Entertainment

Meet Rachel Zegler, The Teen Latina Who Just Scored The Lead In Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ Remake

More than 30,000 women auditioned for the role of Maria in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming remake of “West Side Story.” The casting directors held auditions in Puerto Rico, just to be sure they looked at everyone that would be perfect for this coveted part. Rachel Zegler, a 17-year-old New Jersey high school student, was one of those who auditioned and she nailed it. While her name might not be familiar, the teenager has a long history of performing on stage, just not the professional one.

“When I played Maria on stage a few summers ago, I never could have imagined that I’d be taking on the role again in Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story,'” Zegler wrote on Instagram. “I send a huge thank you to everyone who helped make this incredible dream a reality — I never could’ve done it alone. I am so honored to join the legendary Rita Moreno, Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, and Josh Andrés Rivera. As a Colombian-American woman growing up in this day and age, strong roles like Maria are so important. To be able to bring that role to life— a role that means so much to the Hispanic community— is so humbling. I hope you’re all as excited as I am.”

So who is this talented beauty? Here’s how Zegler got the role of a lifetime, and some pivotal moments that lead up to it. 

The 17-year-old high school senior from New Jersey went viral last month after she posted a video of herself singing “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born.”

Twitter/@rachelzegler

This isn’t how she won the role of Maria, but it certainly didn’t hurt because everyone heard her incredible voice. Film producers, including the director, saw her audition which included two songs from “West Side Story,” “Tonight” and “Me Siento Hermosa” (“I Feel Pretty”).

She is humbled and thrilled to play the part of Maria because it represents so much.

Instagram/@rachelzegler

“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” Zegler told The Hollywood Reporter. “‘West Side Story’ was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character. As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.”

The big casting announcement also included the names of three other Latinos tapped for lead roles.

Instagram/@bwayblurbs

Ariana DeBose will play Anita, David Alvarez will be Bernardo, and Josh Andrés Rivera will be Chino.

We’re really excited to see the chemistry between her and leading actor Ansel Elgort, who will play Tony.

Instagram/@baldepipoca

You may remember Elgort from his films “Baby Driver,” “Divergent,” and “The Fault in Our Stars.”

She has played countless roles at her school including Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.”

Instagram/@rachelzegler

Zegler said playing Ariel was a blessing and she looks absolutely adorable in the role.

She’s also portrayed the lead in “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

Instagram/@rachelzegler

She’s a true professional, even though she’s still in high school. There is no denying that Zegler is meant to be on stage and in front of the camera. She can sing, dance, and act.

She is a theater junky who can’t get enough of Broadway.

Instagram/@rachelzegler

Her social media is filled with singing videos, and portraits like this one above, in which she goes on and on about her life as a performer. She captioned this picture with: “what to expect if you go on vacation with a theatre person.”

Do you think she has what it takes to portray the new Maria?

Instagram/@scorpiolgy

While Natalie Wood did a good job in the role, people are over the moon that there will be a Latina playing the role of Maria. Spielberg made it clear that when they were casting they wanted to make sure to include Latino talent in the Latino roles for authenticity.

Her family is supportive of her ambitions.

Instagram/@jacinblack

In a recent post, Zegler thanked her mom for all of her support. “These past few months have been absolutely insane and there’s no one I’d rather have by my side through it all,” she posted. “I love you most, mom. always.”

Her sister is a singer too.

Some of her favorite actors and singers are praising Zegler’s casting and her voice.

Instagram/@rachelzegler

Within 24 hours of the news that Zegler was cast as Maria, a ton of Broadway celebs reached out to her congratulating her over the casting. She was clearly ecstatic. Talk about a life-changing moment.

Zegler’s acting abilities are also versatile.

Instagram/@rachelzegler

Here she is giving us her best Robert Downey Jr. Pretty solid reproduction of the actor’s facial hair.

Her social media is filled with videos of herself singing on camera.

Instagram/@rachelzegler

She sings in the bathroom, empty theaters, her room, just about anywhere. No matter where she is singing, one thing is clear, the girl has talent. No wonder she was cast to play Maria.

But if you’re curious about her incredible voice, just visit her YouTube page.

Youtube

It’s insanely good! She sings just about every song you can think of. Her covers give the songs new life and her voice is truly worthy of adding to one of the most iconic musicals of all time.

Her favorite though has to be Freddie Mercury.

Twitter

Her YouTube page features so amazing renditions of Queen songs from “Bohemian Rhapsody” to “Don’t Stop Me Now.” They are all worth a listen if you have the time.

See…everything she does is for Freddie.

Instagram/@zeglertweets

Yes, she plays the piano too. And the ukulele. Who knows where her career in entertainment will take her. Her talent seems endless right now and that is just part of that Latina excellence.

She also loves Disney-everything.

Instagram/@rachelzegler

Disney World is one of her favorite places on the planet. Then again, who doesn’t love to visit a Disney park and spend the day eating great food and riding every ride you can.

Zegler isn’t just good at singing and acting. She definitely will be modeling in no time.

Instagram/@rachelzegler

She’s so photogenic…simply gorgeous. Designers are probably already waiting for the chance to dress her.

She’s also already a huge influencer.

Instagram/@dresslikebway

Less than 24 hours since news broke that she would be playing Maria, people have been flocking to her social media, and her fashion sense is already popular.

Of course, people have already started creating fan pages for the new entertainer.

Instagram

People move fast. That’s the magic of the internet, right?

Zegler has been training for this moment since she was a little girl!

Instagram/@rachelzegler

She was literally born to be a star. “West Side Story” is set to begin filming this summer. We couldn’t be happier for Zegler. It is stories like this that keep smiles on people’s faces as they navigate this world. Good luck, chica! You’re going to be great. In the meantime, follow her on social and get to know her before she really blows up.


READ: One Rumor On Twitter Has The Internet Debating If Camila Cabello Can Act Well Enough To Be In ‘West Side Story’

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Alaina Castillo’s New TikTok Trend Is Empowering People To Embrace Their Latinidad

Culture

Alaina Castillo’s New TikTok Trend Is Empowering People To Embrace Their Latinidad

Not everyone has the privilege of growing up surrounded by their cultura, with parents there to pass on knowledge of traditions and customs from home. That, combined with heavily opinionated internet trolls, has led to many people struggling to feel confident in their identity. In a digital world that tries to force us all to fit into boxes, what does “Latino enough” mean and how do you know if you’re there?

Recently, we asked our Instagram community “what does being Latino mean to you?” and although some responses had details in common, for the most part they were as unique as every member of the community itself. There is no one definition of Latinidad, and therefore there is no way to measure what exactly makes someone “Latino enough.”

We got the chance to talk to Alaina Castillo, musical artist and TikTok Queen, about how she identifies with Latinidad and what this TikTok trend means to her. Did we mention quarantine has not stopped her from dropping new music? Check out her latest single, “tonight”!

IMAGE COURTESY OF ALAINA CASTILLO

What does being Latina mean to you? – mitú

“It means that I have something to identify with and be proud of because of my family members, my culture, and the things that I participate in as a Latina.” – A.C.

Side note, this was a personal reminder that we represent the community wherever we occupy space, whether we realize it or not. We are all participating in things as members of the community.

What’s something that, as a Latina, you are proud of? – mitú

“The strength and endurance that we have. I’ve seen it in my dad, his family, and so many others and it makes me feel proud as well as encouraged to achieve my goals with the same mindset as them.” – A.C.

While they may not be perfect (and let’s face it, who is?), our parents are the definition of hard working. Remembering that their blood runs through my veins always keeps me going when the going gets tough. Si se puede!

What Latino figures inspire you? – mitú

“Selena, even though she was an artist that I didn’t really grow up listening to. When I found out who she was, she was someone who I related to because she was a Mexican-American learning to speak and sing in Spanish, while breaking a lot of barriers that people had set up around her.” – A.C.

La Reina del Tex-Mex was a trailblazer indeed! Who else could forget Selena’s iconic “diecicuatro” blurb when she appeared in an interview with Cristina Saralegui? The important thing to focus on is that she was TRYING! As long as we’re all working on improving and being the best versions of ourselves, that’s the best we can do, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way.

IMAGE COURTESY OF ALAINA CASTILLO

Name one meal that, no matter where you have it, always reminds you of home. – mitú

“Homemade tamales!!!! 100%” – A.C.

You know we love some good tamales, so naturally our next question was…

Where is your family from? – mitú

“My dad is from Mexico and my mom is from Ohio.” – A.C.

Mmmm…Mexican tamales 😋

Have you ever been to those places? – mitú

“Yes, both places. I went to Mexico when I was really young, maybe about two times, and then I’ve traveled to Ohio on various occasions to see family. I was young each time I went to those places so they’re little memories I think of when I miss my family.” – A.C.

What would you say is the most “Latino” item in your home? – mitú

“We have these blankets from my grandma that I grew up using. I thought they were normal blankets but then I saw on social media that almost every Latino household has some and I was like hmmm, what do you know?” – A.C.

IMAGE COURTESY OF ALAINA CASTILLO

What would you say to people who think that not speaking Spanish makes you less Latino? – mitú

“I think it’d definitely be nice to know the language fluently but some people aren’t taught Spanish growing up and that’s not their fault. Not speaking the language doesn’t mean that they don’t have the same customs or should be rejected from the culture that their family is from. I decided to learn on my own because I’ve always been interested in Spanish, and also so I could speak with my family and I see that’s what a lot of other people are doing too.” – A.C.

One more time for the people in the back: not speaking Spanish doesn’t make you any less Latino.

How do you celebrate your Latinidad? – mitú

“With pride. I wouldn’t be who I am today without influences from my family so it’ll always be something I carry with me and proudly show throughout my life and career.” – A.C.

What do you hope people take away from this trend? – mitú

“That Latinidad is something you’re born with and it can’t ever be taken away from you,” – A.C.

So forget about the opinions of other people! All they’re doing is projecting their beliefs onto you and that is not an actual reflection of who you are. We hope you are inspired to embrace your Latinidad on your own terms, and that you walk more confidently in your identity. So duet us on TikTok and don’t forget to use the hashtag #AreYouLatinoEnough to join in on the fun!

Did we mention quarantine has not stopped Alaina Castillo from dropping new music? Check out her latest single, “tonight,” below!

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Latinas Shared The Movies And Shows That Made Them Feel Seen

Entertainment

Latinas Shared The Movies And Shows That Made Them Feel Seen

Nickelodeon

It’s no secret that over the past few decades, people of color worked to fight for equal representation on screens both big and small. While, of course, there have been great POC and LGTBQ relationships on television there’s really been a spike in the spectrum of representation since our early years watching television and learning about relationships.

Recently, we asked Latinas on Instagram what shows and movies featured their favorite most diverse couples.

And the answers threw us for a time loop!

Check them out below!


“Maria and Luis on Sesame Street.”- melissa_phillips71


“Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner is The Bodyguard, they reminded me of my parents and they loved to play the soundtrack.” –millenialmarta


“The leads in Someone Great, Jane and Michael the virgin and the lesbian relationship Gentrified. It’s been 30 years and I finally found characters I can relate to.” –allyss_abyss_

“Most definitely, “Brooklyn 99”: two female Hispanics as regulars and a white person playing a Hispanic (Andy Samberg’s character’s last name is Peralta, which is a Spanish surname).” – seadra2011

“Holt and Kevin(and Rosa Diaz) have changed the way people have perceived gay couples and gay people. Nine Nine!” –chaoticbiguy


“The first on-screen presence that made me feel seen/represented period was @justinamachado ‘s character on One Day At A Time. A Latina veteran struggling with her mental health while trying to juggle school, work, love, and family? And as a main character? Whew….“-vieja.metiche

“Taína! It was on Disney if I remember correctly?? Then @americaferrera in sisterhood of the traveling pants as Carmen. 😭❤️ her life was like mine. Growing up in suburbs but never really having a place culturally.. but my girlfriends still had my back no matter our background.” –chessy__a

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