Latinos Who Changed Media

1. Latinos Who Changed Media - Rita Moreno

Latinos Who Changed Media - Rita Moreno

These days in Hollywood, success comes early or it doesn't come at all, especially for actresses. But Rita Moreno knows the value of hard work. The Puerto Rico-born idol paid her dues for thirty years before getting her big break as Anita in the big screen adaptation of Broadway hit West Side Story, for which she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress . Nearly fifty (fifty!) years later, Rita is still going strong—and looking great—on stage, on the big screen, and on the small screen. Not even the late, great Paul Newman can say that he has a career that spans three-quarters of a century?

Career High: The first woman to have won a Tony, a Grammy, an Emmy and an Oscar. 

2. Latinos Who Changed Media - Desi Arnaz

Latinos Who Changed Media - Desi Arnaz

He may have played to Cuban sterotypes for the sake of laughs on television, but there's a lot more to Desi Arnaz than a funny accent and a love of arroz con pollo. Together with his wife Lucille Ball, Desi forced network executives to take a chance on I Love Lucy, proving that American audiences of the 1950s would accept interracial couplings and Latin flavor with their TV dinners. He even put a clause in his contract barring any ethnic jokes (save the ones about his accented English and Lucy's broken Spanish). The result: the birth of the most ground-breaking show on the small screen and a place for Latinos in television history.

Career High: October 15, 1951, when the first episode of I Love Lucy aired and the Ricardos redefined the All-American couple.

3. Latinos Who Changed Media - Salma Hayek

Latinos Who Changed Media - Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek is way more than just a pretty face. The Mexican-Lebanese actress had the help of her stunning looks and killer body to launch her career in Hollywood, but wasn't content to just let her tetas do the talking. That's when she began her campaign to bring the life story of Frida Kahlo to the big screen, which included elbowing out a host of other actors (including Madonna and Laura San Giacomo, who had been eyeing the title role) and convincing studio executives to overlook her sex symbol past and envision her as Frida. Salma succeeded, and the results were multiple Oscars for Frida and a career revival for herself.

Once she had a taste of taking charge of her own destiny—and the portrayal of Latinos—from behind the camera, Salma wasn't about to stop. She opened up twin production companies Ventanarosa and Ventanazul and got to work bringing the hit Colombian soap Betty la Fea to America. With the wild success of Ugly Betty, Salma proved that lightning really does strike twice.

Career High: Becoming the first Mexican national to be nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, for Frida.

4. Latinos Who Changed Media - Nina Tassler

Latinos Who Changed Media - Nina Tassler

You may not know her name, but you certainly know her work. As a head honcho in charge of program development at CBS, Nina Tassler was responsible for such hit shows as the CSI franchise, Without a Trace, and Cane, the short-lived but groundbreaking drama about a wealthy Cuban family in Miami. Daily Variety even heralded her as CBS's Golden Girl, recognizing her contribution in the rise of the network's primetime slate. In 2004, Nina was promoted to President of CBS Television, becoming the first Latina to head a major television network, breaking the glass ceiling for not only us, but all women with dreams of making it to the top of the male-dominated television industry.

Career High: Winning the prestigious 2005 Creative Achievement Award after being named President of CBS Television. 

5. Latinos Who Changed Media - Gloria Estefan

Latinos Who Changed Media - Gloria Estefan

Gloria Estefan's contribution to the music industry and to raising the profile of Latinos in media is so great, mere numbers wouldn't do it justice. But here are a few anyway: 90 million records sold worldwide, 87 hit singles from 13 albums, and five Grammy wins out of 14 nominations. All of that adds up to a career that's spanned over 20 years. This year, Gloria will become the first female honored by the Latin Recording Academy as their Person of the Year. We would argue that she should be awarded Person of the Decade for kickstarting the so-called Latin Explosion, which doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon.

Career High:
We couldn't possibly pick just one, but we imagine the 1987 release of her multi-platinum album Let it Loose is up there.


6. Latinos Who Changed Media - Cristina Saralegui

Latinos Who Changed Media - Cristina Saralegui

Being compared to Oprah is no easy compliment to live up to, but Cuban-American talk show host Cristina Saralegui doesn't seem to mind. After years in the magazine business, the blonde powerhouse found her true calling in front of the cameras with hit series El Show de Cristina, which has aired on Univision for nearly 20 years and has featured some of the brightest and most influential Latin celebrities of the last century. In recent years, Cristina's media empire has stretched to include an eponymous magazine, a line of home decor at Kohl's, and a full-fledged television studio she started with her husband Marcos Avila

Besides winning an Emmy for her show, Cristina has also been named one of the "25 Most Influential Hispanics in America" by Time magazine, became the first Latina to be inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame, and was the first Spanish language television personality to recieve a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Oprah, be darned.

Career High:  Running out of space on her mantle after collecting over two dozen major awards for her contribution to television.

7. Latinos Who Changed Media - Big Pun

Latinos Who Changed Media - Big Pun

Like another rap icon raised on the streets of New York, Big Pun (aka Christopher Lee Rios) lived large and died young, but not before leaving behind a legacy no other Latin rapper will likely match. The Bronx-born rapper of Puerto Rican descent legitimized Latinos' place in the hip hop game. In his short career, he released the first and only album by a solo Latin rapper to go platinum (1998's Capital Punishment, also nominated for a Grammy). He was even more prolific after death: Pun's record label Sony released two more of his albums posthumously, which also went platinum. His fire may have burnt out before he had a chance to really shine, but Big Punisher will always have a place in hip hop history.

Career High: October 1998, when his debut album went triple platinum. 

8. Latinos Who Changed Media - Celia Cruz

Latinos Who Changed Media - Celia Cruz

Her voice and her spirit made her one of Cuba's greatest and most prized exports, but if it were up to Celia Cruz herself, she would have been a humble school teacher, "just like my dad wanted me to be." Luckily, destiny took over and gave us "the most influential female figure in Cuban music," according to Billboard magazine.

Before her death in 2003, Celia released nearly a dozen studio albums, including collaborations with Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco and the Fania All-Stars. She also won three Grammys and was awarded a National Medal of the Arts by Bill Clinton

Though she was exiled from her native Cuba as a young woman and never able to return, Celia brought the spirit of her homeland to people all around the world.

Career High:  1990, with her first Grammy win for Best Tropical Latin Performance.