1. Brightest Stars: Genesis Rodriguez
Génesis Rodriguez, 23
When you’re the daughter of legendary Venezuelan singer and actor El Puma, you’re bound to attack stardom with ferocity. And sure enough, Rodriguez has quickly leapt from telenovelas to Hollywood. After an upcoming stint on Entourage, she’ll appear opposite Will Ferrell, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna in the comedy Casa de Mi Padre, and with Sam Worthington in the action flick Man on a Ledge.
2. Brightest Stars: Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars, 25
Until recently, you couldn’t turn a radio dial without hearing Mars’s megahit “Just the Way You Are.” Born Peter Gene Hernandez to Puerto Rican and Filipino parents, the seven-time Grammy nominee also cowrote others’ chart-toppers, like Flo Rida’s “Right Round” and Cee Lo Green’s “F--- You.”
3. Brightest Stars: Dora the Explorer
Dora the Explorer
It’s hard to overstate Dora’s impact: For more than a decade, she’s taught millions of kids how to problem-solve, the importance of friendship and family, and even some Spanish skills. Best of all, her brown skin and culture are not the point of her animated show, but part of the background, making her as American as apple (or guava!) pie.
4. Brightest Stars: Jasmine Villegas
Jasmine Villegas, 17
Buzz, buzz, buzz! Mexican-and-Filipino Villegas has plenty of it, thanks to a scorching single, “All These Boys,” released last fall, a rumored romance with Justin Bieber (whose tour she joined in September) and a collaboration with the Jonas brothers.
5. Brightest Stars: Prince Royce
Prince Royce, 21
As bachata kings Aventura ponder breaking up, there’s someone more than ready to take their crown. We’re referring, of course, to Bronx-born dominicano Geoffrey Royce Rojas, whose bilingual self-titled debut showcases silky-smooth vocals and savvy songs (including the irresistible “Stand By Me” remake and “Corazón Sin Cara”) that signal the genre’s future.
6. Brightest Stars: Joan Smalls
Joan Smalls, 22
She may hail from the Puerto Rican town of Hatillo, but the modeling newbie already has a globe-trekking career. Smalls got her break last year after being featured as the exclusive model for Givenchy’s fall couture show in Paris, and then walked the runway for 40 top designers. Her It Girl status was recently cemented with an Estée Lauder contract.
7. Brightest Stars: Miguel
His sexy voice and style gets right under your skin, leading Billboard to gush that the half-Mexican smoothie “offers both the sweetness of Babyface and the passion of R. Kelly.” Could Miguel be our first bonafide Latino R&B superstar since Maxwell?
8. Brightest Stars: Mark Sanchez
Mark Sanchez, 24
Ever since signing a hefty $50 million contract with the NFL two years ago, the New York Jets quarterback has kept cool under pressure. In 2010, despite recovering from knee surgery, he posted his first career 300-yard passing game, emerging as a new kind of all-American athlete: a third-generation Mexican American profoundly proud of his roots.
9. Brightest Stars: Maya Gabeira
This big wave rider first hit the water as a way to refocus her life after being kicked out of home as a rebellious teen. Now the brasileña is a top female surfer and a four-time winner of the Billabong XXL Women’s Overall Performance Award. Not one to shy away from a challenge, she recently rode a 45-footer, setting the record for largest wave ever tackled by a woman.
10. Brightest Stars: Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal, 24
The Spanish cutie dominated men’s pro tennis in 2010, when he became the seventh man to ever score a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. That was after experts said his knee problems would cut his career short. But as anyone who’s ever seen him play knows, knees have nothing to do with it: Nadal is all about heart.
11. Brightest Stars: Heather Hemmens
Heather Hemmens, 22
To simply say that half–Costa Rican Hemmens is on the CW series Hellcats misses the full scope of her work. She’s directed and produced two short films, and intends to succeed both behind and in front of the camera. Ambitious? Yes, but then again, Hemmens has been on this path ever since attending a performing arts high school on a full scholarship.