Our Favorite Latino Child Stars

Oh, the precariousness of being a former child star. On one hand, you have tragic, hot-mess stories like that of Lindsay Lohan, who went to jail on Tuesday, and Gary Coleman, who died broke last month. On another, you have success stories like that of the squeaky-clean Selena Gomez, who opens a new movie tomorrow (Ramona and Beezus) and who seems poised to become America's next sweetheart.

So where do other Latino former child actors fall? We tracked the careers of the best known and while we found no scintillating abundance of sex, drugs and debauchery, hey, at least we don’t have to be ashamed of them.

1. Child Stars - Jessica Alba

Jessica Alba

Working since: Age 14, when she got attention for her two-year stint on Flipper.

Breakthrough role: As rebellious teen super-soldier Max Guevera on Dark Angel.

Now: She may not be a box-office powerhouse exactly, but the gorgeous married mom, 29, has built quite a following as a sex symbol and fashion star. The closest she’s come to scandal were published quotes that revealed a seeming disdain for her Mexican roots (she later told Latina that writers took her words out of context and said she was proud of being Latina). Look for her in The Killer Inside Me, currently in theaters, and Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, out in September.

2. Child Stars - Tatyana Ali

Tatyana Ali

Working since: Age 6, when she was a regular child performer on Sesame Street.

Breakthrough role: As sweet Ashley Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  

Now: In addition to pursuing a musical career (she has a gold record), the seeminly straight-laced Tatyana, 31, is a regular on the CBS soap The Young and the Restless and BET’s Buppies, which she executive produces.

3. Child Stars - Alexa Vega

Alexa Vega

Working since: Age 6, on the short-lived Evening Shade.

Breakthrough role: Carmen Vega, the resourceful child spook in Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids trilogy.

Now: Next up is From Prada to Nada, a Latina spin on Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, in which she and Camilla Belle play sisters who go from being rich to living in East L.A. with an aunt when their dad dies. It’s very Legally Blonde-slash-Clueless, which considering the success of those films, is a good thing. Could this be the movie that finally puts newly engaged Alexa, 21, on Hollywood’s map?

4. Child Stars - Maiara Walsh

Maiara Walsh

Working since: Her early teens, in bit roles.

Breakthrough role: She began as the exotic Meena Paroom on the Disney Channel’s Cory in the House at age 17.

Now: Maiara, now 22, pulled a rare feat: She freed herself from kids TV after just one year, reinventing herself as the lusty, manipulative Ana Solis on Desperate Housewives. That was quick!

5. Child Stars - Mario Lopez

Mario Lopez

Working since: Age 11, on the short-lived ABC comedy a.k.a. Pablo

Breakthrough role: As jock A.C. Slater on Saved by the Bell, starting at age 16

Now: The impossibly fit, dimpled hottie, 36, has carved out for himself a niche as TV host of shows like Extra, America’s Best Dance Crew and (occasionally) Live with Regis, as well as beauty pageants and game shows, and as a perennial guest on Ellen De Generes and Wendy Williams. The expectant dad hustled an as-yet unnamed reality show on VH1 based on his transition from player to devoted partner and dad. It premieres in the fall.

6. Child Stars - Frankie Muniz

Frankie Muniz

Working since: Age 8, appearing first in commercials

Breakthrough role: Frankie, now 24, earned raves as the gifted kid in a dysfunctional family on Malcolm in the Middle.

Now: Once touted as the most bankable kid star in Hollwyood, Frankie willingly left Hollywood in 2007 to pursue a career as a racecar driver. Props to him, but now he’s inching his way back, having just wrapped a low-budget flick called Pizza Man. We get the feeling it’s gonna be a long road.

7. Child Stars - Sara Paxton

Sara Paxton

Working since: Age 5, appearing first in commercials

Breakthrough role: As rural vet’s assistant Darcy in Darcy’s Wild Life, on Discovery Kids.

Now: Sara, 22, has starred in a steady string of duds since hitting adulthood, including last year’s thriller The Last House on the Left. Undaunted, she’s filmed two more horror-thrillers slated for next year.

8. Child Stars - Luis Armand Garcia

Luis Armand Garcia

Working since: Age 8, when he did a guest stint on ER

Breakthrough role: As Max Lopez, George’s skateboarding mini-me son, on the sitcom George Lopez.

Now: After the show was cancelled in 2007, Luis simply went back to regular life, attending a public high school. He has no projects coming up, but recently set up a Twitter account to keep up with fans.

9. Child Stars Related Links