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Words By Victor A. Rodriguez

Melissa Barrera is poised to do something no other Latina on this list can lay claim to. Breakthrough bigger in 2020 than she did in 2019. Why you ask? Well, more on that a little later.

First a little about this actress, singer and self-professed musical theatre geek on course to be a household name. Melissa Barrera Martinez was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León México. The first of four daughters, Barrera caught the performing bug early.  Attending the American School Foundation of Monterrey from the ages of 4 to 18. It was during this time that she made her foray into musical theatre. Acting and singing in musicals such as ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘Footloose,’ ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’.  However, by the end of high school it was time to go pro.  And she did. Barrera began her professional career in the Mexican production of ‘Romeo y Julieta’.

However greater challenges beckoned, and like so many artists before her, it was off to New York City. She attended Tisch School of Arts at NYU. Could you believe not even the Big Apple was ‘big’ enough for Barrera?  She left in her Senior year to compete in a reality show singing competition in Mexico. Telenovela work would soon follow, as would appearances in variety of Latin American indie films.

Yet, the game changer would be her being cast in a little Latinx centered show on Starz Network in the United States.  In Vida she would portray Lyn, a self-centered women with a good heart and one of two Mexican-American sisters. The siblings are from the Eastside of Los Angeles and polar opposites, but united in saving their deceased mother’s legacy and neighborhood. The show has developed a cult following for its smart writing, accurate and holistic portrayal of Latinx and their stories. Season 2 premiered in 2019 and Vida it’s been renewed for a third season set to air in 2020.

For most artists, landing Vida would be a career defining moment. Not for Barrera, you see in 2019 she was also cast in the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights. Barrera will play the character of Vanessa and share the big screen with the likes of Jimmy Smits, Marc Anthony, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace and Anthony Ramos.  In the Heights will be released in June of 2020. Oh, and that’s not all. Barrera will also be starring in Sony Pictures Classics adaptation of the opera Carmen, playing none other than the titular role. The film is in pre-production and the potential is enormous. So, now you know why we think Barrera had quite the 2019 but poised for an even bigger 2020.

However, aside from flexing her musical theatre chops. Barrera set about to equal the playing field for all Latinas. Most notably, when she took part in the social media campaign for for #LatinaEqualPayDay. Of the event she posted on her Instagram account “when Latinas ‘catch up’ to what white, non-hispanic men were paid in 2018. That means that it takes us almost an entire other year to catch up to what white men got paid last year. The gap is widest for Latina workers, who on average earn only 54 cents for every $1 a man is paid. This is unacceptable, and we need to act now. Latinas are powerful, and we deserve equal pay!”

An actress, singer, dancer and activist. Easy to see why Melissa Barrera is one of our Latinas of 2019.