Last week the Latinx community of creators, leaders and entertainment figures came together for the annual Hispanicize #UnidosTogether Summit. The half-day hybrid summit provided an opportunity to meaningfully connect and amplify the important conversation surrounding Black and Brown communities and their stories.
#UnidosTogether2022 featured various keynote speakers and panels covering social activism, television, film, and business. The summit was hosted by TV and radio personalities Jessica Flores and Enrique Sapene. As in year’s past ‘LLERO was present and curated #UnidosTogether summit’s highlights.
Opening Keynote Address by Michael Peña
The day’s events kicked off with a keynote address from actor and activist Michael Peña. Jessica Flores spoke with Peña who shared with the audience the lessons the actor has learned, his greatest influences and thoughts on the state of Latinos in Hollywood.
On Lessons Learned
Peña spoke of his upbringing in Chicago. Sharing with the audience that his parents were campesinos and the work they did is what inspired his sense of discipline. “Discipline that’s the one major, MAJOR thing I learned from my parents.” I also learned of the great community within the Latin workforce. Learning discipline from them was a gift. Motivation is fleeting, discipline takes you through. When you see people working hard day in day out.
On How He Got His Start
“I started with an open call. I tested to be a feature but ended up an extra. But the film was starring Sidney Poitier and I thought, ‘This is what I want to do’. So, I packed up and went to Hollywood. I did what my parents did, they left being migrant farmworkers for the American dream and they did it. What I did in going to Hollywood was similar.”
On The Latino Community in Hollywood
“Things have changed dramatically, is it up to level of numbers in population? No. But it’s improved. I think audiences have changed. Hopefully at a certain point we don’t have to talk about it, it just is. But were not there yet, so we still have to push. Keep your mind and soul tapped into that anything is possible. I just want Latinos to go out there and do good work.”
Fireside Chat with Anthony Ramos
The #UnidosTogether summit then segued into another Hollywood actor making waves and breaking barriers. Anne Vasquez, CEO of Edsource spoke with actor, musician and songwriter Anthony Ramos who spoke about the importance of Latino culture, how he works to bring it to Hollywood and some words of wisdom for those on the come up.
On His Nuyorican and Latino Culture
“The Nuyorican life is different from growing up on the Island. It’s a really specific thing. Our culture and family are really important to us. Embrace who you are. Lean into your culture. Were a melting pot, that’s what makes it so special. Embrace it and bring it to everything you do. Don’t dumb it down for anybody if anything lean in. Because that’s how people discover how special we are.”
On Bringing That Culture to His Work
“I think Latino roles were very scarce for a long time, especially when I started. Now were seeing more diversity. When I started it felt almost impossible to get cast in a lead role. It was always two black characters and one Latino, and they would put them in an ensemble.”
“Having the opportunities having example of other artists implementing their culture inspired me to implement my culture in my roles. In my most recent role in Transformers, I implement a Puerto Rican flag in my bedroom. In my work, if I can bring in a line or a flag or moment my people would get, I try. Don’t be afraid to bring people in.”
On Those Just Starting Out
For anyone starting out. The business changes daily. Hard work and being prepared. No one can take that away from you, if your prepared and locked in and ready opportunity will find you. There’s no substitute for hard work. Work hard and show up. Be ready, always.
Young Latino Hollywood Panel Featuring Tony Revolori, Ashley Reyes, Auli’I Carvalho, and Lisette Olivera
This year’s #UnidosTogether summit also saw a return to an in-person format. Lie at the NGL/MiTu studios hosts Jessica Flores and Enrique Sapene moderated a panel featuring some of the brightest young talent in Hollywood who spoke on the challenges of being typecast, overcoming preconceived notions and what they would like to see the future of entertainment look like.
Actor Tony Revolori, who has appeared in films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel and the most recent Spider-Man film series, spoke of being typecast in the industry. “I think it’s important on us seeing us without having to say I am Latino. I am the Latino kid there. I am just there. It’s important not just to see us in our stories, but in every story.
Actress Ashley Reyes, of Walker and How I Met Your Father fame, shared a different perspective. Specifically, how her bicultural background helped to make it clear how biased the industry can be. “Any interview I went into as Reyes I didn’t get the job. Any audition I went into as Weisman I got the job. I am still not trusted to play parts for Reyes. There still a far way to go.”
2022 Latinavator Winners
As in year’s past #UnidosTogether honored members of the Latino community in the form of its annual Latinavator Award. This years’ recipients were MiTu co-founder Beatriz Acevedo. Acevedo not only co-founded the Latino-centric video platform, but currently serves as President of the Acevedo Foundation whose aim is to empower the next generation of Latino leaders by creating equitable access to capital, closing the educational gap, and promoting mobility and inclusion.
Also receiving the 2022 Latinavator Award was Kat Echazarreta. Let’s just say she’s gone where no Mexicana has gone before. As a Citizen Astronaut, Kat Echazarreta became the first Mexicana to go to outer space. Quite literally an other-worldly achievement.
Hollywood OG’s John Leguizamo and Robert Rodriguez Close Out the Show
The conference closed out with NGL co-founder John Leguizamo and acclaimed director Robert Rodriguez who spoke with Anne Vasquez, CEO of Edsource.
They shared their motivations and inspirations for entering the business. A common thread being lack of familiar faces on the screen. Rodriguez stated, “I remember growing up and we were so hungry to see faces like ours we even got excited if they played the bad guys.” Leguizamo added, “growing up in New York City and being surrounded by this great culture I notice Latinos were equal in number to other city residents but not on Broadway, not on TV, so I wanted to change that.”
The two also shared what spurred them to create their projects, the influence and role of comics in both their careers and key lessons learned in making their projects. Leguizamo perhaps summed up the conference the best when he stated, “our similarities are so much stronger than our differences. The differences are so miniscule, the culture brings us together…We have to keep putting our stories forward… Write our own, make our own, do our own.”
#UnidosTogether is certainly a step in that direction.