“Actually, what I was singing about was Puerto Rico.”
Johnny Bliss got a highly coveted four-chair spin from “The Voice” judges with a Spanish-language song. If you aren’t familiar with the show, contestants go through a first round called Blind Auditions. The performer sings while the judges, Adam Levine, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, and Blake Shelton, have their backs to them and when they like the singer, they push a button and their chair spins around. From there, the judges interested in the singer have to convince the singer to choose them as their coach. Bliss got all four of the judges to spin their chairs. However, Clarkson was blocked by Levine and Bliss definitely wanted Clarkson as his coach. This meant he could not choose Clarkson as his coach.
Bliss told the judges about his strong connection to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, which is seen in the full episode. Bliss grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City, which is a strong Dominican neighborhood. He is half Dominican and half Puerto Rican. The choice to sing “Preciosa” by Marc Anthony was in honor of the two islands recovering after the last hurricane season that brought unprecedented destruction to the Caribbean.
Bliss also opened up to the judges about discovering himself as a gay man in the Latino community. This conversation is only available in the full episode of the show and it a very touching moment with his grandmother back stage listening. While the acceptance of the community was important, it was his grandmother’s acceptance that meant the most to him. After she accepted him, he felt free to live his authentic life.
Then, the fighting between “The Voice” judges began for this incredible Latino singer.
“I blocked Kelly. I just want you to know that the second I heard you sing I thought, ‘Okay, who’s going to stand in my way of this?’ If I could block everybody, I would have,” Levine told Bliss. “I think that you have, not only the voice that can go all the way here, but what I also believe is that there are those really rare moments where I can actually lose myself in something and feel something so incredible and overwhelming and I had one with you.”
But Keys was ready to play and pleaded her case for Bliss by first saying her name came from her Puerto Rican godmother. Then she broke out into her Spanish version of “If I Ain’t Got You“. Not only was the whole audience in awe, Bliss was visibly moved by the singing. Shelton admitted that he knew he wasn’t going to win so her started advocating for Bliss to choose Keys. Clarkson, who had been blocked by Levine told him to choose Keys. Levine was left to fight for himself and it did not work.
After the major wins by Mexican directors Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, big-time Latino stars and filmmakers are everywhere. But there was a time when huge megastars spanning from south of the Rio Grande all the way to the Argentine tundras made it big, but did not have the Internet to spread the word around. Here are 24 actors, musicians, and films that would be top Oscar contenders if they had social media to spread their work.
1. Carlos Gardel
CREDIT: carlos_gardel_official / Instagram
Also known as the father of the tango, he was beyond legendary all over the Americas as a singer, composer, and movie star. His untimely death in a plane crash in the 30s led to perpetuating the legend.
2. Damaso Perez Prado
CREDIT: melomano66 / Instagram
The Cuban composer and bandleader enjoyed some success in the United States mainly because of his catchy rhythms. You might remember a tune called Mambo Number 5, made famous in the 90s in mainstream radio.
3. Celia Cruz
CREDIT: celiacruzonline / Instagram
A voice like hers would’ve definitely tallied a few Oscar nominations and maybe one or two statues. This Cuban legend fled her homeland and settled in the U.S. where she brought the sabor of salsa music to the masses until her final days.
4. Dolores Del Rio
CREDIT: burundanga.babilonica / Instagram
The original Latina bombshell, she was discovered in Mexico and enjoyed a fascinating career in Hollywood before returning back home. Many of today’s Oscar-nominated Latinas are forever indebted to her groundbreaking work.
5. Carmen Montejo
CREDIT: 3lchismografo / Instagram
Another Cuban beauty with a definite flair for drama. Most of her career developed in Mexico where she flourished in the famous Mexican soap operas well into her 80s. Many of her films cast her in compromising roles, such as prostitute or femme fatale.
6. Libertad Lamarque
CREDIT: libertad_lamarque / Instagram
Marvelous Argentinian beauty transcended her native land and was revered all across the Americas. Rumor has it she had a run-in with legendary president Domingo Peron in the 50s after which she settled in Mexico until her death.
7. Katy Jurado
CREDIT: angelgabriel.2017 / Instagram
She ruled the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, even luring another Hollywood great, Ernest Borgnine, to marriage. A stunning beauty, ripe with pure Latina features, she captivated audiences with great performances that today could’ve earned her an Academy Award nomination at the least.
8. Gabriel Figueroa
CREDIT: ogbuhlinduh / Instagram
The Academy Awards of today are full of great representatives of Mexican and Latin American cinematography. Emmanuel Lubezki comes to mind. Yet, it was Figueroa who set in motion since the 40s the acclaimed landscaping frames that adorned the films of its day. #LatinoExcellence
9. Maria Felix
CREDIT: mariafelixofficial / Instagram
Perhaps the most beautiful and tough as nails actress in Mexican history, she lived up to her legend as a top-notch femme fatale. A beauty like this, in the Internet age, surely would’ve had over 1 million followers on any social media, plus a not so small collection of golden statuettes.
CREDIT: movie_ratings_countdowns / Instagram
Cantiflas, aka Mario Moreno, was to Latin America what Charles Chaplin was to the world. His trademark tongue twisters laced with gibberish still make people laugh out loud. He did win a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy award in the 50s but imagine his reach had he had Instagram.
11. Emilio Fernandez
CREDIT: tetriswai / Instagram
Better known as “El Indio”, he did it all: acting, directing, you name it. Typically portraying the rural macho, Fernandez oozed a primitive sensuality that dominated the silver screen. He continued his career well into his 80s with the same intensive screen presence.
CREDIT: rockentuidioma1 / Instagram
Just do a search on any browser on Adalberto Martinez’ dancing and you might get a hint of where Michael Jackson found his legendary moonwalk dance. Resortes was a comedian bar none, but his dancing skills were beyond measure. He could’ve given Gene Kelly a good run for his money at any awards ceremony.
13. Juan Orol
CREDIT: famososmexico / Instagram
Although crime from south of the border is highly prevalent in the media nowadays, it was Juan Orol who exploited the Latino gangster scene during the 40s and 50s with surreal films squaring cowboys and mobsters. Just imagine Edward G. Robinson speaking in Spanish and you’ll get the idea.
14. Fernando De Fuentes
CREDIT: @ineacdmex / Twitter
One of the first Latin directors to use sound in films. De Fuentes’ storytelling, full of romance, song, and happiness, defined the first attempts at creating the Golden Age of Mexican filmmaking. There’s no doubt that “Allá en el Rancho Grande” being his greatest achievement.
15. Ninon Sevilla
CREDIT: angelgabriel.2017 / Instagram
Hailing from Cuba, and blessed with extraordinary grace, talent, and rhythm, she led the way in the acclaimed “rumbera” style of cinema. It is a style marked with a combination of sin, redemption and a whole lot of booty shaking. There was no one better than Ninon to set the stage on fire.
16. Ismael Rodriguez
CREDIT: famososmexico / Instagram
This legendary filmmaker created a good number of masterpieces during the 50s. He used a combination of romance, bromance, and a good share of drama. He became the resident director of one of the most famous stars of all times in Latin cinema, Pedro Infante.
17. Pedro Infante
CREDIT: dinastiainfante / Instagram
An attractive, fun-loving, and very talented singer and actor, Infante had an aura of charisma during his short-lived career. After dying in a plane crash in 1957, people flocked to his funeral bringing the Mexico City metropolis to a halt. Combining macho with sensibility, he could’ve easily had Hollywood at his feet.
18. Jorge Negrete
CREDIT: tallervocal / Instagram
The precursor to Pedro Infante’s rowdiness, Negrete had a voice like few. He even had very masculine looks especially when dressed in the Charro outfit. He became known as the singing Charro until his untimely death in 1953 due to health complications.
19. Pedro Armendariz
CREDIT: espuelasdeoro / Instagram
This Mexican tough guy had a good career on both sides of the Rio Grande. He shared the set with Hollywood legends like John Wayne. Like the Duke, he portrayed boldness in his characters, always laced with a Latino sensuality that in today’s web-based age maybe could’ve gone all the way.
20. “Flor Silvestre”
CREDIT: Films Mundiales
This film features four of the entertainers mentioned here: Dolores del Rio, Pedro Armendariz, director Emilio Fernandez and cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa. It received many accolades for its representation of the idyllic and turbulent times life during the Mexican Revolution of the early 1900s.
21. “Maria Candelaria”
CREDIT: Films Mundiales
It’s no surprise that the same quartet from “Flor Silvestre” is featured here as they were the backbone of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. Considered one of Fernández’s best works, rumor has it that Fernández was dating Del Rio and didn’t have a birthday present for her, so he offered her the starring role.
CREDIT: ig_caleido / Instagram
German Valdes, aka Tin-Tina, was a definite show man of his era. He practically invented the “Pachuco” style, later popularized in Hollywood by the film “Zoot Suit”. He could sing, dance, act, and he made people laugh with his gestures. The Internet would’ve been ablaze with such a star.
23. Wrestler Movie Stars
CREDIT: Filmadora Panamericana / Cinematográfica Norte
An often-overlooked genre, Mexican wrestling films enjoy cult following throughout Europe and Asia. With quirky plots featuring the most admired Mexican masked wrestlers, such as El Santo, Blue Demon and Rayo de Jalisco, the heroes embark into combating the forces of evil, whether zombies or demons. The films were so rudimentary that they became legendary.
24. Andrea Palma
CREDIT: fromthegitgo / Instagram
Born into a wealthy family at the start of the 20th century, her almost mystic beauty featured her in roles mostly as prostitute or woman in trouble. A good part of her family was also into movies as writers, directors, and more. She is considered also as one of the first major female stars of her time.
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