The 20 Breakout Latino Stars of 2012!

It’s turned out to be a banner year for Latino newcomers in Hollywood. From winning America’s hearts on reality competition shows like The Glee Project, American Idol and Dancing with the Stars to proving their mettle and earning medals at the 2012 London Games, a slew of Latino celebrities and athletes have proven their ready to take the reins. Here’s a look at the 20 breakout Latino stars of 2012.

1. Breakout Stars 2012: Blake Jenner

Blake Jenner, 20

During the second season finale of Oxygen’s The Glee Project, Blake Jenner adorably calling himself “the whitest half Cuban.” In that moment, he not only sealed his fate as the winner of the competition and role on Glee, but he wormed his way into our hearts. And in his new role as Ryder Lynn on Fox’s musical dramedy, Jenner has continued to charm America with his adorable smile, boy-next-door good looks and great voice.

2. Breakout Stars 2012: Gina Rodriguez

Gina Rodriguez, 28

During this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Gina Rodriguez managed to outshine more established actresses like Rashida Jones and Elizabeth Olsen to become the festival’s darling with her inspired performance as an aspiring hip-hop artist in Filly Brown.  Along with earning her Imagen Award for best actress in a feature film, the role helped put the Puerto Rican actress on the map, leading to a led to a talent holding deal with ABC/ABC Studios.

3. Breakout Stars 2012: Ryan Guzman

Ryan Guzman, 25

From the moment he first appears on screen in this summer’s 3D dance film Step Up Revolution, you can’t help take our eyes off of Ryan Guzman. The half-Mexican actor, a former Mixed Martial Arts fighter, is divinely fine. He’s got a killer smile, ripped body and ceaseless charm that make it difficult to look away. So you can’t fault us for naming him Latina’s Sexiest Latino Man Alive this year.

4. Breakout Stars 2012: Carla Morrison

Carla Morrison, 26

It’s turning out to be the breakout year of Carla Morrison’s young music career. The Mexican pop-rock singer, songwriter and guitarist has earned critical acclaim for her latest album Déjenme Llorar, which led to iTunes editors naming her the Best Latin Artist of the Year. And the video to the album’s heart-wrenching title track has become a YouTube hit with nearly 12 million views. But Morrison’s biggest honors came at the end of the year, when she won two Latin Grammy Awards and earned her first Grammy nomination.

5. Breakout Stars 2012: Cierra Ramirez

Cierra Ramirez, 17

There’s no denying Cierra Ramirez is a girl in progress. The actress/singer picked up an ALMA Award for Favorite Movie Actress Supporting Role for her portrayal of Ansiedad in Girl in Progress, her first leading role in a major motion picture. The critically acclaimed performance as a rebellious daughter in the coming of age story led to a recurring role on ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager, as well as her casting in Jennifer Lopez’s new television project The Fosters.

6. Breakout Stars 2012: Jessica Sanchez

Jessica Sanchez, 17

It’s virtually impossible to perform a Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Beyoncé song to rave reviews from Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and the rest of the judges on American Idol. But that’s exactly what Jessica Sanchez did on the eleventh installment of Fox’s reality singing competition. And even though she had to settle for second place, the half-Mexican singer has parlayed her AI success into a promising career, earning a recording contract with Interscope Records and a recurring role on Glee.

7. Breakout Stars 2012: Michael Telo

Michel Teló, 31

Long before PSY’s “Gangnam Style” invaded the airwaves, Michel Teló had the world singing in Portuguese. The Brazilian sertaneja singer’s infectious "Ai Se Eu Te Pego" reached No. 1 in most European countries, Latin America and Quebec. And the song even made its way to the top spot on Billboard’s Latin Songs chart and Latin Pop Songs chart. The single—which has been covered by Pitbull, praised by Perez Hilton and danced to by soccer stars like Cristiano Ronaldo after scoring goals—has a catchy repetitive chorus, accordion hook and amusing lyrics about a guy trying to seduce a girl.

8. Breakout Stars 2012: Auti Angel

Auti Angel

Hailed as the “world’s first wheelchair hip-hop dancer,” Auti Angel first appeared in Ludacris’ hit music video “Stand Up” in 2003; and she later choreographed a routine for a performance with the rapper at the Vibe Music Awards. But this year, the paraplegic dancer/actress saw her star shine brighter than ever as one of the stars of The Sundance Channel’s Push Girls, a reality series that follows the lives of four paralyzed women and the day-to-day challenges and triumphs they encounter. Picked up for a second season, the show has allowed the world to witness Angel’s indestructible spirit and charming personality.

9. Breakout Stars 2012: Ryan Lochte

Ryan Lochte, 28

The future of U.S. swimming looks bright thanks to Ryan Lochte. The half Cuban-American swimmer may not have won as many finals as he’d hoped at the 2012 London Games, but he still earned five medals, including two golds. And Lochte recently broke his own world record in the 200-meter IM at the short-course world championships, proving the best may be yet to come from him. But Lochte isn’t just making waves in the pool; he also guest-starred on 90210 and 30 Rock, shared a high-profile swim with Prince Harry and dated Olivia Culpo, who was just crowned Miss Universe this month.

10. Breakout Stars 2012: Danell Leyva

Danell Leyva, 21

Danell Leyva was the sole ray of light in what proved to be a disappointing year for the U.S. Men’s Gymnastics Team, which failed to medal at the 2012 London Games despite gold expectations. The Cuban-American gymnast was the only one of his teammates to medal, earning a bronze in the men’s all-around competition. And Leyva’s au naturel appearance in ESPN Magazine’s “The Body Issue” – which aims to appreciate “the bodies we want” – that really made our hearts race!

11. Breakout Stars 2012: William Levy

William Levy

Sure, he’s been a bona fide star in Latin America for ages. But this year, William Levy conquered the United States when he competed on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, leaving many American women wondering, “Where have you been all my life?” Along with securing his first People magazine cover story, the Cuban-American heartthrob was named People en Español’s “El Hombre Más Sexy,” landed a guest-starring role on VH1’s Single Ladies and signed on to appear in three Lionsgate movies, including Tyler Perry’s latest project Single Mom’s Club.

12. Breakout Stars 2012: Miguel

Miguel, 27

What sophomore slump? This year, Miguel followed up his sleeper-hit debut album All I Want Is You with the critically acclaimed Kaleidoscope Dream. The album’s first single “Adorn,” likened to Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing,” has become the half-Mexican singer/songwriter’s most successful single to date, spending nine weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The song and album earned Miguel a whopping five Grammy nominations, including one of the biggest prizes from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences: Song of the Year.

13. Breakout Stars 2012: Gio Gonzalez

Gio Gonzalez, 27

Since his MLB debut, Gio Gonzalez has impressed the world with his curveball. “My father taught it to me. He felt that it was a pitch he wanted me to learn, right on the side of the house, and it just ended up working,” says Gonzalez of the pitch he calls a blessing. “I've never changed my grip since the day my dad showed me how to throw it.” Good thing he hasn’t! This year, the Cuban-American Washington Nationals pitcher ended the season with a major league best 21 wins, a 2.89 ERA and 207 strikeouts, earning him the 2012 Warren Spahn Award for being the best left-handed pitcher in the majors.

14. Breakout Stars 2012: Genesis Rodriguez

Génesis Rodríguez, 25

There’s a new woman leading the wave of up-and-coming Latina actress in Hollywood; and her name is Génesis Rodríguez. The former telenovela and Days of our Lives star, the daughter of Latino legend “El Puma,” set tongues wagging in her first major motion picture, the action thriller Man on a Ledge. She followed up that eye-catching performance with roles in Will Ferrell’s Casa de Mi Padre and Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz’s ensemble film What to Expect When You’re Expecting. And she’s not done yet! Next year, she’ll in Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Land Stand and Identity Thief, starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy.

15. Breakout Stars 2012: Sandra Vergara

Sandra Vergara, 24

Sandra Vergara, Sofia Vergara’s cousin and adopted sister, has big shoes to fill. But that doesn’t seem to be a problem for the Colombian actress/model. This year she followed up her first feature film role in 2011’s Fright Night by being cast in MTV’s highly anticipated television movie Dumb Girls, which centers on a group of twentysomething females who are “smart in life but dumb in love.” Her role as Marisol should prove Sofia isn’t the only funny-hot Vergara in Hollywood.   

16. Breakout Stars 2012: Raini Rodriguez

Raini Rodriguez, 19

Raini Rodriguez is stepping out of her younger brother shadow. While Rico Rodriguez continues to deliver laughs on television in ABC’s Modern Family, Raini has moved beyond smaller roles on television shows like True Jackson, VP to star on the Disney original series Austin & Ally. But that’s not all… She followed up her big screen debut in 2011’s Prom by portraying Cierra Ramirez’s bestie in Girl in Progress and released her first single “Living Your Dreams – the theme song for the film Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva La Fiesta! – in English and Spanish. Take that Rico!

17. Breakout Stars 2012: Brittany Underwood

Brittany Underwood, 24

Brittany Underwood, who rose to acclaim as Starr Manning’s closest and most loyal friend on One Life to Live, didn’t let the soap opera’s cancellation this January ruin her Hollywood trajectory. Instead, the Colombian American actress returned to television by starring as Loren Tate in TeenNick/Nickelodeon’s wildly popular series Hollywood Heights, and she branched out into the music world, released her first single, the catchy “Flow.”

18. Breakout Stars 2012: Samuel Larsen

Samuel Larsen, 21

As co-winner of the first season of Oxygen’s The Glee Project last August, Samuel Larsen won a seven-episode arc on Fox’s Glee. But the half-Mexican American actor/singer ended up appearing in each of the final 10 episodes of the high school musical dramedy’s third season, and has been a recurring guest star in Glee’s fourth season. He even appeared as a mentor for The Glee Project's second season. Now that’s what we call success!

19. Breakout Stars 2012: Santiago Cabrera

Santiago Cabrera, 34

It’s been a busy year for Santiago Cabrera, who rose to acclaim as Lancelot on the BBC’s long-running drama series Merlin. This year, the Venezuelan actor saw his star power increase in Hollywood with three high-profile projects. Cabrera starred opposite Eva Longoria and Andy Garcia in the Mexican historic epic For Greater Glory, shared screen time with the likes of Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen in HBO’s award-winning original movie Hemingway & Gellhorn and guest-starred on Showtime’s Dexter

20. Breakout Stars 2012: Makenzie Vega

Makenzie Vega, 18

Makenzie Vega, the little sister of Sky Kids actress Alexa Vega, continues to do good work in Hollywood. The half-Colombian actress, who starred in movies like Sin City, Just My Luck and X-Men: The Last Stand, continues to earn her acting chops on the CBS drama The Good Wife, playing the daughter of Julianna Margulies’ character on the critically acclaimed series. And she’ll reportedly be getting a love interest next season, which should lead to even more screen time for the actress. Now that’s good news!