this year’s theme for Hispanic Heritage Month, we could take a look at celebrities that have taken a stance. Some pushed for better representation of Latinos in film and TV, some are activists outside of their acting jobs, and some broke new ground in their fields through innovation. All have shaped the industry into what it is today and continue to push for change in the future.
Gina Torres, leading actress in Serenity
Born to Cuban parents in the Bronx, actress Gina Torres is outspoken about how she is continually denied roles because of stereotypes surrounding Latinos. Despite being fluent in Spanish and identifying as a proud Latina, Torres is often denied roles because she does not look like a stereotypical Latina due to her mixed ancestry. This combined with a physical form many over the years have called Amazonian – she is 5’10” and works out a lot – has made it difficult for her to find decent roles over the years. As she has found her voice in the industry, Torres has continued to speak out about the diversity found in the Latino community as well as diversity found among women. Despite her problems, she carved a niche for herself in scifi acting with roles in Xena, Angel, and her iconic role as ex-soldier Zoe Washburne in Serenity before branching out into hit TV shows such as Hannibal and Suits.
Jorge R. Gutiérrez, co-writer and director of The Book of Life
Born and raised in Mexico before coming to the U.S. to study animation, Gutiérrez is well-known for exploring his love of Mexican culture through his work.. The Book of Life, his first animated movie, was born out of the idea that the writing and production teams of movies should be just as diverse as the actors and characters. Being Mexican-American, he desperately wanted to write a movie centered around Dia de los Muertos. Gutiérrez was rejected by four different animation companies because the companies felt a story about a Mexican holiday wasn’t universal. Gutiérrez finally convinced Dreamworks to fund him, along with help from producer Guillermo del Toro, and got his story off the ground. As The Book of Life went on to be a box office hit, Gutiérrez helped propel Mexican-Americans to the forefront of entertainment, proving that stories starring people from all walks of life can have universal appeal.
Guillermo del Toro, producer of The Book of Life and screenplay writer, producer, and director of El Laberinto del Fauno
Famous for his amazing and complex creatures in film, Guillermo del Toro has long been a pioneer behind the camera. He writes often from his point of view as a Mexican immigrant to the United States, as evident in the world building behind his film El Laberinto del Fauno or the story behind The Shape of Water. In addition to these types of stories, he also tends to feature main characters that seek redemption through love and heroism but in a unique way; many of his heroes feature complex makeups and prosthetics to make them look monstrous such as Hellboy or the kaiju aliens and jaeger robots in Pacific Rim. His optimism has always fueled his writing and directing style, as has his love of special effects and monsters. Not only has he shaped the special effects industry’s past, but he strives to push the limits of the industry going forwards as well.
Sandra Cisneros, author of Caramelo which is available through hoopla
Sandra Cisneros is perhaps one of the most well known Latino authors. Born right nearby in Chicago, she was one of 7 children brought up in a very impoverished home. Leading a very lonely and isolated life due to the constant moving around that her family did, Cisneros developed a passion for writing at a young age. Much of her work is inspired by her own life and deals with poverty, the cultural hybridity of being Mexican-American, and the isolation of being the only girl among seven children. Despite her stories centering around her own culture and her heritage, Cisneros is known all over the world. Many of her books have been translated into dozens of different languages and are sold all over the world. Her words gave a voice to Latinos and specifically to Chicanos, putting their struggle and culture in the forefront of literature. Caramelo, while not her most famous book, is semi-autobiographical and award-winning.
John Leguizamo, supporting actor in Moulin Rouge and recurring actor in season 12 of ER
Colombian born actor John Leguizamo is a prolific artist and activist who has appeared in over 100 films over the course of his career. Despite this long list of credits to his name, Leguizamo ran into issues gaining parts because he is Latino. Frustrated by the stereotyped roles he was forced into, Leguizamo started writing and producing his own plays and scripts such as “Latin History for Morons” and “Ghetto Klown.” Additionally, Leguizamo has founded a number of projects to help break stereotypes against Latinos such as the Break the Mold Project and was chosen as Global Ambassador for the Arts for the Puerto Rican Day Parade. He has come under fire many times for this project as well as his comments against racism in Hollywood, politics, and real life but continues speaking out for Latinos.