During the National Hispanic Media Coalition’s 23rd Impact Awards Gala, stars and executives donned their best suits and gowns to recognize those who’ve increased opportunities and representation for the Latinx community in media and entertainment.
Among Friday night’s honorees were America Ferrera, executive producer of “Gentefied”; Isabella Gomez from “One Day at a Time”; “Party of Five” actors Niko Guardado and Elle Paris Legaspi; “Magnum P.I.” star Jay Hernandez; Garcia Cos. founder Dany Garcia; Warner Bros. Chair and Chief Executive Ann Sarnoff; “Riverdale” creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; Ozzie Areu, CEO and founder of one of the nation’s first Latino-owned film studios; and more.
Ferrera, wearing a yellow cheetah-print dress, was honored with the outstanding series producer award for her work on “Gentefied,” Netflix’s new comedy-drama, and NBC’s “Superstore.” (Earlier in the day, Ferrera, who also stars in “Superstore” and has directed several episodes, announced that she would be leaving the show after its fifth season.)
Accepting her award at the end of the night, Ferrera thanked the trailblazers who opened doors for Latinx actors and creators in a moving speech.
“This is an era of Latinx stories. We are living in an era brought ... by many, many generations of Latino and Latina actors, producers, writers, directors who stayed the course and paved the path,” she said to an audience of about 500 at the Beverly Hilton.
“And sometimes they did it all alone and sometimes they went completely unseen, unrecognized, uncelebrated. And sometimes, they never got to see their visions and their talents meet with opportunities that they deserved.”
She singled out the late actress Lupe Ontiveros, whom she called “one of my own heroes.” When she was 17, Ferrera worked with the “Selena” star on the feature “Real Women Have Curves.”
“When I think about Lupe, I think about what a loss it is for all of us when talent goes untapped,” she continued. As a producer, Ferrera said her drive is to bring opportunities to the Latinx community at what she described as a long-overdue moment of Latinx visibility on screen.
“We are in an era of ‘Gentefied’ and ‘Vida.’ We’re in an era of ‘One Day at a Time’ and ‘Party of Five.’ ... and we are in it together. We are no longer scrambling and competing with one another for a paltry slice of the pie. We are baking and serving up a whole bunch of tres leches.”
Before ending her speech, the “Ugly Betty” actress opened up about having felt “isolated” and “alone” as one of few Latinas in the industry.
The ceremony was hosted by “One Day at a Time” mom Justina Machado and Jacob Vargas, who drew many laughs throughout the night, starting with their introductions as the “stereotypical party fan club presidents.”
But before the ceremony officially kicked off, the hosts welcomed two members of the Tongva nation to honor the land where the event took place.
On stage, many presenters and honorees got personal. They shared their experiences in an overwhelmingly white media and entertainment landscape, expressing gratitude to the people who gave them a chance.
“When I came to this country 12 years ago, Hollywood seemed like an unreachable place,” said Gomez while accepting her outstanding series performance award for her role as Elena, the brilliant queer teenager on “One Day at a Time.” She thanked Norman Lear, the show’s creator, and several others who gave “a little Colombian girl with barely any credits to her name a shot.”
Hernandez, who took home the outstanding television performance award for playing the private investigator on “Magnum P.I.,” walked on stage to accept his honor, leaned into the mic and coughed.
“I just want to apologize because my voice is a little scratchy,” he said clearing his throat. “I’m recovering from the coronavirus.”
He was quick to clarify that his virus wasn’t COVID-19, the strain that broke out in China. “This is COVID-15, which is how many Mexican beers I had at the wrap party a few days ago.”
With this confession out of the way, Hernandez went on to speak about a media landscape that he believes has become “increasingly hostile to people of color,” calling out the racist narratives about Latinos that have come out of the White House.
“They used words like ‘criminal,’ ‘illegal,’ ‘drug runners,’ ‘animals’. ... But at ‘Magnum P.I.’ a remake of an iconic American show, a guy with a ‘z’ in his last name gets to be the hero.”
The audience broke into applause. The “Crazy/Beautiful” actor paused and looked around the star-studded ballroom.
“All of us here in this room collectively provide a counterbalance to the divisive rhetoric that is out there,” he said. “We get to tell the story of who we are.”