Entertainment

After Years Of Hard Work, This Cubana Is Killing It In Hollywood

If you don’t know who Selenis Leyva is, allow us to introduce you.

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Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty

She’s a Cuban-born, American actress best known for her role as the fierce Gloria Mendoza on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.”

Mitu-Selenis Leyva
CREDIT: Orange Is The New Black / Netflix

She’s also an insanely inspirational and strong Latina who is paving the way for fellow actresses of color.

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Credit: Jamie McCarthy / Getty

Before Leyva booked her role on “OITNB,” she was a struggling actress facing the same hardships that plague Latinas in Hollywood.

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Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty

It may seem like Leyva came out of nowhere, but some of you may remember her stints as Tita Rosa in the Nickelodeon series “Taina”…

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Credit: Nickelodeon

And as Detective Mariluz Rivera in “Law & Order.”

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Credit: NBC

Recently, Leyva spoke to students at Florida International University about the trials of being an Afro-Latina actress in the United States.

Credit: @selenisleyvaofficial / Instagram

It wasn’t because she isn’t an absolute boss at acting. It was because of the lack of solid roles for Latinas – especially Afro-Latinas.

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Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty

For Leyva, even the telenovelas which she grew up watching didn’t feel like somewhere she belonged. “Those women (in TV shows) were fair skinned, and they all had long, flowing hair,” she said in her speech at FIU. “Their features were different. They didn’t look like me. And maybe there was one person who maybe could’ve played my long-lost cousin, but she always happened to be the maid.”

Leyva also points out there’s nothing wrong with playing a maid or a junkie — but that’s not all you should see.

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CREDIT: Orange Is The New Black / Neflix

And that’s part of the reason she’s so grateful to play Gloria on “OITNB.” Even though Gloria is in prison, she’s a layered character with depth and history. This kind of character development is something every actress hopes for in a role and sets characters apart from the stereotypical Latina roles that are still being written today.

Leyva is extremely outspoken about diversity in the film and television industry.

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CREDIT: Orange Is The New Black / Netflix

Leyva told FIU students there are still many stories to be told: “It starts when they’re having conversations about a story, and who they think they want to cast as this person, or this lead. Let’s just open it up. We’re living in a world where there’s difference, and there’s a lot of different stories to be told. And it’s okay to tell all stories.”

Leyva is also an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community; she is the sister of a trans woman.

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CREDIT: Michael Kovac / Getty

In June, Leyva penned a blog for The Huffington Post entitled, “What Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair Cover Sparked For Me As A Sister Of A Trans Woman.”

After the initial joy at Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover, Leyva realized some harrowing truths.

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Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty

“I feel sadness today because the majority of the trans community struggle to simply get decent health care, never mind public acceptance. So yes, yesterday I, like millions, celebrated the Vanity Fair cover. Today, I hope we don’t lose sight that this is not the norm for your average transgender person. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s continue to educate. Let’s continue to have conversations.”

Leyva has leveraged her fame to share a message and speak up for those who need it. That’s just badass.

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Credit: Frederick M. Brown / Getty

READ: These ‘Flaritza’ Moments Prove Flaca & Maritza Deserve Their Own Show

What’s your favorite Gloria Mendoza moment from OITNB? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to share on Facebook and Twitter!

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Jeimy Osorio, Reflects On The “Amazing Journey” It’s Been To Play Celia Cruz In The Hit Series

Entertainment

Jeimy Osorio, Reflects On The “Amazing Journey” It’s Been To Play Celia Cruz In The Hit Series

Jeimy Osorio is the Puerto Rican and proud Afro-Latina actress you should have on your radar. With lead roles in “Betty en New York” and “Celia,” Osorio has taken the entertainment industry by storm and reminds the world the importance of highlighting Afro-Latinx stories, and casting Afro-Latinx talent for Afro-Latinx roles. mitú caught up with the talented actress about what these experiences were like for her, the significance of portraying her characters on screen, and how they have impacted her acting and singing career.

So good to meet you, Jeimy! I hope quarantine has been treating you well, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. You play a young Celia Cruz in the series, “Celia.” Can you tell us about that journey? Was this your first major role?

Yes! Actually it was my first major role back in 2014 when we started filming. It was, if I’m not mistaken, one of the first Afro-Latina TV shows led by an Afro-Latina. It has been an honor because ever since I have been representing the Afro-Latina community even more so than before. It has been an honor for me to play this role as well because I have, in a way, kept with me the values and the tools that this character taught me about how to take care of my career and how to be as kind and understanding as Celia was when she was growing up, all of which led to her success, I would say.

You touched on this a little, but what does it mean to you to get to play such an iconic woman? I mean, we’re talking about Celia Cruz! 

It’s an amazing journey, I mean in the beginning, I knew that they were giant shoes to fill. I was thinking, “I don’t know how I am going to do this, I don’t even know if people are going to like this, I’m just going to enjoy each moment the best I can and I’m going to try to portray that joy in the camera.” And I think that worked. For me, it has still been a gift, a dream, and also like I said before, continuing the legacy of good music, message of self-love, of self-respect, of respect for others, loving your country, speaking up, using your voice, helping others through music, creating joyful music! I think that, for me, that’s the biggest one. As artists, performers, we are on the radio, we are inevitable to your ears. So whatever comes into your ears that comes from me, I want it to be joyful. I want it to be something that helps you grow, or at least touch your emotions, or helps you connect or helps you feel better. So for me to grab on to these values and tools that I would say that she left me, it’s an honor to just keep bringing these things to life with this new generation.

You’re also in “Betty en New York.” For anyone who isn’t familiar with the show, how would you describe it?

“Betty en New York” is definitely a show that you need to watch. At some point in our lives, we have all been Betty. It’s a beautiful story and it is so refreshing because it touches on the subjects that we are experiencing right now about racism, about bullying, and what social media is really doing with the minds of our kids and our teenagers. Also, the theme of self love is the most important. We’re touching all these subjects that are so deep, but the fact that we’re connecting it with comedy and that we’re going to bring this to you in your face as you laugh, it’s a magical combination. You can’t miss it and you can’t not love it. 

“Betty en New York” is a comedic series. Were there any funny moments from the set?

There were so many funny moments! Sometimes we had to stop filming because we couldn’t go on with the scene because it was so funny. We would have laugh attacks for 5-10 minutes and then you start laughing and then when you stop, I start laughing, and there was a moment where everyone started laughing and then no one could stop laughing. It was amazing. We would also sing, too, and perform in between scenes. We would make fun of each other, basically, but mainly with love. A lot of love.

Going back to “Celia,” can you tell me about one of your favorite moments on that show?

I think one of my favorite moments was when I was recording the talent show when she sang for the first time in front of her mother. When we were recording it, that sequence was so surreal for me because ten years before I was winning a singing contest at a university in front of my parents for the first time. It was just so parallel. I remember my friends were screaming my name, I was in second year and I didn’t tell my parents what the show was about, I just told them I was going to sing. They always knew I wanted to become a singer but they didn’t know my passion because I was shy! I would sing so low in my room, I didn’t want anyone to hear me. I kind of felt ashamed of it. I was still trying to figure out what was wrong with my voice, like, I felt that there was something wrong with my voice until that day. For me to play Celia singing, having her mother there and to look at the wood floor was exactly my same memory, and I was thinking  “wait a minute, I’ve lived this before.” I started crying in front of everyone. So the tears that you see in the beginning when they’re throwing her flowers in the opening of the show, that’s really me trying to stop the tears. And I remember I couldn’t stop crying for the next 15 minutes. They cut the scene, I was like “oh my god, this was me 10 years ago,” I was in shock. I couldn’t stop the tears.

A very full-circle moment, I’m sure. 

Yes, it was!

Congratulations again, on both of these shows! Are these shows available to stream anywhere? How can we watch “Celia” and “Betty en New York?”

Definitely! You can all go to Peacock.com, you’ll find more information there. You can [also] download it to your smart TV. It’s going to be under free programming and premium programming, for those that want a little extra. You can watch live programming from Telemundo and from different networks, content in both Spanish and English. I’m really happy we’re going to be representing the Latino community through Telemundo programming on the Peacock TV app.

Well, there you have it! Brb, going to binge-watch all seasons of “Betty en New York” and “Celia” on Peacock.

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Candace Valenzuela Is Poised To Become First Afro-Latina Elected To Congress

Things That Matter

Candace Valenzuela Is Poised To Become First Afro-Latina Elected To Congress

CandaceFor24 / Instagram

Candace Valenzuela is the official Democratic nominee for Texas’s 24th Congressional District. After winning the run-off election, Valenzuela is now poised to become the first Afro-Latina elected to Congress.

Candace Valenzuela is the Democratic nominee for Texas’s 24th Congressional District.

Valenzuela is running to represent a suburban district that sits in the middle of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. The seat was left empty after Republican Congressman Kenny Marchant gave up the seat. Rep. Marchant gave up the seat after facing two tough campaigns by Jan McDowell in 2016 and 2018. In 2018, Rep. Marchant won by 3 points in 2018, a much smaller victory than his 17 point lead in 2016.

Valenzuela proved that she was a force in the race with her ad “Four Walls.”

During the campaign, Valenzuela released an ad that offered hope to her constituents. Valenzuela got very honest about her childhood facing homelessness with her mother following domestic abuse. According to the campaign ad, Valenzuela grew up learning the true meaning of a home.

Valenzuela joined the school board in her district because of the importance of school in her stability as a child. With her run-off election behind her, Valenzuela will be competing against Beth Van Duyne. The Republican woman is running a campaign calling for local law enforcement to work closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in deportations.

Valenzuela has spoken out on the current economy and how she had to navigate it when she left college.

“What happened was that I graduated into the height of the recession. I had this $150,000 degree, but I didn’t have parents that were very well-connected,” Valenzuela told Yahoo News. “Both my mom and dad were enlisted military. I was having a really hard time finding a job that lined up with my experience, and I wasn’t alone. So, I ended up taking a job, and another, and another, because that was the only way I was going to be able to cover my health insurance, which was incredibly expensive. I had a pre-existing condition that made my health insurance even higher.”

Valenzuela is now gearing up for her general election in November with hopes of flipping a Republican seat.

Texas’s 24th Congressional District has been a longheld Republican seat and recent elections show that hold slipping. It is telling that Rep. Marchant retired from his role in the House of Representatives after decades. Best of luck, mija!

READ: Rep. Henry Cuellar Defeats Progressive Challenger Jessica Cisneros In Texas

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