The 15 Breakout Latino Stars of 2011!

From a certain saucy guy who went from Mr. 305 to Mr. Worldwide thanks to an album studded with guest spots, to the Boricua who plays the reigning queen of mean on one of TV’s hottest shows, here are the Latinos and Latinas who went from music, TV and film minor players to stars in 2011!

1. Breakout: Pitbull

Pitbull, 30 

For us Latinos, Pitbull is a homeboy who we’ve known about since jump. But for mainstream audiences worldwide, 2011 was the year they got to know the saucy Cuban American rapper-turned-club-music-star, the guy behind a string of hits you couldn’t turn the radio on without hearing: “Hey Baby (Drop it to the Floor) with T-Pain”; “On the Floor” (with Jennifer Lopez);  “International Love” (with Chris Brown); “Rain Over Me” (featuring Marc Anthony). Mr. Worldwide was everywhere this year, from hawking Bud Light and Kodak in Spanglish commercials, to introducing his own brand of vodka, to giving, um, uplifting performances on awards shows like the American Music Awards with a barely clothed Lopez and giving singers advice on American Idol. It’s Planet Pit, baby. We’re just living in it.

 

2. Breakout: Nathalia Ramos

Nathalia Ramos, 19

The Madrid-born blonde has Hollywood written all over her, from her pretty face and gorgeous hair to her outsize personality. As Nina Martin, a girl who attends a mysterious London school in Nickelodeon's hit telenovela House of Anubis, Ramos is affecting, but also looks like she’s ready for more. Come knocking, studios!

3. Breakout: JR Martinez

JR Martinez, 28 

You couldn’t help but be touched by Martinez’s story: how the Salvadoran African American Iraq vet suffered burns in 40 percent of his body when the Humvee he was driving hit a roadside bomb. How he struggled to regain his health and his will to live as a hospital patient for nearly three years who underwent more than 30 surgeries. How he took up the responsibility to talk to other burn victims and give them hope. Add to that being the winner of the latest season of Dancing with the Stars thanks to his great moves, great smile and great personality, and you’ve got a new star.

4. Breakout: Kid Cudi

Kid Cudi, 27

A mixtape king and music label creator before he stepped in front of a camera to act, Kid Cudi is a revelation as Domingo Brown, the dope-dealing, dog-walking philosophizer on the HBO series, How to Make it in America. But the best is yet to come: The half-Mexican, half-African American musician, who has sold 4.6 million digital singles, will release his debut album this spring.

5. Breakout: Edgar Ramirez

Edgar Ramirez, 34

Talk about your total transformations. Ramirez earned an Emmy nomination for his searing turn as Carlos the Jackal, the 1970s radical who carried out terrorist activities internationally in the 1970s in the five and a half-hour-long movie, CarlosActing bravado bonus: Ramirez went full frontal in the movie, an example of how far the Venezuelan actor was willing to go for the role. Bravo!

6. Breakout: Lana Parrilla

Lana Parrilla, 34

After years making the rounds on various TV shows starring in small roles, the Puerto Rican actress has finally broken through in the ABC hit fairy tale drama series Once Upon a Time. As Regina, aka The Evil Queen, Parrilla is highy effective as the frosty mayor/reigning bi*** on wheels.

7. Breakout: Diego Boneta

Diego Boneta, 21

When the Gael Garcia Bernal lookalike, who was born in Mexico to Puerto Rican and Spanish parents, landed a role as down-to-Earth Alex Santiago in Pretty Little Liars, he earned the love of many a shrieking teenage girl (and ahem, those of us beyond 19, too!). Look for him to hit it even bigger in the summer, when he co-stars with Tom Cruise and Julianne Hough in the movie version of the musical Rock of Ages.

8. Breakout: Bella Thorne

Bella Thorne, 14

At age 14, the part-Cuban actress has already had a full career as a child model. But her career as a teen star has just begun, and it’s off to a great start. As CeCe Jones, an ambitious dancer who dreams of a life in the spotlight in the Disney Channel series, Shake It Up, she’s, well, a natural.

9. Breakout: Kevin Alejandro

Kevin Alejandro, 35

There isn’t a single piece of television work that Alejndro hasn’t turned into acting gold, from his Southland cop to a kidnapper in Weeds. But as Bon Temps’ resident nurse and brujo, Jesus on True Blood, the Mexican actor reached a whole new level of great.  Here’s to that emotional death scene at the hands of his beloved Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis). We can’t wait for his next onscreen adventure.

10. Breakout: Berenice Bejo

Berenice Bejo, 35

How could you not love the Argentinian-French actress who stars in the black-and-white silent film The Artist? Her Peppy, an aspiring starlet, has a sweet and perky personality that Bejo manages to keep from becoming cloying. Having attacked her role with a lot of heart and energy, expect to see a lot of her in the awards season and beyond. 

11. Breakout: Demian Bichir

Demian Bichir, 48

Playing the caring, hardworking undocumented single father of a teenage boy tempted by East LA’s gang life in A Better Life, the Mexican actor could have easily tried to make his character overly sentimental in a ploy to win over audiences. Instead, he approached the role with dignity and layers of emotion that connected with moviegoers and critics. Can we all stop calling his SAG award nomination a “surprise” and expect amazing things from this versatile actor?

12. Breakout: Ana de la Reguera

Ana de la Reguera, 34

As Kenny’s (Danny McBride) new love interest on HBO's Eastbound and Down, the Mexican actress got to show off her great comic timing and made Vida, the singer stuck in a small village in Mexico but harboring huge ambitions of an easy life, into sassy, sexy and silly delight.

13. Breakout: Evelyn Lozada

Evelyn Lozada 

Catfights, beef, sexting, catching cheating boyfriends. All in a day’s work for Lozada, the undisputed star and queen of VH1's Basketball Wives, who has inspired scores of girls on YouTube to make their own makeup tutorial videos for those who want Lozada’s dewy, club-ready look. What will Lozada do next? Who knows, but we’ll be watching.

14. Breakout: Sarah Shahi

Sarah Shahi, 31

There’s no doubt that the Iranian-Spanish Texan can carry a show, given her prodigious ability to be buoyant and sexy in one scene and face tough clients and adversaries in the next, as the likeable mediator and lawyer Kate Reed on the USA Network show, Fairly Legal. On the strength of her performance, the show was renewed for a second season. 

15. Breakout: Tyler Posey

Tyler Posey, 20

He’s our very own Taylor Lautner—playing a tormented hottie with a strange power. The part-Mexican actor makes Teen Wolf more than a favorite guilty pleasure, though, playing a good guy who can’t help going nuts during full moons but who does everything in his power to protect those he loves from himself. Wild and heroic. Dreamy.

16. Breakout: Related Links