Although she doesn't look a day over 30, the lovely Gina Torres is turning 43 today. And what better way to honor the stunning Cubana than by naming her one of our most beautiful Afro-Latina celebs on the planet!
Gina, we love you, you're beautiful (inside and out) and we're so proud to have you representing for Latinas in Hollywood.
Without further ado -- and in honor of Gina's cumpleaños-- we proudly present the 20 Most Beautiful Afro-Latinas on the Planet. Happy birthday, Gina!
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Gina Torres, 43
This talented Afro-Cubana has had starring roles on several sci-fi TV shows including, FlashForward, Alias, Serenity and Dark Angel—and we love that Gina always plays strong, confident women who aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo. Torres also appeared in two of the Matrix films (The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions), and played Chris Rock’s significant other in the comedy, I Think I Love My Wife. It was during filming The Matrix Reloaded that the Afro-Latina star met her now husband, Laurence Fishburne.
Lauren Velez, 47
In 1995, there were few actresses of color on primetime television, but Lauren Velez didn’t let that stop her from rocking the role of police officer Nina Moreno in the hit TV series, New York Undercover. The Puerto Rican actress made her feature film debut that same year opposite Rita Moreno in the hit movie, I Like It Like That, and her stellar performance earned her an Independent Spirit Award for Best Lead Actress. 16 years later, Velez is still just one of a handful of women representing Afro-Latinas on television, as Captain Maria Laguerta on Showtime’s hit serial killer drama, Dexter.
Zoe Saldana, 33
The lead actress of the highest grossing motion picture of all-time is an Afro-Latina! Half-Dominican, half-Puerto Rican actress Zoe Saldana stole our hearts when she played the peaceful Neytiri in James Cameron’s, Avatar (2009). Since then, the lovely and talented ingénue has used her A-list movie star fame as a forum to convey to young Latinas everywhere that it’s a beautiful thing to be Afro-Latina. “As a Latina, I think we should be very proud of our heritage,” Saldana has said. “We tend to look for European roots and reject the indigenous and the African, and that’s disgusting. Being Latin is being a mix of everything. I want my people not to be insecure, and to adore what we are because it’s beautiful.” Amen, Zoe!
Yaya Dacosta, 28
Best known as the runner-up on the third season of the hit reality competition America’s Next Top Model (2004), Yaya Dacosta has lately been making a name for herself as a serious Hollywood actress. The multi-ethnic Dacosta (of Brazilian, West African, and Native American descent), was immensely likeable as Tanya, Mark Ruffalo’s sexy, foul-mouthed lover in last year’s Oscar-nominated film The Kids Are all Right, and this fall, she starred opposite Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried in the sci-fi thriller, In Time. Dacosta isn’t just another pretty face—she’s also highly intelligent and has a degree in African Studies and International Relations from Brown University.
Esperanza Spalding, 27
How cool is Esperanza Spalding? She plays several instruments masterfully—including bass, the oboe, the violin and the clarinet. She also sings in three languages and has played for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. In 2010, Esperanza beat out pop phenom Justin Bieber and rapper Drake for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards for her album, Chamber Music Society. "My mom is Welsh, Hispanic, and Native American, and my father is Black,” says the Afro-Latina Spalding. We love her for breaking the mold in more ways than one.
Rocsi Diaz, 27
Even though she’s half-Honduran and half-Chilean, Rocsi Diaz—the host of BET’s hit music countdown show, 106 & Park—says that because she works at a Black network, people don’t believe she’s Latina. “I went to a restaurant, Sofrito, and LL Cool J was sitting there having dinner,” she recalls. “They started playing salsa music and I start dancing. After I finish, he looks at me and he’s like, 'Rocsi, I had no idea you were [Latina].'” Still, that hasn’t stopped the sexy Rocsi from embracing Latino culture and representing for her fellow Afro-Latinas. The driven 27-year-old also has her own self-titled, nationally syndicated radio show called Rocsi on the Radio, and she just completed filming on her first feature film, The Great Divide.
Stacey Dash, 45
Talk about a beautiful Afro-Latina! Stacey Dash is 45-years-old, but the half-Mexican actress looks like she’s 25. “I literally just use Cetaphil,” Dash recently told Latina.com. "I keep it very, very simple. I do eye cream and sunscreen every day. Even if you’ve got olive skin, or brown skin, you still need sunscreen," she explains. "I drink a lot of water. I work out." Best known for her role as Dionne Marie Davenport, Cher’s (Alicia Silversone) self-absorbed best friend in the hit 1995 comedy, Clueless, Dash is a talented actress who recently starred in the hit VH1 TV show, Single Ladies.
Rosario Dawson, 32
Rosario Dawson has a body of work in films that most actresses would envy. The Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican actress has worked with great actors (Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Phillip Seymour Hoffman), great directors (Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, Robert Rodriguez)—and she’s played iconic roles (Mimi in the movie-musical Rent; Gail in Sin City). But when she’s not acting, Dawson is working hard on Voto Latino, the non-profit voter registration organization she co-founded in 2004. Why? Because Rosario knows just how important it is to mobilize young Latinos to hit the polls.
Evelyn Lozada, 37
What we love most about Evelyn Lozada isn’t her ability to deliver clever insults like “You’re a nonmother******* factor" - it’s that Lozada always keeps it real. She hasn’t had the easiest life — she got pregnant at a young age and has admitted to being on welfare and to being cheated on repeatedly by her former boyfriend, Antoine Walker. But through it all, the Basketball Wives star has been honest and upfront, inspiring other young moms to believe that they too can get through the hard times. Lozada also owns Florida shoe boutique, Dulce, and she signed a six-figure deal to develop literary and feature film projects with Cash Money Content.
Soledad O’Brien, 45
Soledad O’Brien, who’s half Afro-Cuban and half-Irish, is the only Afro-Latina on our list who explores mixed-race heritage for a living. O’Brien reported on CNN’s Latino in America, a wide-ranging look at Latinos living in America and how they’re reshaping the country—and Black in America, a special about the state of Black America 40 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Her In America series will continue to explore issues of race in the United States. In 2012, O’Brien will host a new CNN morning show, which is great news since we need more Afro-Latinas anchoring news shows!
Arlenis Sosa, 22
A current spokesmodel for Lancome, Dominican model Arlenis Sosa is on a first-name basis with everyone from Oscar de la Renta to Anna Wintour. She’s also walked for some of the most prestigious designers and fashion houses in the world. But what we love most about Arlenis is the way she supports her fellow Afro-Latinas. “Models need to stick together, especially black models, whom people are always accusing of being too competitive,” she told us in 2010. “I never think about things in terms of someone taking a job away from me or me taking it away from them. If you get it, I’m happy. If I get it, I’m happy. The important thing is that black models are doing it big now.”
Heather Hemmens, 23
Everyone knows that Heather Hemmens starred in the CW series, Hellcats, but Hemmens, who’s half-Costa Rican, says because she has dark skin, few people know she’s Latina. “[People don't immediately think of me as Latina] because my mother is a black Costa Rican, so I have this skin tone that's kind of unidentifiable,” explains Hemmens. But the proud Afro-Latina says being unidentifiable has gotten her nondescript roles. “It’s great because as an actress, it gives me a versatility to play a black woman or play a Latina woman. I've even played Egyptian and Indian American. With the right hair and makeup,” she says. “I've actually got a pretty good road going here where I can play a lot of things.”
La La Anthony, 32
This former MTV VJ is a sometimes actress (Two Can Play That Game, You Got Served), a former MTV VJ and host (Total Request Live, Charm School) and a reality star (VH1’s La La’s Full Court Life). She’s also married to an NBA superstar (New York Knick Carmelo Anthony, with whom she runs Krossover Productions), she’s got a beautiful son named Kiyan, and her friends include Hollywood stars like, Justin Timberlake, Kim Kardashian, Ludacris and LeBron James. What can we say? Life is good for La La!
Tatyana Ali, 32
She was Ashley Banks, the little girl with the infectious smile on the 90s sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and now, Tatyana Ali is an inspiring Afro-Latina who’s all grown up. After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from Harvard University, the half-Panamanian actress pulled double duty as the star and executive producer of two TV shows: the BET series, Buppies (2009), and Love That Girl, a new series which airs on TV One.
Melissa De Sousa, 44
Most Afro-Latinas in Hollywood are pigeonholed into playing Black roles or Latina roles. Not Melissa De Sousa! The half-Panamanian actress was hilarious as fiery Latina Karen Krantz (AKA Miss New York) in Ms. Congeniality (2000), and she was equally terrific as the African American Shelby in The Best Man (1999). Currently, De Sousa stars as a Latina named Gabriella Jimenez in the hit BET series, Reed Between the Lines. It used to be that you had to pick between being Black and Latina. Thanks to Melissa De Sousa and others like her, that’s not the case anymore!
Gloria Govan, 25
Her dramatic on-again, off-again relationship with NBA star Matt Barnes aside, Gloria Govan is actually a very sweet and down to earth girl. The Afro-Latina reality star (she’s half-Mexican and half-African American) is the star of VH1’s hit reality show, Basketball Wives LA, but she somehow manages to keep things classy no matter how much drama unfolds on the show. "It's not just us sitting around throwing drinks at each other and fighting the entire time," the gorgeous Govan says of her hit show. “We have altercations and we settle it like women...and then we keep it moving.”
Judy Reyes, 44
There’s never been a more endearing relationship between a Latina TV character and an African American TV character, than the relationship between Carla Espinoza (Judy Reyes) and Turk (Donald Faison) on the long-running comedy, Scrubs. Much of the humor on the show stemmed from Turk’s inability to understand Carla’s Dominican culture—but in real life, Reyes—who’s Dominican and Black—loves both sides of her equally. And we love her!
Dania Ramirez, 32
Ramirez is hands down one of the sexiest actresses in Hollywood! The Dominican actress has a rock-hard body, a gorgeous smile and flawless skin—the icing on the cake is that she’s also one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. Although she’s best known for her sexy roles on HBO’s hit series Entourage and The Sopranos, if you ask us, Dania’s most important role is her role as the face of Covergirl Cosmetics—because in that role, she inspires other young Afro-Latinas to embrace their beauty and reach for their dreams.
Syesha Mercado, 24
Every time she took the stage on American Idol’s seventh season, Syesha Mercado looked stunning—she had a million dollar smile that seemed like a great fit for a Colgate commercial, flawless skin, and eyes that could not be ignored. And she sounded ever better! It’s no wonder the half-Puerto Rican singer finished in third place—behind David Archuleta and David Cook—on the hit FOX show.
Joan Smalls, 22
Joan Smalls rose to fame when she was chosen to walk exclusively for Givenchy’s Fall 2010 couture show in Paris. Since then, the Afro-Latina model (who hails from the small Puerto Rican town of Hatillo) has walked the runway for everyone from Marc Jacobs to Gucci. Knowing full well that there are millions of beautiful Afro-Latinas in the world, Estée Lauder Global Brand President Jane Hertzmark explained why they selected Joan to be their new face. “We are thrilled to introduce Joan to women around the world. She truly reflects Estée Lauder’s modern vision of global beauty.” We couldn’t agree more!