Latinas Giving Back: Stars Who are Making a Difference

This year, many of our Latina celebs have carved time aside from the red carpets and escandalos to give back. And what a tremendous year it’s been!

Some of our fave celebs have placed others before themselves through countless philanthropic endeavors; we’ve seen our seasoned Latinas continue to give, as well as a younger generation emerging with their own worthy causes in mind. Very little feels better than giving back, so we decided to round up our list of Latinas with big hearts – and (of course) big wallets. Check out our list below:

Written by Damarys Ocaña and Amaris Castillo

1. Giving Back: Shakira

Shakira

No wonder the Colombian superstar was named the 2011 Latin Recording Academy's Person of the Year. Despite her tremendous success in music, Shakira also has an exceptionally big heart. So let us count the ways: Through her own foundation, Fundación Pies Descalzos, Shaki has helped set up schools for poor children in her native country for over a decade. This summer, the 34-year-old singer announced that through her foundation and FC Barcelona (her boyfriend Gerard Pique’s soccer team) have signed an agreement to build two youth sports complexes; one in Miami, and the other in Cartagena, Colombia — for local youth. If that wasn’t generous enough, Shakira was also appointed to President Barack Obama’s education advisory board in the hopes of assisting children in need throughout Latin America. That is a huge feat to undertake, but given Shakira’s philanthropic track record, we know she has this in the bag.

2. Giving Back: Eva Longoria Parker

Eva Longoria

Of all our Latina celebs, Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria is one of the most giving when it comes to philanthropic endeavors. The 36-year-old Mexican American actress has supported an array of organizations from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to PADRES Contra El Cáncer (PADRES), which Longoria held a benefit event for this past October. Longoria also established her own foundation in 2006; Eva’s Heroes helps developmentally challenged children (her sister Liz is mentally challenged).

Most recently, Longoria served as the Honorary Chair for the Noble Gift Gala in London, which was a tribute to those who help support and raise awareness for children and women empowerment around the world.

3. Giving Back: Gloria Estefan

Gloria Estefan

The Cuban American legendary singer and her producer hubby (Emilio Estefan) are worth about $500 million and they definitely spread the wealth around. The Gloria Estefan Foundation (funded in significant part by royalties from some of her most popular songs) alone have distributed hundreds of thousands to other charities, even donating $1 million to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis’ new Human Clinical Trials program. Estefan’s philanthropic work has not gone unnoticed; this past April, the 54-year-old was awarded the Billboard Spirit of Hope Award at the 2011 Billboard Latin Music Awards. The Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation also inducted Estefan into the Ambassador David M. Walters International Pediatric Hall of Fame this fall. And lastly, Estefan carried on as usual this Thanksgiving season with her Feed-a-Friend event in Miami Beach, Florida. Held at her Bongos Café restaurant, Estefan’s event serves over 2,000 meals to homeless people and those in transition.

4. Giving back: America Ferrera

America Ferrera

Last year, the Honduran American actress raised enough money (partly through an auction of Ugly Betty paintings her character made and partly by asking well-wishers to donate instead of giving her birthday presents) to build an elementary school in the impoverished African nation of Mali, on behalf of Save the Children. This year, 27-year-old Emmy-winning Ferrera (with fellow Latina actress Aimee Garcia) lent her support to American Graduate, an education initiative to help improve the nation’s high school graduation rates. This past summer, Ferrera also lent her wrist for support to American troops by donning special BFF bracelets – part of a partnership with the American Freedom Foundation. Most recently, Ferrera also showed her support of a peaceful world by attending a special Bullets4Peace Event – Bullets4Peace is a jewelry line made of recycled bullet casings.

5. Giving Back: Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez

The part-Mexican teen star’s involvement with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) alone is overwhelming enough to pen an entirely separate slideshow - but we’ll be brief. Back in 2009, Gomez became the organization’s youngest ambassador ever. This past February, Gomez traveled to Chile for UNICEF’s “Programa Puente” program, which helps families better understand and develop skills to deal effectively with early childhood education, development and other issues related to raising children. Gomez described her trip as “truly inspiring.” We find the teenage star herself inspiring! The 19-year-old is also involved with Disney’s Friends for Change and has appeared in some of its public service announcements.

Did we mention Gomez is an animal-lover? She is the proud owner of six rescue dogs.

6. Giving Back: Eva Mendes

Eva Mendes

The Cuban American bombshell actress has repeatedly shown her power through philanthropy. Mendes was honored yet again by Variety at their Power of Women luncheon. The 37-year-old has received recognition for her work with Art of Elysium, a Los Angeles-based charity that asks musicians, artists and actors to donate their time to children with grave medical conditions. Not only does she spend a lot of time with the sick kids, but she’s also raised enough money for the organization that they gave her the 2009 Spirit of Elysium award. Mendes has also been a spokesperson for the Special Olympics.

7. Giving Back: Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato

Ever since being released from rehab this spring for her history with emotional and physical issues, part-Mexican teen star Demi Lovato has become a voice against bullying. The 19-year-old singer/actress was a victim of bullying herself when she was younger and, most recently, expressed her message at Z100’s (New York’s Hit Music station) Jingle Ball concert. The station chose STOMP Out Bullying as its charity partner this year. Earlier this year, Lovato also won an award at this year’s Do Something Awards for her charity duet song with ex-boyfriend Joe Jonas – the song is titled “Make a Wave.

8. Giving Back: Gisele Bündchen

Gisele Bündchen

The world’s best-paid model is also a huge boon to environmental causes. The proof? After her massive fundraising and awareness campaigns for Brazil’s Atlantic rainforests, a new 37-acre forest was named in the 31-year-old model’s honor. Bündchen, who in 2009 became a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme, also donated $1.5 million to Haiti’s hurricane victims. This year, she was honored at the 2011 Global Environment Citizen Awards for her concern for the environment. This September, Bündchen planted trees in Brazil this for the Center of Forest Experiment of the SOS Atlantic Forest Foundation. Though much of the model’s philanthropic endeavors are associated with the environment, Bündchen is also concerned about children with illnesses. Last month, the beauty visited young cancer patients at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston to give them a surprise modeling class. How sweet!

9. Giving Back: Salma Hayek Pinault

Salma Hayek Pinault

The Oscar-nominated Mexican actress has always donated to charity (such as a $75,000 donation to domestic violence groups in 2006 and donating couture outfits to raise money for Haiti), but motherhood took her activities to another level. The 45-year-old Hayek (who gave birth to daughter Valentina Paloma fours years ago) is a global spokesperson for a UNICEF/Pampers campaign that aims to wipe out maternal and neonatal tetanus – a killer in third-world countries. But we’d include her on our list just for directly breastfeeding a starving African baby three years ago while on a fact-finding mission in Sierra Leone. Most recently, Hayek personally decorated a pair of boots (as part of a promotion for her film Puss in Boots) that was auctioned off, with its proceeds benefiting Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C).

10. Giving Back: Cameron Diaz

Cameron Diaz

Not one to trumpet her personal donations, part-Cuban Hollywood actress Cameron Diaz can nevertheless be counted on to show up and do her part at major fundraising efforts like telethons for the Gulf oil spill and the Haiti disasters. The 39-year-old has also supported environmental and green efforts by designing eco-themed lunchboxes and campaigning for the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Two years ago on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Diaz helped build a garden and basketball court at a school in Massachusetts.

11. Giving Back: Related Links