Internalized self-hatred within communities of color is real. Throughout Latinidad, and in areas with large Afro-Latinx populations especially, the term “good hair” is phrase that is used to promote white supremacy and further oppress people of black descent. Young Latinas are often pressured by their families to look a certain way in order to project an image of perfection. It takes positive representation and the celebration of black features to eradicate anti-blackness from the culture.
On Wednesday, it was announced that the wildly popular animated short film, “Hair Love” was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film, and the internet rejoiced. Issa Rae–who actually voices one of the characters in the film–announced the film’s nomination with a marked note of pride in her voice. After the movie’s nomination was announced, the film’s director, Matthew A. Cherry, posted a video of his team’s reaction to his Twitter account.
The touching and adorable story of “Hair Love” follows the trials of a black father struggling to style his young daughter’s hair. The movie is a story of how self-love is accomplished through patience and attention.
The story begins with a little girl named Zuri who has dreams of having the perfect hairstyle when she visits her mother in the hospital. Struggling to do her hair herself, she recruits her father for help. Unfortunately, her father becomes quickly overwhelmed by not only the myriad of products and tools at his disposal but by the expertise and patience required to style black hair.
Through the course of the movie, we see as Zuri’s father panics and struggle to become confident at handling his daughter’s hair. In the end, they both learn that love is expressed through both care and attention.
Cherry has been truthful about why he wanted to tackle the issue of hair-care and self-acceptance among the African-American and black community.
“You know, media is so powerful,” Cherry told NPR. “And when you grow up and see magazine covers and TV shows and movies and you don’t see yourself represented, but you see every other type of hairstyle represented, you know, that can really affect your self-confidence”
Interestingly enough, “Hair Love” was funded via a Kickstarter campaign. Initially, Cherry’s goal was to raise $75,000 for his passion project, but the campaign quickly gained a life of it’s own. The campaign went viral, and soon enough, celebrity champions like Jordan Peele and Gabrielle Union came on board as producers. All in all, the campaign raked in a total of $280,000–smashing Kickstarter’s short-film financing records.
For many people, “Hair Love”’s nomination has been a bright spot among the bleak roster of very white Oscar nominations.
As has become customary, film fans and movie critics have decried the Oscars for the lack of diversity among their 2020 nominees. Not only is there only one black performer among the 20 nominees for acting, but assumed shoe-in Jennifer Lopez was snubbed for a Best Supporting actress nom. To make matters worse, there were no female directors nominated at all for the second consecutive time.
Even Cherry himself has vocally criticized the nomination roster, blasting the Academy for snubbing both Eddie Murphy and Lupita N’Yongo (for their performances in “Dolemite Is My Name” and “Us”, respectively). He called the day “bittersweet” and expressed his wish for “more black folks and POC” to be nominated along side of him.
But Cherry has not been immune to the excitement surrounding the nomination, actively expressing his pleasure on social media.
“It feels like a dream,” he Tweeted out after the nomination announcement. “Huge thanks to our great team, our Kickstarter backers and @SonyAnimation for believing in us.”
Of course, social media was over the moon at the announcement of “Hair Love”‘s Oscar nomination.
Not only is the story touching and brilliant, but hundreds of people feel invested after initially donated to the project via Kickstarter.
Some people admitted that the movie brought them to tears when they first watched it.
Same, girl. Same.
Issa Rae’s co-announcer John Chu admitted a teeny bit of bias for the film.
This move is just so gosh darn easy to root for.
This person pointed out that Rae herself looked more than a little happy when the nomination was announced.
If you grew up in the 90s, you’re aware of how different TV looks today vs. back in the day. In an era packed with so many Latina stars like Gina Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Selena Gomez, and Jennifer Lopez it’s kind of weird to look back and remember how absent such faces were almost two decades ago. Why? Because straight up: flipping on the TV and finding Latino TV and movie characters was quite a rarity in the 90s. Fortunately, there were a few characters around to shape our understanding of what it meant to be Latino in our youth.
Here’s to the trendy, geeky, rebellious Latino TV and movie characters who gave us strange new feelings, nuanced understandings of sexuality, and brought a bit more color to whitewashed screens.
1. Benny ‘The Jet’ Rodriguez from “The Sandlot”
Okay, hold up. First. Just look at those eyes^^^^^^^
There’s no denying that this brown-eyed heartthrob had a huge influence in the spark of your sexual awakening. Not only was Benny the cutest guy on the team, he also shined through as the team’s star player and went on to the Dodgers. All this despite the times and the white suburban neighborhood he lived in. 100% Benny is an inspiration and credit to Latinos who knock their dreams out of the park. Seriously, get yourself a major leaguer like this guy.
2. Sam Swoboda from “P.U.N.K.S.”
Jessica Alba’s character, Sam, was one mean girl in this flick about a group of bullied teens aiming to shut down a corrupted company. For those of us who had a limited view of the parameters of what Latina could be, Sam’s character was a massive wakeup call. Sure, makeup and dresses can be our thing, but Sam taught us that we could get down and dirty right next to the boys. Even better we could run the show and be leaders of the pack.
3. Rickie Vasquez from “My So-Called Life”
It all seems like yesterday, but looking back at the 90s its hard not to flinch at the reminders of how rampant negative portrayals of Latino characters and homosexuals was. And yet, a positive representation of the LGBT community unexpectedly emerged on a little teen drama called “My So-Called Life.” Rickie Vasquez. He rocked a mean eyeliner, used the girls’ bathroom as a safe haven, and kept his friends in check while remaining fiercely loyal to them. Rickie was a massive launching pad for TV’s understanding of sexual fluidity that the 90s desperately needed.
4. Ruby from “Kids”
There’s no way Mima let you watch this film while you were a kid in the 90s. Bets are that you watched this with one eye on the door and a finger ready to hit “last.” Ruby (played by Cuban Puertorriqueña, Rosario Dawson) was the ringleader of a group of sexually active teenage girls doing quite a lot a little too soon. While Ruby didn’t always shine as a beacon of sexual responsibility, she did open our eyes to dark realities to come in our teen years.
5. A.C. Slater from “Saved by the Bell”
Muscles ― lo siento, Mario ― Mario Lopez portrayed U.S. Army Brat A.C. Slater and took things to a next level for us (sexuality wise) after Benny Rodriguez. One peck ripple from A.C. and there’s no questioning what stripped us of the remainder of our Latina youth. And still, despite A.C’s heritage never being a thing in the early days of SBTB (though, there is an entire episode dedicated to Slater discovering his Chicano identity in “The College Years”) we all knew what was up. Besides Lisa Turtle, A.C. was one of the few people of color portrayed on the show which was a big deal considering how massive the show was. It always felt good knowing that we could flip on the TV and see someone who looked like us. LBR, especially one that was so guapo.
6. Ashley Banks from “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
Ashley Banks herself might not have been a Latina character, but Tatyana M. Ali whose parents are Trinidadian and Panamanian identifies herself as Afro-Latina. As a non-Latina character on the show, there’s no doubt Ashely still had some influence on us as kids. She was a smart, beautiful and witty girl of color and TV was missing quite a bit of that. While initially, young Ashley did her best to model her dope older cousin Will, it wasn’t long before she began to grow into her own. She developed her own taste in music and fashion all while pushing against the tight reins of father Phil. In short, she became the ultimate #rebelforindepence goals.
7. Selena Quintanilla from “Selena”
Of course, Selena tops this list (she will never stop topping lists and don’t you ever forget that). Selena is, was, has, and always will be the ultimate on-screen big older sister for Latinas everywhere. Ask any Latina who grew up in the 90s which female character inspired her the most as a woman and find us a gal who doesn’t name Selena. That’s because she taught all about the washing machine, the power of will, grace, and how bras could moonlight as bustiers. For that, everyone should be incredibly grateful.
8. Taina Morales from “Taina”
“I know I can’t wait to see my name in lights. No one’s gonna stop me, you’ll see,” went the theme song to the Nickelodeon hit series Taina. The two-season show was about a young Latina, played by Puerto Rican actress Christina Vidal, growing up in Queens, New York who had dreams of becoming a star. With her determination and dedication, we watched her try to make it to the top and conquer her superstardom in high school. The Nuyorican teen showed us what growing up Latina was all about. In Taina, we saw a girl like us, someone hoping for the perfect quinceañera, gushing over crushes, struggling to write in Spanish, trying to understand the African, indigenous and Spaniard influence on Latinx culture and relatives who always worked to instill Boricua pride. She stayed true to her heritage while never giving up on her dreams, and we needed to see that.
9. Channel Simmons from “The Cheetah Girls”
Over on the Disney Channel, Channel “Chuchie” Simmons brought all the Latina flavor to the hit TV film “The Cheetah Girls.” The movie is about four New York teenagers who are trying to get their music group to go big time. Chuchie, played by Puerto Rican-Ecuadorian singer-actress-host Adrienne Bailon, particularly embraced her Latina culture in the second film, when the girls visited Spain, but she was relatable to all young viewers. While juggling friendship problems, her mom’s dating life and trying to make it to the top, she was never afraid to speak her mind, just like the Latinas we know and love in our real lives. Even through the Cheetahlicious breakups (because there were many), she remained strong and held the group together.
10. Miranda Sanchez from “Lizzie McGuire”
Lizzie McGuire’s right-hand girl was BFF goals: loyal, funny and always stylish — oh, and she’s mexicana. In the hit series, Miranda Sanchez, portrayed by Filipino-American actress Lalaine Vergara-Paras, celebrated Day of the Dead, a Mexican tradition showing her character getting in touch with her roots, and spoke Spanish. Miranda always had a unique fashion sense and bold hair styles in every episode, which is part of what made her character so interesting. She embraced sisterhood and friendship, making her the best friend many young girls wished to have in real life.
11. Alex Russo from “Wizards of Waverly Place”
Mexican-Italian Alex Russo, played by Selena Gomez, was the protagonist of Wizards of Waverly Place, a Disney Channel series about siblings whose parents were teaching them how to master their wizardry. Alex, a New York-based high schooler, had a very strong personality and bold attitude. The series was one of the first to portray a biracial Latina lead, showing the teen struggling to speak Spanish and embracing her mother’s traditions by having a quinceañera. As more Latinas intermarry, this representation is ever more imperative.
12. LaCienega Boulevardez from “The Proud Family”
Also on the Disney Channel was Lacienega Boulevardez, an Afro-Latina character on the cartoon The Proud Family. Voiced by dominicana Alisa Reyes, Boulevardez wasn’t always the nicest. She was the frenemy and neighbor of Penny Proud, the protagonist of the show. But with her name and bold personality, there is no forgetting her. She was vital because she was one of the first representations of a Black Latina, allowing many young viewers to be able to say, “she looks just like me.”
13. Carmen Cortez from “Spy Kids”
Carmen Cortez was the definition of a badass Latina! The lead in ”Spy Kids,” a film about young siblings who become spies in attempt to save their parents, her strength and courage were important to display on-screen, not just for young Latinas but rather for girls everywhere. Played by colombiana Alexa PenaVega, Carmen was a strong, fearless and outspoken girl who cared immensely about her family and always fought for what she believed in. In 2001, when “Spy Kids” released, we didn’t see many females, let alone young girls, portrayed in media as brave leaders. It hasn’t been until recently, with shows and films like Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, ”Black Panther,” ”Hidden Figures” and, for the youngsters, Elena of Avalor, that we are beginning to see strong and intelligent women of color being represented in the media, so “Spy Kids” offering this representation was major.
14. Betty Suarez from “Ugly Betty”
Betty Suarez was not portrayed as the stereotypical Latina. Her character, played by Honduran-American actress America Ferrera, wasn’t seen as the ideal beauty standard. Typically, Latinas are depicted as sexy, curvy, spicy and sassy women. But Ugly Betty, an ABC series about a smart and hardworking Latina from Queens, New York who lands a job as an assistant for a major fashion magazine, showed young Latinas a different kind of beauty. Betty wasn’t just focused on her looks but was goal-driven and determined to break into media, which she did — even though she dealt with tons of ups and downs along the way. She was unapologetically herself, a trait that every young Latina needed to see.
15. Lorena Garcia from “The Brothers García”
The Brothers García, a Nickelodeon series about a Mexican-American family growing up in San Antonio, Texas, was centered on boys, but Lorena, the sole sister and a twin, stood out. Being the only girl in her family, she had a lot to prove. Played by Puerto Rican-German-Russian actress Vaneza Pitynski, she did just about everything to get her parents’ attention in a home filled with boys — something anyone of us who grew up with brothers knows all about.
16. Tori Vega from “Victorious”
“You don’t have to be afraid to put your dream in action. You’re never gonna fade. You’ll be the main attraction. Not a fantasy, just remember me, when it turns out right,” goes the score for Nickelodeon’s Victorious, a series about a Latina teen who attends a performing arts school. Tori Vega, played by the part-Puerto Rican Victoria Justice, was a character that many young girls could relate to — or aspire to be. She was determined, strong-minded and confident in chasing her dream of becoming a singer while helping her friends achieve their own goals along the way.
17. The entire cast from “East Los High”
Starring Danielle Vega, Gabriel Chavarria, Alicia Sixtos, and Vannessa Vasquez the storylines and characters from the show completely blow our minds every time we tune in.
18. Santana Lopez from “Glee”
Santa was always prepped with withering stank faces / gripe but the proud lesbian was undoubteldy one of the most exciting characters on the show. She was unapologetic about who she was and her love Brittany.
19. Gina Torres from “Firefly”
The Afro-Latina dream had a huge play in the plot’s storyline and was undoubtedly the leader of the pack when it came to this cult show.
20. Dani from “Glee”
Demi Lovato’s character might have only been Introduced inseries’ fifth season, but she was KEY to our love for the show. The waitress from NYC captures our love and attention from the get-go.
21. Marco from “Animorphs”
Anyone tuning into Nickelodeon back in the hey-day knows that Marco was the coolest guy on the show. He had a great sense of humor and chose to look at the world with a sense of ease.
22. Cassie from “Animorphs
The most compassionate of the Animorphs, CassieShe was kind and empathetic and often met conflict with a level head.
23. Boonie from “The Luck of the Irish”
Sure Kyle was at the center of the show but Bonnie Lopez was the the true star of this hit. Bonnie had no issues calling Kyle out on his privilege and ability to coast through life with ease.
24. Gloria from “Cadet Kelly”
Gloria Ramos, played by Aimee Garcia, might not have been the star of this Disney classic but she sure was the bones of it. Without her help, Kelly never would have been able to ensure that Kelly finishes her course.
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Selena will always be a legend for Latino music lovers. The Tejano singer gave us English and Spanish songs that continue to rock our worlds. Her music is still played on the radio, in bars, and she always makes it to a few playlists out there. This weekend, people took some time to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the release of the biopic honoring the singer.
Jennifer Lopez came through on #CelebratingSelena with her own video honoring the singer and her chance to play the role.
We’ve all seen the movie more times than we care to count. It was probably one of the most impactful movies in our younger years. It was so wonderful to see our culture represented through Selena. It was a rare moment of fully authentic representation and it is not something we will ever forget.
J.Lo’s tweet hit Selena fans in the feels as they all took time to remember the late singer.
Selena was grace and class personified. Her ability to jump into the mainstream as a Latin singer shows the kind of power she had in the music industry. She broke down barriers for Latina artists who have come after her to lead successful careers, like J.Lo and Shakira.
Who could forget the iconic bustier scene?
You know you quote “busti-caca” way more than you want to admit to. It might just be the most quotable line in the whole movie. Now that most of us are working from home until further notice, it would be a great time to watch one of the most iconic Latino films of all time.
It is still inspiring people to pay tribute to La Reina.
Even 25 years after her death, people are loving her sound and keeping her memory alive through tribute videos and just listening to her music. Selena truly is someone people will never forget. She was recently inducted into the Houston Rodeo’s Star Trail of Fame and continues to be a major figure in Latino American pop culture.
Don’t worry. You can spend any day celebrating Selena because she is one person who is always worth celebrating.