It may not be much of a surprise when names such as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Secretary of State Hilda Solis or singing sensations Bruno Mars or Cassie are recognized as Hispanic, but you might be taken aback when you hear actresses Reagan Gomez-Preston (The Parent ‘Hood/One on One) or Gina Torres (I Think I Love My Wife) are added to that very list, along with singers like Maxwell and Kelis.
As part of our Hispanic Heritage Month coverage, BlackEnterprise.com is highlighting 15 figures in business, politics, arts and entertainment who you may not know are Latino.—Janel Martinez
Christina Norman, 51
This Boricua (by way of her Puerto Rican mother) is currently the executive editor for HuffPost Black Voices. Norman has nearly 20 years of broadcasting and media management under her belt, starting her career at MTV, where she ascended the ranks from production manager to president during her 17-year tenure at the network. Before joining Arianna Huffington’s team, the businesswoman was chief executive officer of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. She’s been featured on Black Enterprise’s 50 Most Powerful Black Women in Business (2006) and 75 Most Powerful Women in Business (2010) lists.
This award-winning journalist, moderator, and best-selling author is indeed a Latina—part Panamanian, part Bajan, to be exact. She’s covered six Presidential elections and moderated two Vice Presidential debates—the 2004 debate between Republican Dick Cheney and Democrat John Edwards and, in 2008, the debate between Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden. The native New Yorker is managing editor of PBS’s Washington Week and senior correspondent for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. She penned The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.
Katherine Davalos Ortega, 77
The 38th Treasurer of the United States served from September 26, 1983 to July 1, 1989, under both the Reagan and G.H.W. Bush administrations. During Reagan’s nomination speech, he said Ortega was “symbolic of the values the Hispanic community represents,” adding “nothing is a better influence on America than the strength and decency of the Hispanic family.” She was only the second Latina to serve in this position.
Sammy Davis, Jr., deceased
Did you know this New York City-bred entertainer was Puerto Rican? The only person of color in Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack is Latino by way of his mother, Elvera Sanchez. Davis’ showbiz career came to an end when he died of complications to throat cancer in 1990.
Alani “La La” Vasquez Anthony, 32
This Boricua is more than just the “typical” basketball wife. Although the full-time mom is married to New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (who is part-Latino as well—his father is Puerto Rican) she’s also supporting her own ventures: launching Krossover Productions in 2003; producing notable films, like Tyson, which won the Regard Knockout Award in France, and booking on-air gigs. Most tube viewers first set eyes on Anthony when she co-hosted two popular MTV shows, Direct Effect and TRL. Now catch La on her own show La La’s Full Court Life on VH1.
Roberto C. Goizueta, deceased
The Coca-Cola chairman worked his way up the corporate ladder to lead one of the world’s most-recognizable brands. Goizueta, a Cuban immigrant, became CEO of Coke in 1981 and under his leadership the market value of Coca-Cola’s stock rose from four billion to 145 billion dollars. He served the company until his death in 1997 at age 65 of cancer-related reasons.
Mariah Carey, 41
Wife of young television executive (and BE Nexter) Nick Cannon and mother of twins Monroe and Moroccan, Carey is an R&B and pop icon. The multiracial starlet (receives her African-American and Venezuelan roots from her father and Irish ethnicity from her mother) has released 13 albums to date, winning numerous awards, including several American Music Awards, a slew of Billboard Music Awards, and 5 Grammy Awards. The multi-platinum artist has even flexed her entrepreneurial muscles releasing her line of fragrances and a lifestyle line for HSN.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, deceased
The young artist’s talent took him from the streets of New York City to international exhibitions in countries like Europe and Japan. Sadly, the Haitian and Puerto Rican artiste’s life was cut short by a reported heroin overdose at the age of 28.
Lynda Carter, 60
The New Adventures ofWonder Woman star is sure enough Latina. Her mother is of Mexican and Spanish descent, while her father is English-Irish. Besides acting in several television series, the 1972 Miss World USA title-holder released three albums, Portrait (1978), At Last (2009) and most recently Crazy Little Things (2011).
Elizabeth Vargas, 49
With over 20-years of broadcast journalism under her belt, Vargas has held anchor and correspondent positions at NBC News and ABC News, as well as smaller network affiliates in both Chicago and Phoenix. The co-anchor of ABC News’ 20/20 has beenrecognized for her work during pivotal investigations, such as the Matthew Shepard murder case and the disappearance of Laci Peterson, and won an Emmy in 2000 for Outstanding Instant Coverage of a News Story for anchoring live coverage of the Elian Gonzalez case. Vargas is Puerto Rican and Irish-American.
You may recognize the Dominican actor as “Dixon” on The CW drama 90210, but the 22-year-old has held several small and big screen roles, from HBO’s The Wire to The Secret Life of the Bees, which won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture and two People’s Choice Awards for Movie Drama and Independent Movie. Besides acting, the singer and songwriter is expanding into the music scene.
This half Puerto Rican, half Jamaican producer and rapper has worked with well-known artists, from Beyoncé to Jay-Z, and wife Alicia Keys. Now, the music maven is passing his expertise along to the next generation, serving as the first producer in residence at New York University.
Bill Richardson, 63
Richardson served as governor of New Mexico for two terms, passing the position onto a fellow Hispanic—Susana Martinez. The part-Mexican politician ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, but withdrew after coming in fourth place in both Iowa and New Hampshire nominating contests. Since leaving office, he’s been named chairman of APCO Worldwide’s executive advisory service Global Political Strategies (GPS) and Special Envoy for the Organization of American States (OAS), as well as several non-profit and for-profit boards.
Stacey Dash, 45
The former Single Ladies actress appeared on the small screen in The Cosby Show as Denise Huxtable’s friend, Michelle, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but most remember this part Mexican beauty as Dionne from the 1995 film Clueless. She went on to star in the television spinoff under the same name from 1996-1999.