Glamorous. Sexy. Fearless. Iconic. Any of these words can be used to describe an actress, but put them all together, add lots of talent, a penchant for ballsy roles and a little off-screen drama and you've built a big-screen goddess. From silent film stars to action-flick babes, these 20 Latina actresses have more than proved through their work, style and sass that they belong in the same Hollywood pantheon as Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.
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Divine Quality: No frilly dresses and rom-coms here—she probably eats bullets for breakfast. But this actionista displays a strength and independence that makes her impossible to deny.
Must-See Film: Girlfight (2000). In her big-screen debut, Rodriguez electrified audiences and critics as a teen with a big heart and a stare that could bend iron.
Divine Quality: With untamed hair and a beguiling smile, Braga exudes earthy sensuality.
Must-See Film: Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands. Braga has great comic timing in this hilarious, explicit romp about a prim woman seduced by the ghost of her first husband.
Divine Quality: Voluminous auburn locks + bedroom eyes + a dancer's body = irresistible sexuality.
Must-See Film: Gilda (1946). Wearing a poured-on black satin dress, her character (an ex-cabaret singer) performs an openly sexual number that slips into a striptease, pushing the era's censorship envelope. It made Hayworth, nee Margarita Cansino, a 1940s Hollywood star but also haunted her real-life relationships with men who expected her to be like her on-screen persona.
Divine Quality: Cruz has an exotic, unconventional beauty and an accent that hasn't hindered her career.
Must-See Film: Volver (2006). After a string of American flops, Cruz shines in Pedro Almodovar's film about a mom building a life for herself and her daughter after tragedy strikes.
Divine Quality: Despite her diva rep, bombshell body and inimitable fashion sense, it's Lopez's sweet edge on-screen that makes her a legend.
Must-See Film: Out of Sight (1998). Steven Soderbergh directed this sexy crime caper, featuring Lopez as a U.S. Marshal on the trail of a bank robber (George Clooney). The role shows just how good she can be when matched with good material, a great costar and a skilled director.
Divine Quality: Welch was in the '70s what Eva Mendes is today: The girl you bring in to hike up the sex quotient in a film.
Must-See Film: The cheese-tastic One Million Years BC (1967), in which a stranded man runs into a tribe of beautiful girls and helps them fight monsters. It's all a big excuse to show girls in torn leather bikinis. Naturally, the statuesque Bolivian American beauty, born Jo Raquel Tejada, blows away the competition.
Divine Quality: The appeal of the 1930s and '40s star lay in her vivacious spirit and unconventional life.
Must-See Film: Mexican Spitfire (1940). With her mile-a-minute physical comedy, Velez was doing Lucy years before Lucille Ball. As a Mexican woman married to a straight-laced American man, she and her side-kick uncle-in-law get into all kinds of trouble. The film spawned six sequels—making Velez the first Hispanic to star in a movie series.
Divine Quality: A palpable strength in her angular face and attitude. But she can turn on the tenderness in a heartbeat.
Must-See Film: Playing a greeting-card printer with a bad heart and a rare blood type in Seven Pounds (2008), the Cuban and Puerto Rican actress gives such an understated but strong performance that many critics singled her out as a future acting "powerhouse." We say the future is now.
Catalina Sandino Moreno
Divine Quality: Serene beauty paired with class and elegance—she's the Latina Grace Kelly.
Must-See Film: Maria Full of Grace (2004). As a village girl who becomes a drug mule on a whim—only to slam into dire consequences—Sandino Moreon's performance is a slow burn. The little indie became a smash, and the first-time actress became the first Colombian to be nominated for an Oscar.
Divine Quality: Dark hair, dark eyes and a slamming figure.
Must-See Film: Sex and Lucia (2001). At the heart of this magical-realist drama is Vega's charming waitress, who has an enviable amount of hot sex at home and on a gorgeous Spanish island, but who also happens to be a romantic: The scene in which she asks a man she just met to move in is perfection.
Divine Quality: Voluptuous, with huge, probing eyes, she was never conventionally pretty, which liberated the Mexican star to play indomitable characters.
Must-See Film: High Noon (1952). Jurado goes toe-to-toe with Gary Cooper as his town marshal character's ex-mistress, who overpowers dainty Grace Kelly (the marshal's wife). She won Supporting Actress and New Actress Golden Globes.
Divine Quality: More than her considerable physical beauty, Saldana's power onscreen comes from her very real sense of self-possession.
Must-See Film: Avatar (2009). Every move that her character makes was acted out by Saldana and picked up by motion-capture technology. The intensity, energy and emotion in her performance burst through the movie's digital veneer.
Divine Quality: Many Latina actresses feel the pressure to lighten their locks for Hollywood. Not the statuesque former Miss USA, whose dark brown hair and brown saucer eyes give her a sultry, mysterious look.
Must-See Film: Mulholland Drive (2001). Harring (pictured right) received rave reviews for her mesmerizing performance as an accident victim and the lover of a would-be actress (Naomi Watts).
Divine Quality: Mad skills and petite pixie looks. Despite this, the Puerto Rican actress was typecast and ignored by directors for years.
Must-See Film: Next time you catch West Side Story (1961), ask yourself: Who would I rather be? Vanilla Maria or spark plug Anita? Moreno turned a second-banana role into an Oscar-winning triumph.
Divine Quality: She was never glamorous. But even playing a maid in her '80s heyday, Pena regularly stole scenes.
Must-See Film: Lone Star (1996) provided her with one of her bigger roles, as a Mexican American woman who reunites with her high-school sweetheart with unexpected consequences. The movie subtly explores the unacknowledged roots beneath racial tension in Texas. Pena plays Pilar with such quiet intensity that the shocking ending is particularly heart-wrenching.
Divine Quality: Hayek can do anything on-screen: turn the heat up with her perfectly proportioned petite body, use her accent for self-deprecating laughs or pull off high drama.
Must-See Film: Frida (2002). Hayek, who also produced the film, brought to life a painter whose passion for love, life and art was as deep as her physical pain—and scored an Oscar nod.
Divine Quality: She freely admits that she aspires to be as good as Kate Winslet. But the Cuban American star need not envy anyone in terms of on-screen presence—Mendes is a sex bomb.
Must-See Film: Hitch (2005). Mendes in tight pencil skirts, sexy blouses and tousled hair combined with Will Smith meant a huge, sexy hit, and it became the third-highest grossing romantic comedy ever.
Divine Quality: Confidence and a body that justifies it.
Must-See Film: Alba may have shown off her budding dancing skills in her debut film Honey (2003), but she put them to eye-popping use in Sin City (2005). As kidnapping victim-turned-exotic dancer Nancy, whose hips have a mind of their own, Alba sets the screen on fire.
Divine Quality: The quintessential California girl, Diaz exudes a breezy guy's-girl vibe that the rest of us have to work so hard for.
Must-See Film: There's Something About Mary (1998). With this hilarious send-up of how far men will go to impress a girl, the Cuban American A-lister became the highest paid actress in Hollywood.
Dolores del Rio
Divine Quality: In the 1930s, Del Rio cultivated an air of sophistication with impossibly high cheekbones, perfectly coiffed hair and sumptuous clothes.
Must-See Film: When Hollywood relegated her to stereotypical roles, she returned to Mexico and began a brilliant career. Best of all is Maria Candelaria (1944), Mexico's first entry and Grand Prize winner at the Cannes Film Festival.