Things That Matter

17 Latino Celebrities That Hold a College Degree

So many of our favorite celebrities attract us with their talents, good looks, or killer personalities. Unfortunately, there aren’t many celebrities, Latino or otherwise, that are known for their brains. However, the tradition of higher education is still alive and well, and many of our favorite Latino celebs actually have college degrees that they often don’t mention. Let’s check out some of our favorite Latino celebs that have college degrees, and see how they’ve used their education to improve their careers.

1. America Ferrera

Instagram /  @americaferrera

Best known for her role on Ugly Betty from 2006 to 2010, America Ferrera was born in Los Angeles to two parents who had recently immigrated from Honduras. She did plays all through elementary and high school, and eventually went to the University of Southern California to study both theater and international relations. She dropped out of school to focus on acting but ended up going back more than 10 years later to finish up her degree. Now, she divides her time between acting and political activism through organizations like the Time’s Up legal defense fund and Voto Latino.

2. Nina Garcia

Instagram / @ninagarcia

Although she’s been the editor-in-chief of Elle for more than 15 years, Nina Garcia is most recognizable to the public from her work as a judge on Project Runway. Garcia was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, but moved to the United States to attend a boarding school in Massachusetts at a very young age. Her exacting eye for fashion was developed through her journalism work, but she also has a related degree in fashion merchandising from the Fashion Institute of Technology. That’s in addition to her Bachelor’s degree from Boston University!

3. Mark Sanchez

Twitter / @marksanchez

Mark Sanchez has played football on six teams in his nine years in the NFL. Currently, he’s the quarterback of the Washington Redskins, but he grew up in beautiful southern California. Like many other kids from his neighborhood, he went to the University of Southern California, and finished his degree the same summer that he entered the NFL Draft. He’s considered one of the greatest Mexican-American athletes within the United States. He’s third-generation Mexican-American, and even took Spanish lessons so he could communicate better with Latino news outlets.

4. Salma Hayek

Instagram /  @salmahayek

Salma Hayek, who first became known for her work on Mexican telenovelas, has been a famous member of the Hollywood A-list since her first American movie (Desperado) in 1995. She was born in Mexico, and has moved back and forth from the United States a few times- the first was when she was 12, and moved to Louisiana to attend boarding school. She went to the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, and graduated with a degree in international relations.

5. Aubrey Plaza

Twitter /  @evilhag

Although it pains us to see her as anyone other than April Ludgate, Aubrey Plaza has become even more famous since her days on Parks and Recreation. Since Parks and Rec ended, she’s starred in several Hollywood blockbusters including Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and Ingrid Goes West. Plaza attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts from 2003 to 2006, and while she was there performed at the venerable Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, doing improv and sketch comedy.

6. Christy Turlington

Instagram /  @cturlington

American-Salvadoran supermodel Christy Turlington was first discovered by a photographer when she was riding a horse in Miami, Florida. She was under 16 at the time, and for the next two years spent most of her after school time and summer vacations modeling. She moved to NYC when she was 18 to pursue a modeling career full-time. Although she didn’t attend a traditional college, she later enrolled at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, a school that’s famous for allowing students to essentially shape their own degrees. Turlington graduated with a degree in comparative religion and Eastern philosophy.

7. Eva Longoria

Instagram /  @evalongoria

Eva Longoria has been a well-known TV actress since her time on The Young and the Restless back in 2001. After she left that show in 2003, she signed on to play Gabrielle Solis in Desperate Housewives, which ran until 2012. This Tejano beauty has been a hard worker from early on, working at Wendy’s for three years to earn enough money for her quinceañera. She attended Texas A&M University-Kingsville, and earned her degree in kinesiology before getting her masters in Chicano studies at Cal State Northridge.

8. Rosie Perez

Twitter /  @rosieperezbklyn

Former The View host Rosie Perez has been a Hollywood and Broadway stalwart for decades now. Born in Brooklyn, and strongly identifying as a Nuyorican, Perez grew up all over Brooklyn and Queens before moving to Los Angeles for college. She appeared in a ton of different music videos after being scouted at a dance club, but now says that she only danced to relieve stress while she was doing her undergrad in bio-chemistry. She has been an active supporter of Puerto Rican rights all her life.

9. Tatyana Ali

Instagram / @tatyanaali

Panamanian-Trinidadian actress Tatyana Ali was born in North Bellmore, New York, and started her acting career at an extremely young age. She was a child performer on Sesame Street, but made her acting breakthrough when she was cast as Ashley Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Although she’s been acting since she was a kid, she took time out of her career to attend Harvard, where she got a degree in African-American and Government studies. She’s currently married to an assistant professor of English who teaches at Stanford.  

10. Soledad O’Brien

Twitter / @soledadobrien

Soledad O’Brien, who currently helms the nationally-syndicated Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, attended Harvard-Radcliffe College. She actually dropped out right before she graduated to take her first TV job, but went back to finish her degree 12 years later, in 2000. She has five siblings, all of whom graduated from Harvard as well.

11. Oscar Isaac

Twitter / @realoscarisaac

Oscar Isaac was actually born Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada. He came to the United States from his home country of Guatemala when he was only 5 years old. He was a class clown growing up, and was eventually expelled from grade school. He joined a band in high school, but eventually gave up music to attend the acting program at the Juilliard School in NYC. Since then, he’s been in tons of movies including Inside Llewyn Davis and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

12. Sara Ramirez

Instagram / @therealsararamirez

Mexican-American activist and actress Sara Ramirez is definitely a triple-threat. She played the original Lady of the Lake in the Broadway musical Spamalot, is still remembered fondly from her days on Grey’s Anatomy, and released her first solo EP in 2011. She’s also a passionate LGBTQ activist and works with several organizations to advocate for equal rights around the world. She graduated from the elite Juilliard School with a BFA in Dramatics.

13. Jordana Brewster

Instagram / @jordanabrewster

As an actress, Jordana Brewster has really done it all. She’s appeared in soap operas, horror films, indie dramas, and finally the action franchise The Fast and the Furious. After more than 14 years with the franchise, she was written out after Furious 7. She’s appeared on multiple lists of the sexiest women in the world, but she’s got brains as well. She graduated from Yale in 2003 with a degree in English.

14. Laz Alonso

Instagram / @lazofficial

Another popular actor that’s also appeared in the Fast and the Furious franchise is Laz Alonso. He first got his start hosting shows on the BET network, and eventually moved on to roles in movies like Stomp the Yard and Jarhead. He comes from a Washington, DC-area Afro-Cuban family, and was an investment banker before he became an actor. He graduated from Howard University with a BBA in Marketing.

15. Victor Cruz

Instagram / @teamvic

After a near-record-breaking 131 catches during his college football career at UMass, Victor Cruz was first drafted by the New York Giants. After finishing his degree, he went on to play as a wide receiver for both the Giants and the Chicago Bears before retiring in 2018. He’s currently an analyst for ESPN.

16. Benjamin Bratt

Instagram / @benjaminbratt

All millennials will remember Benjamin Bratt, the hottie who played Sandra Bullock’s partner in Miss Congeniality. This American-Peruvian silver fox also spent four years as Det. Rey Curtis on Law & Order. He grew up in San Francisco, and attended UC Santa Barbara, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He planned on doing a Master’s degree in theater, but left the program before he graduated to appear in the TV movie  Juarez.

17. Dania Ramirez

Instagram / @daniajramirez

Actress Dania Ramirez was born in the Dominican Republic, but moved to the United States as a teenager to study acting. She ended up graduating from Montclair State University in New Jersey, having played varsity volleyball for most of her college years. She’s appeared in TV, movies, and music videos, and has also modeled for CoverGirl.

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This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

Entertainment

This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

On a recent episode of ABC’s game show To Tell The Truth, three celebrity panelists were tasked to uncover the identity of a real mariachi singer.

Each contender embodied “non-traditional” attributes of mariachi culture either through physical appearance or language barriers, leaving the panelists stumped.

When it came time for the big reveal, with a humble smile 53-year-old Timoteo “El Charro Negro” stood up wowing everyone. Marveled by his talents, Timoteo was asked to perform unveiling his smooth baritone voice.

While not a household name in the U.S., his career spans over 25 years thriving on the catharsis of music.

Timoteo “El Charro Negro” performing “Chiquilla Linda” on Dante Night Show in 2017.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Timoteo, born Timothy Pollard, moved to Long Beach, California with his family when he was eight years old. The move to California exposed Pollard to Latin culture, as the only Black family in a Mexican neighborhood.

As a child, he recalled watching Cantinflas because he reminded him of comedian Jerry Lewis, but musically he “got exposed to the legends by chance.”

“I was bombarded by all the 1960s, ’70s, and ’50s ranchera music,” Timoteo recalls to mitú.

The unequivocal passion mariachi artists like Javier Solis and Vicente Fernandez possessed heavily resonated with him.

“[The neighbors] always played nostalgic music, oldies but goodies, and that’s one thing I noticed about Mexicans,” Timoteo says. “They can be in their 20s but because they’ve grown up listening to the oldies it’s still very dear to them. That’s how they party.”

For as long as he can remember, Pollard “was born with the genetic disposition to love music,” knowing that his future would align with the arts.

After hearing Vicente Fernandez sing “Lástima Que Seas Ajena,” an awakening occurred in Pollard. While genres like hip-hop and rap were on the rise, Pollard’s passion for ranchera music grew. It was a moment when he realized that this genre best suited his big voice.

Enamored, Pollard began to pursue a career as a Spanish-language vocalist.

El Charro Negro
Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

At 28, Timoteo began learning Spanish by listening and singing along to those artists he adored in his youth.

“When I decided that I wanted to be a mariachi, I didn’t think it was fair to exploit the culture and not understand the language,” he says. “If I’m going to sing, I need to be able to communicate with my audience and engage with them. I need to understand what I’m saying because it was about honor and respect.”

Pollard began performing local gigs after picking up the language in a matter of months. He soon attracted the attention of “Big Boy” Radio that adorned him the name Timoteo “El Charro Negro.”

Embellishing his sound to highlight his Black heritage, Pollard included African instruments like congas and bongos in his orchestra. Faintly putting his own spin on a niche genre, Pollard avoided over-saturating the genre’s sound early in his career.

Embraced by his community as a beloved mariachi, “El Charro Negro” still encountered race-related obstacles as a Black man in the genre.

“There are those [in the industry] who are not in the least bit thrilled to this day. They won’t answer my phone calls, my emails, my text messages I’ve sent,” he says. “The public at large hasn’t a problem with it, but a lot of the time it’s those at the helm of decision making who want to keep [the genre] exclusively Mexican.”

“El Charro Negro” persisted, slowly attracting fans worldwide while promoting a message of harmony through his music.

In 2007, 12 years into his career, Pollard received a golden ticket opportunity.

El Charro Negro
Pollard (left) seen with legendary Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez (right) in 2007. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In a by-chance encounter with a stagehand working on Fernandez’s tour, Pollard was offered the chance to perform onstage. The singer was skeptical that the offer was legit. After all, what are the chances?

The next day Pollard went to his day job at the time and said, “a voice in my head, which I believe was God said, ‘wear your blue velvet traje tonight.'”

That evening Pollard went to a sold-out Stockton Area where he met his idol. As he walked on the stage, Pollard recalls Fernandez insisting that he use his personal mic and band to perform “De Que Manera Te Olvido.”

“[Fernandez] said he did not even want to join me,” he recollects about the show. “He just was kind and generous enough to let me sing that song on his stage with his audience.”

The crowd applauded thunderously, which for Pollard was a sign of good things to come.

El Charro Negro
Timoteo “El Charro Negro” with Don Francisco on Don Francisco Presenta in 2011. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In 2010, he released his debut album “Me Regalo Contigo.” In perfect Spanish, Pollard sings with great conviction replicating the soft tones of old-school boleros.

Unraveling the rollercoaster of relationships, heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballads like “Me Regalo Contigo” and “Celos” are his most streamed songs. One hidden gem that has caught the listener’s attention is “El Medio Morir.”

As soon as the track begins it is unlike the others. Timoteo delivers a ’90s R&B love ballad in Spanish, singing with gumption as his riffs and belts encapsulate his unique sound and story.

Having appeared on shows like Sabado Gigante, Don Francisco Presenta, and Caso Cerrado in 2011, Timoteo’s career prospered.

Timoteo hasn’t released an album since 2010 but he keeps his passion alive. The singer has continued to perform, even during the Covid pandemic. He has high hopes for future success and original releases, choosing to not slow down from his destined musical journey.

“If God is with me, who can be against me? It may not happen in a quick period of time, but God will make my enemies my footstool,” he said.

“I’ve continued to be successful and do some of the things I want to do; maybe not in a particular way or in particular events, but I live in a very happy and fulfilled existence.”

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Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Entertainment

Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Luis Fonsi is kicking off 2021 with a new single. The Puerto Rican superstar premiered the music video for “Vacío” on Feb. 18 featuring rising Boricua singer Rauw Alejandro. The guys put a new spin on the classic “A Puro Dolor” by Son By Four.

Luis Fonsi throws it back to his románticas.

“I called Omar Alfanno, the writer of ‘A Puro Dolo,’ who is a dear friend,” Fonsi tells Latido Music. “I told him what my idea was [with ‘Vacío’] and he loved it. He gave me his blessing, so I wrote a new song around a few of those lines from ‘A Puro Dolor’ to bring back that nostalgia of those old romantic tunes that have been a part of my career as well. It’s a fresh production. It sounds like today, but it has that DNA of a true, old-school ballad.”

The world got to know Luis Fonsi through his global smash hit “Despacito” with Daddy Yankee in 2017. The remix with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber took the song to new heights. That was a big moment in Fonsi’s music career that spans over 20 years.

There’s more to Fonsi than “Despacito.”

Fonsi released his first album, the fittingly-titled Comenzaré, in 1998. While he was on the come-up, he got the opportunity of a lifetime to feature on Christina Aguilera’s debut Latin album Mi Reflejo in 2000. The two collaborated on “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” Luis Fonsi scored multiple Billboard Hot Latin Songs No. 1s in the years that followed and one of the biggest hits was “No Me Doy Por Vencido” in 2008. That was his career-defining romantic ballad.

“Despacito” remains the second most-viewed music video on YouTube with over 7.2 billion views. The hits did not stop there. Later in 2017, he teamed up with Demi Lovato for “Échame La Culpa,” which sits impressively with over 2 billion views.

He’s also appearing on The Voice next month.

Not only is Fonsi working on his new album, but also he’s giving advice to music hopefuls for the new season of The Voice that’s premiering on March 1. Kelly Clarkson tapped him as her Battle Advisor. In an exclusive interview, Fonsi talked with us about “Vacío,” The Voice, and a few of his greatest hits.

What was the experience like to work with Rauw Alejandro for “Vacío”?

Rauw is cool. He’s got that fresh sound. Great artist. Very talented. Amazing onstage. He’s got that great tone and delivery. I thought he had the perfect voice to fit with my voice in this song. We had talked about working together for awhile and I thought that this was the perfect song. He really is such a star. What he’s done in the last couple of years has been amazing. I love what he brought to the table on this song.

Now I want to go through some of your greatest hits. Do you remember working with Christina Aguilera for her Spanish album?

How could you not remember working with her? She’s amazing. That was awhile back. That was like 1999 or something like that. We were both starting out and she was putting out her first Spanish album. I got to sing a beautiful ballad called “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” I got to work with her in the studio and see her sing in front of the mic, which was awesome. She’s great. One of the best voices out there still to this day.

What’s one of your favorite memories of “No Me Doy Por Vencido”?

“No Me Doy Por Vencido” is one of the biggest songs in my career. I think it’s tough to narrow it down just to one memory. I think in general the message of the song is what sticks with me. The song started out as a love song, but it turned into an anthem of hope. We’ve used the song for different important events and campaigns. To me, that song has such a powerful message. It’s bigger than just a love song. It’s bringing hope to people. It’s about not giving up. To be able to kind of give [people] hope through a song is a lot more powerful than I would’ve ever imagined. It’s a very special song.

I feel the message is very relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic we’re living through.

Oh yeah! I wrote that song a long time ago with Claudia Brant, and during the first or second month of the lockdown when we were all stuck at home, we did a virtual writing session and we rewrote “No Me Doy Por Vencido.” Changing the lyrics, kind of adjusting them to this situation that we’re living now. I haven’t recorded it. I’ll do something with it eventually. It’s really cool. It still talks about love. It talks about reuniting. Like the light at the end of the tunnel. It has the hope and love backbone, but it has to do a lot with what we’re going through now.

What do you think of the impact “Despacito” made on the industry?

It’s a blessing to be a part of something so big. Again, it’s just another song. We write these songs and the moment you write them, you don’t really know what’s going to happen with them. Or sometimes you run into these surprises like “Despacito” where it becomes a global phenomenon. It goes No. 1 in places where Spanish songs had never been played. I’m proud. I’m blessed. I’m grateful to have worked with amazing people like Daddy Yankee. Like Justin Bieber for the remix and everyone else involved in the song. My co-writer Erika Ender. The producers Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres. It was really a team effort and it’s a song that obviously changed my career forever.

What was the experience like to work with Demi Lovato on “Echáme La Culpa”?

She’s awesome! One of the coolest recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. She really wanted to sing in Spanish and she was so excited. We did the song in Spanish and English, but it was like she was more excited about the Spanish version. And she nailed it! She nailed it from the beginning. There was really not much for me to say to her. I probably corrected her once or twice in the pronunciation, but she came prepared and she brought it. She’s an amazing, amazing, amazing vocalist.

You’re going to be a battle advisor on The Voice. What was the experience like to work with Kelly Clarkson?

She’s awesome. What you see is what you get. She’s honest. She’s funny. She’s talented. She’s humble and she’s been very supportive of my career. She invited me to her show and it speaks a lot that she wanted me to be a part of her team as a Battle Advisor for the new season. She supports Latin music and I’m grateful for that. She’s everything you hope she would be. She’s the real deal, a true star, and just one of the coolest people on this planet.

What can we expect from you in 2021?

A lot of new music. Obviously, everything starts today with “Vacío.” This is literally the beginning of what this new album will be. I’ve done nothing but write and record during the last 10 months, so I have a bunch of songs. Great collaborations coming up. I really think the album will be out probably [in the] third or fourth quarter this year. The songs are there and I’m really eager for everybody to hear them.

Read: We Finally Have A Spanish-Language Song As The Most Streamed Song Of All Time

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