15 Latinas We Love!

A year ago, we sat down to begin thinking about who should be on the cover of this, our historic 15th anniversary issue.

As we started brainstorming celebrity names—Salma, Shakira, Selena—it occurred to us that, for the first time, there were lots and lots of stars worthy of an anniversary cover.

So while we had turned to Jennifer Lopez for our first cover and our 10th anniversary one, this time around we really wanted to capture the Latino evolution. For just as Latina magazine has grown through the years to now exist online and on TV, so, too, has the role of our stars grown to include shaping every aspect of American culture.

Thus, the idea was born to create a cover with 15 of the Latina celebrities we are most proud of from throughout our 15-year history.

Turns out, coming up with a killer idea was the easy part. Actually pulling it off? Well, that would take 9 months, 7 photo shoots, more than 100 red dresses—and upwards of $10 million in jewelry!—to create the triple gatefold cover—the first of its kind in Latina history!

Here, the 15 Latinas We Love!

1. Latinas We Love: Salma Hayek

NAME: Salma Hayek

AGE: 45

ROOTS: Mexican-Lebanese

Beauty Transformation: Salma Hayek

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Salma Hayek on Sharing Traditions with Valentina

WHY WE LOVE HER:

The most powerful Latina in Hollywood didn’t rise up the ranks overnight. She defied the sexpot stereotype by creating opportunities for herself and other Latinos through her production company, Ventanarosa, eventually reaching the type of triple-threat status (actress, producer, director) that shatters glass ceilings. Ugly Betty, which she executive-produced and aired in over 130 countries, introduced many around the world to their first Latin family—now that’s progress!

Passionate about everything she does, Hayek fought for almost a decade to tell the story of Mexican surrealist Frida Kahlo, displaying the same indestructible spirit as the uni-browed artist until finally producing and starring in Frida in 2002. What’s more, to prepare for her dream role, she learned to paint, read every biography out there and grew a mustache. The result? A Best Actress Oscar nomination, of course.

Who can forget the image of Hayek breastfeeding a starving African baby during a UNICEF trip to Sierra Leone in 2009? Or her on-camera appeal to the Mexican government to end the violence against women in Juárez in 2006? Salma is a fearless crusader, always ready to stand up for females around the globe.

Conventionality can stick it, because no matter what society dictates, Salma lives by her own rules (and is always reinventing them!): The proud mama had daughter Valentina, 4, later in life at the age of 41, maintained a long distance relationship with her baby daddy, French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault, got engaged to him, called off the engagement and finally married him when she was good and ready in 2009.

A regular on the “most beautiful” lists, Salma’s finally sharing the beauty secrets passed down from her abuela—who reportedly lived till 96 without a single wrinkle—through her Nuance cosmetics line for CVS. Made from anti-aging ingredients found in Mexico, such as tepezcohuite and concha nacar, the products are purposely inexpensive so that we can all drink from her fountain of youth.

ON CONSTANTLY CHALLENGING HERSELF: “I believe you have to dream with courage and with imagination. Then you have to see the dream and follow it wherever it leads you. But you have to pay attention when you’re going toward the dream, because it’s usually the journey on the way to the dream that is most interesting. And then, once you accomplish the dream, you have to let it go and dream something new.”


2. Latinas We Love: Shakira

NAME: Shakira

AGE: 34

ROOTS: Colombian-Lebanese

Beauty Transformation: Shakira

Watch: Shakira Advocates for Immigrants in Arizona

WHY WE LOVE HER:

She’s a modern-day conquistadora, having helmed the ultimate Latin crossover in the millennium to become a global superstar capable of transcending language barriers.

Shaki is not afraid to roll up her sleeves and fight for universal access to education via her own foundation, Pies Descalzos, which currently serves some 5,000 children—as well as their parents— in rural Colombia. Even do-gooder Bono once said of her, “when she gets going on the subject of child poverty, she can be pretty scary.”

Each time she sways her hips to the beat of her Arab ancestors, she moves muscles we didn’t even know existed!

Even after conquering the finicky Anglo market—and selling over 60 million albums as well as signing a 10-year touring and merchandising deal with Live Nation worth an estimated $70 to $100 million—she’s still singing in her mother tongue, and that’s music to our ears.

This “she-wolf” is at her fiercest when talking policy with world leaders—such as President Obama and World Bank President Robert Zoellick—who not only listen, but are propelled to follow her lead. In 2010, Shaki got the World Bank to commit to a groundbreaking $300 million initiative aimed at expanding development programs for children in Latin America and the Caribbean—a region where some 46 million children under age 6 go without basic health care and education.

ON HER NEED TO GIVE: “I grew up in the developing world, I grew up seeing injustice. . . I’ve also seen that, in countries like mine, when a child is born poor, he will die poor, unless he receives an opportunity. That opportunity is education. It’s that helping hand that they’re looking for. Latin America is a young continent, it’s malleable; it’s flexible. We still can change.”




3. Latinas We Love: Eva Longoria

NAME: Eva Longoria

AGE: 36

ROOTS: Texican

Beauty Transformation: Eva Longoria

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Eva Longoria on Growing Up Latina

WHY WE LOVE HER:

Before Sofia Vergara sauntered into our hearts (and Modern Family), a lingerie-clad Longoria had already set tongues wagging as the sexy, smart and simply hilarious Gabrielle Solis on ABC’s Desperate Housewives, paving the way to this year becoming the highest paid Latina on TV at a not-too-shabby $325,000 per episode.

A class act all the way, she handled ex-husband Tony Parker’s cheating scandal (the San Antonio Spur was caught sexting with a teammate’s wife in 2010) with dignity and grace, and moved on quickly from their divorce, proving the old adage that living well is the best revenge.

This eighth generation Tejana’s identity is so deeply rooted in her Mexican heritage that in 2009 she earned a Masters in Chicano Studies to truly understand the plight of her people and help create change. And she’s doing just that: by raising money for Padres Contra El Cancer, serving on the commission of the National Museum of the American Latino, producing and hosting the ALMA Awards (September 16 at 8 p.m. EST on NBC) and basically championing Latinos every which way she can.

Even Martha Stewart is a fan of Eva’s famous guacamole! Surprised? Don’t be. Longoria has turned her love and mastery of Latin food into a growing culinary empire with a bestselling cookbook, titled Eva’s Kitchen: Cooking with Love for Family and Friends, to her name and locations of her popular Beso restaurant in Las Vegas and L.A.

ON GETTING THINGS DONE: “I was raised by independent, educated, strong women. My mom has seven sisters and I have three. People always tell me, ‘You work so much,’ but the women in my family worked 10 times as hard, so I’m not working hard enough, ever. I want to work hard now so I can relax later.”



4. Latinas We Love: Selena Gomez

NAME: Selena Gomez

AGE: 19

ROOTS: Italian-Mexican

Beauty Transformation: Selena Gomez

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Selena Gomez on Abuela’s Tamales

WHY WE LOVE HER:

At 19, Selena is already a showbiz veteran. Sure, her first co-star at age 7 was a big purple dinosaur, but that gig led her to Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place, the perfect training ground to becoming a multi-hyphenate superstar with four hit movies and three chart-topping albums to her name (coincidentally, her latest album, When the Sun Goes Down, is all about self-empowerment!). Next up? She’s working on a Spanish record that’s bound to melt your corazón!

The Texas belle may have nabbed the most famous teen idol on the planet, but girls—even some die-hard Beliebers—adore her and are continually inspired by her role as UNICEF’s youngest goodwill ambassador. Some even call her a young Angelina Jolie, and rightfully so, the philanthropist is focused on starting her own charitable foundation.

It’s never too early to launch your own fashion line, as evidenced by Gomez’s budget-conscious Dream Out Loud collection at Kmart. Not that the budding entrepreneur is stopping there: She’s releasing her own fragrance in 2012.

This teen queen doesn’t just scribble off quick autographs to followers. She treats them like friends. “She’ll have full on conversations with her fans—but they’re 6 years old,” has said her Monte Carlo co-star Leighton Meester.

ON THE COMFORTS OF HOME: “I feel completely connected as soon as I come back. I smell my grandmother's tamales and rice and beans, and its just like I'm home. It makes me feel so good and comfortable. It’s just about being together. That's the one thing that is a really strong part of my heritage: We're always about family.”



5. Latinas We Love: Zoe Saldana

NAME: Zoe Saldana

AGE: 33

ROOTS: Dominican-Puerto Rican

Beauty Transformation: Zoe Saldana

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Zoe Saldana on Receiving Support from the Latino Community

WHY WE LOVE HER:

Watch out! Hollywood’s age-old racial biases have finally met their match in this proud Afro-Latina out to show studio honchos that raw talent is colorblind. 

Blue, beautiful and bankable in 2009’s Avatar, she helped the sci-fi blockbuster rake in a mind-blowing—and record-setting—$2 billion at the global box office.  And talk about commitment! To play the 9-foot Na’vi princess Neytiri, she studied martial arts, horseback riding and archery, and even learned an invented language. We’re exhausted just thinking about it!

Despite her meteoric rise to the A-list, Saldana remains down-to earth, still upholding the same values instilled by her close-knit Latin family (though her father died in a car accident when she was just 10, mother Asalia raised Zoe and sisters Mariel, 34, and Cisely, 32, to love and support each other unconditionally).

The ultimate “It” girl, she’s a rare combo of strength, smarts, sass and serious acting chops. We’re loving her in this month’s action flick Colombiana, about an assassin with a score to settle.

ON NOT SETTING LIMITATIONS: “My mom has never said a derogatory word against anybody based on race, and that’s how I grew up. So when you don’t have a consciousness of categorizing and separating, you go, ‘I can very much be Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin if I wanted to.’”


6. Latinas We Love: Gloria Estefan

NAME: Gloria Estefan

AGE: 54

ROOTS: Cuban

Beauty Transformation: Gloria Estefan

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Gloria Estefan on Promoting Latin Culture

WHY WE LOVE HER:

All hail the original crossover queen! This year, Estefan became the first Latina to be inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame for catapulting Latin pop into the American mainstream with genre-bending hits like “Conga, ” which hit Billboard’s pop, soul, dance, and Latin charts simultaneously 25 years ago, and remains the only record ever to do so.

Bound together by a shared dream of making music and representing Latinos of all nationalities, she and Emilio, along with their children Nayib, 31, and Emily, 16, embody our First Family.

Off stage, she’s a shrewd businesswoman whose $500 million empire with hubby Emilio encompasses music publishing, restaurants, sports, books, real estate and hospitality management—all with a Latin flavor.

Charity isn’t just a pastime for this humanitarian, who commits time, cash and plenty of heart to helping disadvantaged children. This month, she and Emilio are being inducted into the Ambassador David M. Walters International Pediatric Hall of Fame, the highest honor bestowed by the Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation. According to the foundation, much of the time, their donations are made anonymously.

Just in time for Hispanic Heritage Month, Gloria gifts us Miss Little Havana, her first studio album since 2004’s Unwrapped. Produced and co-written by hit-maker Pharrell, the high-energy, cross-rhythm dance album is a testament to her ability to go head-to-head with the hottest chart-toppers—no matter the decade!

A near-death car accident in 1990 left her with a broken back—not a broken spirit—so she fought her way out of a wheelchair and bounced back stronger than ever. Her unforgettable “Coming Out of the Dark” performance at the 1991 American Music Awards, which signaled her return to the stage, still brings tears to our eyes.

ON STAYING TRUE TO HER ROOTS: “Our culture has always been front and center in our life, in our music and everything we do, even in the restaurants. Emilio and I always want our kids and our grandkids, eventually, to realize the importance of never forgetting where you come from, who you are, and the fact that that makes you richer and just gives you a more broad perspective on life.”


7. Latinas We Love: Michelle Rodriguez

NAME: Michelle Rodriguez

AGE: 33

ROOTS: Dominican–Puerto Rican

Beauty Transformation: Michelle Rodriguez

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Michelle Rodriguez on Being Selected for Latina’s 15th Anniversary Cover

WHY WE LOVE HER:

Call it typecasting if you want, but M-Rod would rather stay true to her inner rebel on (and off) the screen, than give in to Hollywood’s depiction of Latina women as sex objects or damsels in distress. 

Just in case the 2000 indie drama Girlfight—in which she played an inner-city teen who uses boxing as a means to deal with her mother’s suicide and her father’s indifference— didn’t make it clear from the get-go, this tough-as-nails tomboy can kick some serious butt!

A free spirit that can’t be tamed, she will always be fiercely independent, unapologetic, and completely unpredictable.

Plus, no one can make a white tank top look sexier. Not even Will Smith!

ON HER CAREER CHOICES: “I’m here to entertain people and make a statement about female empowerment and strength and that’s what I’ve done for the last 10 years, and people can call it typecast, but I pigeonholed myself and I put myself in that box for saying no to everything else that came on my plate.”



8. Latinas We Love: Daisy Fuentes

NAME: Daisy Fuentes

AGE: 44

ROOTS: Cuban

Beauty Transformation: Daisy Fuentes

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Daisy Fuentes on Being a Role Model

WHY WE LOVE HER:

She had us at “Chaucito, baby!” the minute she became MTV’s first Latina VJ back in ’93 (she was first hired as the host of the one-hour Spanish-language music show MTV Internacional, which aired in Latin America and the U.S., in ’88).  She went on to host America’s Funniest Home Videos, Miss Universe, the World Music Awards, and MTV’s House of Style, among other high-profile television events throughout the mid-to-late 90s.

This Daisy is no shrinking wallflower, having been the first Latina to land a worldwide modeling contract with cosmetics giant Revlon in the early 90s, opening the door for the likes of Jessica Alba and Eva Mendes, who signed on as spokesmodels in the 2000’s. Corporate America just couldn’t get enough of the New Jersey girl —American Express, M&M’s, and Pantene all eventually came knocking on her door.

Perseverance drives Miss Daisy, who has her very own $400 million lifestyle empire—which began in 2004 with her self-named sportswear line at Kohl’s, and now encompasses perfumes, shoes, home décor, eyewear, fragrances, and hair-care products and a Nintendo Wii workout video. Unlike other celebs, she doesn’t just lend her name to products, she’s heavily involved in the research, development and marketing of all things Daisy Fuentes.

At 44, she is still as smoking as she was 20 years ago, and only getting better with age. Last year, she penned a book titled Unforgettable You, divulging all her secrets to looking and living fabulously.

ON BEING BILINGUAL, BICULTURAL AND PROUD: “[I’m] frijoles negros meets apple pie . . . I always thought of it as, I have a whole other language I can do this in, a whole other culture I can bring to the table. It would make no sense for me to choose one over the other.”



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10. Latinas We Love: Jessica Alba

NAME: Jessica Alba

AGE: 30

ROOTS: Mexican-French-Danish

Beauty Transformation: Jessica Alba

 EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Jessica Alba on Comfort Foods

WHY WE LOVE HER:

Playing a racially ambiguous superhuman in James Cameron’s Dark Angel turned Alba into a 21st century action hero capable of blurring race, gender and class lines while burning up the small screen.

No habla español? No problem! Though she wasn’t raised speaking Spanish at home in California (Alba’s grandparents José and Isabel deliberately chose not to raise Spanish-speaking children in 1960s America for fear of being marginalized), Jessica is learning the language and instilling cultural pride in her three-year-old daughter Honor and newborn baby, Haven.

Family is numero uno for this supermom, who makes the switch from diaper duty to the red carpet appear effortless. No wonder she inspired Robert Rodriguez’ latest film, Spy Kids 4: All The Time In The World!

This eco-chica also runs a green household—the synthetic grass in her Los Angeles home is made of recycled materials, for one—and is committed to making the earth a cleaner place through her upcoming collection of sustainable baby and lifestyle products, called The Honest Company, scheduled to launch soon.

ON LATINAS IN HOLLYWOOD: “There [are] a lot of really strong, really cool, completely dynamic women that are Latina that young women can look up to. I love that because I certainly didn't have those role models when I was growing up and it's nice that I'm part of this generation. So I feel very honored and blessed to be in such good company for sure.”



11. Latinas We Love: America Ferrera

NAME: America Ferrera

AGE: 27

ROOTS: Honduran

Beauty Transformation: America Ferrera

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: America Ferrera on Being Betty

WHY WE LOVE HER:

She dared to bare her love handles and cellulite in 2002’s Real Women Have Curves, empowering bigger girls to flaunt what their mamas gave them.

Ferrera broadened (North) America’s myopic view of Latinos as the braces-rocking title character of Ugly Betty—one of a handful of network TV shows about a Latino family in history. Best Actress Emmy and Golden Globe wins rightfully followed!

Tackling hot-button issues is all in a day’s work for Ferrera, who put a face to the DREAM Act debate as an undocumented grad student fighting for U.S. citizenship on the CBS show The Good Wife earlier this year.

This “Betty” may have hung up her poncho long ago, but she remains tight with her on-screen Latino family, including sister-from-another-mister Ana Ortiz, who was a bridesmaid at her June wedding to director Ryan Piers Williams.

ON PLAYING A VERSION OF HERSELF: "I identify with being an American first and foremost—I was born here, I was raised here, this is the country that has given me opportunity and the life that I've had—and so to play a girl who happened to be Latina but really embodied an American life was really refreshing for me. I really did understand the identity issues that Betty dealt with.

12. Latinas We Love: Rosario Dawson

NAME: Rosario Dawson

AGE: 32

ROOTS: Puerto Rican, Afro-Cuban, Irish and Native American

Beauty Transformation: Rosario Dawson

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Rosario Dawson on Activism

WHY WE LOVE HER:

By co-founding the non-profit voter registration organization Voto Latino in 2004, Rosario is leading a revolution that’s already reverberated throughout Capitol Hill. Her efforts in mobilizing young Latinos to hit the polls paid off in the last presidential election when a record-setting 10 million Latinos (including many first-time voters) cast their ballots, instigating Obama’s victory and increasing our political clout. Who’s the sleeping giant now?

Dawson’s story is the stuff of movies: In 1994, the then 15-year-old New Yorker was discovered on her Lower East stoop and cast in the controversial classic Kids, instantly going from living in a squat to Hollywood sensation. But sudden fame at a young age didn’t faze her. The self-possessed actress blossomed into a socially responsible adult, all while avoiding the usual trappings of celebrity and working steadily throughout.

Just look at her. The self-described mutt is the face—and voice—of a new multicultural America that eschews society’s enforced color lines in favor of a mixed race tribe free of bigotry.

Not only does Rosario not conform to industry pressures to stay super-skinny, she calls Hollywood out on it. “It’s a form of violence,” she told Shape magazine in July, about the unrealistic expectations imposed on women. To that end, she constantly tells impressionable girls not to believe the hype: “Everything is airbrushed,” she says. “None of us look like that!”

Whether she’s plunging into art-house fare or starring in big studio pics, she moves swiftly between genres: Her resume is stacked with musicals (Rent), action flicks (Sin City), thrillers (Unstoppable), even comedy (Zookeeper). Catch her in December in the ensemble drama Ten Year, about a 10-year high school reunion.

ON STARTING VOTO LATINO: “It suddenly felt really important to see unregistered numbers become registered numbers. Because when it’s a landslide, they can’t deny us. Whether people like it or not, this is the revolution.”

13. Latinas We Love: Ana de la Reguera

NAME: Ana de la Reguera

AGE: 34

ROOTS: Mexican

Beauty Transformation: Ana de la Reguera

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Ana de la Reguera on Being a Proud Latina

WHY WE LOVE HER:

Proof positive that sexy and funny are not mutually exclusive, this stunner is a natural comedienne with rapid-fire delivery and gutsy improvisational skills.

The massive leap from telenovelas (remember her in Telemundo’s mega-hit Gitanas in 2005?) to Tinseltown (who can forget her turn as a sexy nun in 2006’s Nacho Libre, opposite Jack Black!) hasn’t stopped her from nurturing a career south of the border, demonstrating that the she hasn’t forgotten where she came from.

Ana—just like her mom, former Miss Veracruz Nena de la Reguera— comes from the coastal town of Veracruz, a place synonymous with drop-dead gorgeous women. We don’t know what’s in the water, but we want every last sip!

CoverGirl. Pantene. Lipton Iced Tea. Kahlúa. Yep, they’ve all enlisted De la Reguera as spokesmodel. Can you blame them? Her appeal is undeniable!

ON HER ALLEGIANCE TO MEXICO: “Despite living in Los Angeles and having done movies there, the best roles for me are in Spanish. I get great offers in Mexico and I can’t turn them down—it’s my country."


 

14. Latinas We Love: Natalie Morales

NAME: Natalie Morales

AGE: 39

ROOTS: Brazilian–Puerto Rican

Beauty Transformation: Natalie Morales

WHY WE LOVE HER:

As the first Latina news anchor on NBC’s Today, the country’s top-rated morning show, Morales starts us off right—just like a fresh-brewed cafecito.

Her tears of joy while reporting—and translating!—the epic rescue in October 2010 of the 33 trapped Chilean miners after spending 69 days underground made us feel all warm inside and nabbed her a 2010 National Headliner Award. Tune in this month as she heads back to Santiago to report on their lives one year later.

This “jock” is a fierce competitor having run five marathons and competed in six triathlons. Motivated by the satisfaction of achieving a goal, Morales can’t help but do some good every time she laces up her sneakers. Her last race, the Nautica Malibu Triathlon in September, was in support of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Talk about having beauty, brains and brawn!

Being a working mom is no easy feat, and Morales isn’t afraid to level with readers through her “Modern Mami” parenting column for Latina, doling out sage advice like an ol’ pro.

ON HER LATINA ROLE MODEL: [It’s] always been my mom [Brazilian native Penelope Morales]. She showed me that you can always dream big dreams and you have to work hard. Great work ethic eventually is what will get you the job and be the key to your success.” 

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Natalie Morales on Having the Best of Both Worlds

15. Latinas We Love: Rosie Perez

NAME: Rosie Pérez

AGE: 47

ROOTS: Puerto Rican

Black is Beautiful: A Celebration of Afro-Latinas

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Rosie Perez on Going Home to Puerto Rico

WHY WE LOVE HER:

Always front and center at AIDS rallies, the tireless advocate is fighting the epidemic all the way in Washington as part of Obama’s advisory council on AIDS and HIV.

That inimitable Nuyorican accent became an asset the moment she made her acting debut as the loud “tawking” Tina in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing over 20 years ago.

An around-the-way-girl at heart, the former Soul Train dancer was there during the early days of hip-hip, popping-and-locking with the best of ‘em. It was Perez who expertly choreographed Fly Girl Jennifer Lopez on In Living Color from 1990 - 1992.

A proud Puerto Rican, she waved the island’s flag high and mighty in her 2006 documentary Yo Soy Boricua, Pa’que Tu Lo Sepas.

ON HER BORICUA HERITAGE: “When you grow up Puerto Rican…Even before you understand your history there’s a pride that’s instilled in you. It does dictate who you are as an adult when you have roots and a strong foundation that you grow up upon, and it’s definitely made me a very, very strong woman.”


16. Latinas We Love: La La Anthony

NAME: La La Anthony

AGE: 32

ROOTS: Puerto Rican

Beauty Transformation: La La Anthony

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: La La Anthony on Latin Music

WHY WE LOVE HER:

La La’s life keeps getting fuller! Catch her on her very own reality show La La’s Full Court Life, which debuted August 22 on VH1. And in 2012, she’s taking her talents to the big screen version in the film adaptation of Steve Harvey’s 2009 book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man, starring Chris Brown.

Not content with just being in front of the camera, La La is well on her way to becoming a behind-the-scenes powerhouse via her own entertainment company, Krossover Productions, which produced the critically-lauded Mike Tyson doc, Tyson, in 2009.

The caramel beauty from Brooklyn, N.Y. may have been dubbed the First Lady of the N.B.A. (her proud hubby is part-Puerto Rican Carmelo Anthony, who plays for the New York Knicks, and with whom she has a 4-year-old son, Kiyan), but she’s no trophy basketball wife. La La’s been making her own way since age 16, when she landed her first internship at an Atlanta radio station. She even lied about her age so they’d give her the gig!

This super-proud Afro-Latina will go head-to-head with anyone that challenges her Latinidad, so don’t even go there. In 2010, she even wrote a whole essay about her dual identity for Latina.com, stating: “Do I look like Jennifer Lopez? No. Clearly, I’m a black woman. However you want to define that, that’s what I am. And I’m also a Spanish-speaking Puerto Rican woman. Period.”

Who else can foray from reality TV to the stage without skipping a beat? This month, La La makes her big debut in the off-Broadway play Love, Lost and What I Wore, about the intersection between love and fashion.

ON BEING A SELF-MADE WOMAN: “I don’t think people understand how hard I’ve worked to achieve the things I have. When Melo and I started dating [in 2003, after her MTV Direct Effect co-host DJ Clue introduced them], I lived alone in a waterfront apartment in [New] Jersey and drove a Benz truck. Let’s be clear: he didn’t swoop down and change my life entirely.”


17. Latinas We Love: Related Links