Wepa! These Stars Made Us Proud to Be Latinos in 2017

There were a lot of moments this year that confused us, scared us, made us shake our heads and wring our hands. But, despite Trump, natural disasters, mass shootings and attacks on human rights in pretty much all forms, there were some rays of light. These are some of the people who inspired us and made us remember the light and love in the world.

MORE: Latinas of the Year: 10 Most Inspirational Women of 2017

1. Salma Hayek

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In the midst of the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal and the resurgence of the powerful #MeToo Movement, Salma Hayek came forward with an essay for the New York Times detailing her own story of sexual harassment and bullying that at once chilled us to the bone and made our blood boil. The star's experience creating and starring in Frida, the film that earned her an Oscar, was in a word: heartbreaking. Learning what she had to endure at the hands of Weinstein (constant threats, insults and a forced full frontal nudity scene in the movie that Hayek fought against), made us realize the actress’s incredible strength.

2. Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee

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"Despacito" was more than just the song of 2017 (though it is up for a Song of the Year Grammy in January), it was a record breaking smash hit that took the world by storm. It became the most streamed song in history and the remix with Justin Bieber spent 16 weeks on the top of the Billboard's Hot 100 chart. The video became the most watched of all time on YouTube with nearly 5 billion views, and it racked up those likes and views fast: It received the most views of a Spanish-language video (5.4 million) in only 24 hours, and it was the fastest video to reach both 200 million views (in 22 days) 2 billion views (in 154 days). In short, it will go down in history.

3. Gloria Estefan

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Pop icon Gloria Estefan received two prestigious awards this year and one of them made history. The songstress who made us get on our feet was standing at a podium herself as an honoree at the 2017 National LGBTQ Task Force Gala on October 7 in Miami. The legendary singer received the Leadership Award for her work supporting the community through her partnership with the It Gets Better Project and her production, with husband Emilio, of the A Change of Heart film, which premiered at the OUTshine Film Festival. During her acceptance speech, Estefan said, “I look forward to the day when no task forces are necessary in order to ensure that each individual is considered equal in every respect.”

And that wasn’t all. The "Anything for You" singer was also an honoree at the prestigious John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts gala on December 3, which celebrates artists who have made tremendous career accomplishments and shaped cultural life in America. The 60-year-old star became the first Cuban-American to be honored by the organization in its 40-year history. 

4. Sofía Vergara

instagram/@sofiavergara

This year, actress, entrepreneur and spokesmodel Sofia Vergara started a new fashion endeavor with a cool giveback component. With Eby, a subscription-based lingerie service (its acronym stands for "empowered by you") she helps women around the world start their own businesses. The line, which the Modern Family star launched with business partner, and fellow Colombiana Renata M. Black, donates 10% of its net sales to Seven Bar Foundation, which gives women small business loans. As she becomes self-sufficient, she repays her loan and it gets passed on to another female entrepreneur.

As if that isn't cool enough, the seamless underwear is designed to prevent bunching and sliding through a special patented technology. It comes in sizes XS to 4X and every pair is the same price (so, unlike some other brands, there's no "additional fabric" fees). A brand that helps women in two amazing ways? Sign us up.

 

 

 

5. Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez & Marc Anthony

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When Puerto Rico was ravaged by hurricanes Maria and Irma, and didn't receive the aid it so deperately needed through the U.S. government, J Lo, A Rod and Marc Anthony stepped up in a major way. The trio organized Somos Live! A Concert for Disaster Relief, a star-studded benefit televised simultaneously on Telemundo, Univision and NBC. The stars raised close to $9 million through the telethon and a total of more than $35 million in corporate donations, pledges and their own contributions.

6. Catherine Cortez Masto

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In January, Catherine Cortez Masto was sworn in to the U.S. Senate, becoming the first female senator from Nevada and the first Latina and Mexican American woman ever to do so. The 53-year-old former attorney general is the granddaughter of a Mexican immigrant and focused her campaign on immigration reform. Of her barrier-breaking position, Masto told CNN earlier this year, “The most important things are the incredible Latinas that I've met along the way, and young girls who are so excited when they meet me and they know that I'm the first Latina. For me, that tells me that they're looking at me saying, ‘Oh my gosh, if she can do it, I can do it, too.’ And that's what I want them to think.”

 

7. Ilia Calderón

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When María Elena Salinas left her news chair on Noticiero Univision, Colombian-born, Emmy-Winning anchor Ilia Calderón stepped in to take her place, and made history while doing it. As the first Afro-Latina ever to anchor a major evening news broadcast in the U.S., she is inspiring a new generation of viewers. Of the coveted new role, the reporter told People Chica, “It’s a great responsibility knowing that I’m opening doors for other generations, not only for journalists, but for other girls and women who want to succeed at what they do. My commitment is not only to the Afro-Hispanic community, but to the Hispanic community in general.”

8. Eva Longoria

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As a producer/content creator, Eva Longoria never stops pushing. The mom-to-be has had her share of TV shows come and go (Devious Maids, Telenovela) but she is committed to telling stories she believes are important. This year, she landed development deals at Fox for two new hourlong drama series: the first: an as-yet-untitled show about a group of successful female friends in Hollywood and the personal and professional challenges they face, and the second: Sidekicks, about a father-daughter cop team in Detroit. We can't wait to tune in.

9. Demi Lovato

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Demi Lovato has always been one brave, badass chica, never afraid to speak her mind, even when it comes to personal topics like her struggles with mental health disorders and drug addiction, and her fluid sexuality. And in her very intimate YouTube documentary, Simply Complicated, released in October, the “Tell Me You Love Me” singer was true to form.

“I am especially proud of this documentary because it gave me a chance to tell my story and truth in the most intimate and personal way, without a single hesitation,” Lovato said in a statement about the doc that's racked up over 7 million views.

In the nearly hour and a half long film, the singer opens up about her eating disorder, drug use, stints in rehab and a psych hospital, and her painful breakup with Wilmer Valderrama. "I've learned that the key to being happy is to tell your truth and be OK without all the answers," the pop star has said about the revealing film. It's that kind of fearlessness that helps others feel less shame about their own challenges, and that makes life a little less lonely and intimidating for the rest of us. Thank you, Demi.

 

10. Thalía

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Singer and former novela star, Thalía Sodi, became a first time director with her HBO documentary, “15: A Quinceanera Story.” The doc, a compilaton of four, 30 minute films, which aired earlier this month, tells the story of four Latinas experiencing the rite of passage, including a transgender teen and a female boxer.

Of the films which Thalia co-created with her husband and music exec Tommy Mattola and Emmy winning director, Matthew O'Neil, Thalía has said, “This documentary comes from my need to tell the story of the Hispanic community, of the families that regardless of their social class, regardless of borders, make anything needed to celebrate a party where a girl will stop being a girl and will become the woman that’s going to face her life from then on.”

Given the current political climate, this is the perfect time to showcase traditional Latin stories from a unique perspective. As the Grammy winning star summed up perfectly, “To me this is such an important, wonderful ... tradition. ... It is a family tradition that’s very much us, that’s very Latin, and it is beautiful.”

11. John Leguizamo

The king of the one-man show returned to Broadway this year after a five year break with “Latin History for Morons,” an attempt to educate folks and fill in the gaps left wide open by the history books so many of us read in school—in the most hilarious way possible, of course. The show, which is anchored in a storyline of Leguizamo helping his son with a school "heroes project" and being frustrated with the lack of Latinos mentioned in history, tells stories of Latino warriors, touching on the Aztecs and Incans, among others. It's formatted in monologues and improvised audience participation, and filled with the boisterous impressions that the Colombiano is known for. With the rampant misinformation and negative stereotypes coming from our own government, the timing for this show was nothing less than perfect.