There’s no denying the fact that the entertainment industry has vastly become an amalgamation of artists from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds. After all, it was largely built, in great part, by migrants who either fled war-torn countries or arrived in the U.S. with nothing to build a better future. Since the early days of Hollywood, when European migrants fled the two world wars and then the Cold War, showbiz has been accommodating to creative minds searching for a conduit to tell their stories through song, words or film. In these days in which many question the value of cultural diversity, it is important to remember how much migrants have contributed to the social, cultural and political foundations of the United States and other Western countries.
Here are 17 individuals who wouldn’t take no for an answer, and we thank them for it!
1. Gloria Estefan
Credit: Instagram. @gloriaestefan
Country origin: Cuba Now lives in: the United States
One of the most influential personalities among the Cuban community in Miami was born in 1957, right in the middle of the Cold War, in Havana. Her father was a soldier and motor escort for Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, so the the family moved to Miami when the Revolution struck. Estefan’s dad later fought in Vietnam. Gloria Estefan is a famous opposer to the revolutionary regime in Cuba. Her dad suffered from the effects of Agent Orange after Vietnam, so Gloria’s mom was her source of support. She has said: “My mom was a source of strength. She showed me by example that women, regardless of how difficult life may get, can do it all”.
2. Kumail Nanjiani
Credit: Instagram. @kumailn
Country origin: Pakistan Now lives in: the United States
The star of The Big Sick was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and grew up in a religious Muslim family. He moved to the United States when he was just 18-years-old and he completed a major in computer science and philosophy, a combination that later led him to his iconic role in the HBO hit comedy “Silicon Valley.” Being a Muslim in America in this day and age is not easy, and Kumail has found a way to sublimate these struggles through his art.
3. Salma Hayek
Credit: Instagram. @salmahayek
Country origin: Mexico Now lives in: France, previously in the United States
Salma Hayek has generated hundreds of jobs in the United States through her movies and her production house, as well as millions of dollars in revenue. She arrived to the United States and initially overstayed her visa before getting a green card. She is open about this, and she has become a citizen of the United States. She lives in France for most of the year with her husband, billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault.
4. Jim Carrey
Credit: Instagram. @jimcarrey_
Country origin: Canada Now lives in: the United States
If we think of politically engaged actors in Hollywood, we have to think about Jim Carrey. He was born in Ontario, Canada, but has lived in the United States for decades. He is often outspoken when it comes to politics and he became a citizen in 2004 to be able to vote in the presidential elections. He is as funny as he is intelligent: his political stances are humanitarian in nature and fierce in practice. His philosophy is encapsulated by this awesome phrase: “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer”. Just wow.
5. Natalie Portman
Credit: Instagram. @natalieportman
Country origin: Israel Now lives in: the United States
The Oscar-winning actress holds both an Israeli and an American passport. Besides being an actress, Portman is a consummate scientist and has authored academic papers. She graduated from Harvard, by the way. Todo un cerebrito la Natalia! She also serves some harsh truths: “Smart women love smart men more than smart men love smart women”.
6. Sofia Vergara
Credit: Instagram. @sofiavergara
Country origin: Colombia Now lives in: the United States
The highest-paid actress in television was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, and moved to Miami to find fame and fortune. She also found a home in the United States. She is outspoken about Latino rights and bragged happily when she passed her citizenship test with a perfect score. Te queremos, Sofia, te queremos.
7. Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan
Credit: Instagram. @kevins_personalities
Country origin: India Now lives in: the United States
Once touted as the next Steven Spielberg, M. Night Shyamalan was born in Puducherry, India, in 1970. His parents migrated to the United States when he was barely six years old and he was raised in Hindu, which made his cultural adaptation harder. He is an honorable member of the American-Indian community and he always shows his ethnicity proudly on his sleeve.
8. Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer
Credit: Instagram. @cesarsway
Country origin: Mexico lindo y querido Now lives in: the United States
One of the greatest stars of reality television arrived illegally and with a mere $100 USD in his pocket. He chased his American Dream and he found it thanks to his amazing ability to get into the minds of dogs and into the hearts of celebrities and lay people alike. A true standout among Latino entertainers.
9. Singer Regina Spektor
Credit: Instagram. @reginaspektor
Country origin: Russia (then the Soviet Union) Now lives in: the United States
She was born in Moscow in 1980, in the then Soviet Union. Her parents fled the communist regime when she was nine, seeking a refugee status in the United States with the help of HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society). Spektor is a classically trained musician that has experimented with all sorts of genres. Know that amazing opening song in “Orange is the New Black”?Well, that’s her!
10. Music legend Carlos Santana
Credit: Instagram. @carlossantana
Country origin: Mexico Now lives in: the United States
One of the godfathers of Chicano rock was actually born in Jalisco, Mexico. The family moved to the border town of Tijuana when Carlos was a kid, and then the young musician tested his luck in San Francisco. The rest, as they say, is musical history. Santana is a true hijo de la frontera.
11. Novelist Isabel Allende
Credit: Instagram. @allendeisabel
Country origin: Chile Now lives in: the United States
The legendary author of The House of Spirits was born in Chile, and denounced the many atrocities of the Pinochet military regime. She did so in her books, and also in her outspoken political persona. She is a Chilean-American dual citizen and in 2014 then-president Barack Obama awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She often lectures on literature in US colleges. She settled in California in 1989 and was awarded her citizenship in 1992.
12. Hollywood legend Anthony Quinn
Credit: Instagram. @cinema.classic
Country origin: Mexico Lived in: the United States
Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca was born in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. This legendary actor, the epitome of the rugged Hollywood type, was born during the Mexican Revolution to a Mexican mother and an Irish immigrant father. The family later relocated to Los Angeles.
13. Actor Andy Garcia
Credit: Instagram. @lovelikefilm
Country origin: Cuba Now lives in: the United States
One of the most vociferous opponents to the Castro regime and a prominent member of the Cuban-American community. He was born in Havana, but his family relocated to the United States after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion.
So, it goes without saying that Spanish is a language totally worth learning. However, you don’t have to wait until high school Spanish classes to pick up the language. In fact, learning a language is easiest at a young age. Doing so has added benefits too. Learning a second language has been shown to increase problem-solving, creativity, test scores and a greater understanding of one’s native language.
It only makes sense to start them young but don’t take our word for it. There are tons of celebrities who also understand this advantage. As such, both native and non-native speakers are setting their kids up for a bilingual future by teaching them Spanish now. Here are some of the celebs who are fostering a love for Español in their kids.
1. Ali Wong
Instagram / @aliwong
Funny woman Ali Wong is best known for making us laugh with her comedy specials and Netflix original movie “Always Be My Maybe,” but she’s also a really cool mom. In this Instagram video, the comedian is shown reading a Lil’ Libros book about La Catrina to her little one. She even encourages her daughter to read along. We can’t help but approve of her technique.
2. Ryan Gosling & Eva Mendes
Instagram / @gosling.mendes
Celebrity couple Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes have two adorable little girls who they are teaching Spanish to. In May 2019, the actress appeared on “The Talk” and shared her experience teaching her daughters.
“We’re trying to teach the kids Spanish, and it’s harder than I thought because I speak Spanglish, and that’s what they’re picking up. It’s adorable, but it’s technically not a language.”
3. Salma Hayek
Instagram / @salmahayek
Not every native Spanish speaker decides to teach their children Spanish — especially if their spouse doesn’t speak the language. That hasn’t stopped Salma Hayek, though. The actress has shared in the past that her daughter, Valentina, knows three languages. Her husband is from France so their girl has grown up speaking French, Spanish and English.
4. Perez Hilton
Instagram / @hxrrykidd
Gossip guru, Perez Hilton is a dedicated father of one and is passing his Cuban heritage on to his son through speaking Spanish. Back in 2013, the internet personality shared with MAMAS LATINAS about his strict Spanish-only rule.
“I speak to him only in Spanish in the house, and so does abuela.”
Though she’s Latina, Jessica Alba isn’t a native speaker. Still, she recognizes the importance of learning the language. Back in 2008, she told LATINA that she was determined to learn so she could teach her kids.
“Hopefully I can pick it up because I want my kids to speak Spanish. I don’t even want them to speak English for maybe the first two to three years, until preschool.”
6. Hilaria Baldwin
Instagram / @hilariabaldwin
Alec Baldwin’s wife, Hilaria, was ready to teach their daughter Spanish before she was even talking. The Spanish-national told US Weekly all about her plans.
“I was on the phone with my nephew, who’s seven. He called me…and he asked me, ‘Is she going to speak Spanish?’ I said, ‘Yes, but you have to help because she’s going to grow up [in the US] probably so you have to help speak to her in Spanish.'”
For JLo, her kids learning Spanish was all about la cultura. She and ex-husband, Marc Anthony, made sure to teach their twins the language while they grew up. She explained this mentality during an interview with AMERICA READS SPANISH.
“[It’s] Very, very important. I want my kids not just to speak in Spanish but to know the culture of their parents. We come from a rich and vast culture and I want to educate my kids knowing their heritage.”
8. Christina Aguilera
Instagram / @xtina
Christina Aguilera is another Latina who understands the value of teaching her child Spanish. She shared with People that she intended for her son Max to learn the language as it is a part of their Latino culture and he is half Latino.
9. Roselyn Sánchez
Instagram / @sueltalasopatv
Actress and producer Roselyn Sánchez is a native Spanish speaker and has taught her daughter how to speak it as well. However, her husband, Eric Winter, doesn’t speak the language at all. This led to Sánchez and her daughter giving their favorite guy a few adorable lessons in Español.
10. Ricky Martin
Instagram / @ricky_martin
Pop sensation Ricky Martin helped usher in the Latin explosion of the early 2000s. His culture is obviously very important to the star and he’s shared that gift with his twin sons. In fact, the Puerto Rican dad and his kids only speak Spanish at home. English is only spoken by his boys at school
11. Gwyneth Paltrow
Instagram / @gwynethpaltrow
Goop-founder Gwyneth Paltrow is raising her kids to speak fluent Spanish. Son, Moses, and daughter, Apple, are encouraged to only speak Spanish to each other at home. This immersion therapy is one of the best methods for raising bilingual kids.
12. Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas
Instagram / @allegraabla
Though she is now grown, Stella Banderas was raised by her parents to be fluent in Spanish and English. Born in Spain, the young actress grew up shuttled between LA and her home country so being bilingual was especially helpful.
13. Zoe Saldana
Twitter / @MichaelStone64
For Afro-Latina Zoe Saldana, the choice to teach her kids Spanish was an easy one. In fact, according to Girls Talk Smack, she decided to before they were even born.
“Of course [our children] will speak the languages that we speak; my sisters and I grew up learning French and speaking English and Spanish, and because of that, we’re able to understand Italian and Portuguese. But I’m going to have to make a conscious effort to speak Spanish to my children, because I speak Spanglish.”
14. Tiny Harris
Instagram / @majorgirl
Wife to T.I. and mom to Heiress, Tiny Harris is working on making her daughter as well rounded as possible. In a January 2019 Instagram video, the mom recorded little Heiress practicing her Spanish. Harris’ hope is that she can help her daughter learn a second or third language.
15. David and Victoria Beckham
Instagram / @beckhamxfamilystyle
Back in 2003, David Beckham and family moved to Spain when he signed on with Real Madrid. The soccer star learned Spanish while playing with his team and taught his sons as well. This goes to show that necessity can be a useful motivation when learning a new language.
16. Matt Damon
Twitter / @enews
Though he is married to an Argentine woman, Matt Damon was a Spanish speaker long before they met. He learned Spanish through immersion as a teenager and also backpacked through Mexico and Guatemala. As such, he and his wife, Luciana Barroso, have raised their four daughters to speak Spanish as well.
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