Inspiring Latina of the Week: Actress & Philanthropist, Iliana Guibert McGinnis

Iliana Guibert McGinnis is an actress and philanthropist. When she's not on stage, shooting a commercial, or working on an independent film project -- she dedicates her time and energy to giving back to her community.

After Hurricane Sandy, one of the most devastating storms in over 100 years, hit the tri-state area, McGinnis put her time and energy into helping the Jersey Shore victims. “I focused on babies' needs like diapers, wipes, and baby formula. I found two organizations that were sending trucks down and packed the items up in nice bags with ribbons," she explains.

"Let's hope you never need it but wouldn't you want your community there for you in your time of need?” she adds.

Great advice, especially during Thanksgiving, when nothing is more important than giving back. Recently, the Cuban-American performer also shot a commercial for Radio Shack in Spanish and another one in English for the American Beverage Association

Read on to find out what makes this inspiring Latina want to give back to her community, her charity work, her future projects, and her ongoing commitment to community service!

What is the most fulfilling moment you have had in your career?

"So far, it's been playing the role of Esperancita, in El Insolito Caso De Miss Piña Colada at Repertorio Español. That character was deliciously wicked and great fun to play. I've never played a character like that; it was very different from anything I'd ever done - a bit out of my comfort zone as she is very over the top."

Why is charity work so important to you?

"I feel so blessed to have what I have in my life, a healthy child, to be surrounded by love and good people, to have financial stability. I believe tragedy can strike anyone at any time regardless of race, financial situation, upbringing or geographic location. Some people might work two jobs all their lives and still not be able to make ends meet. I think every single one of us can make a difference to someone. Charity doesn't only have to be monetary - giving of our time, of our heart and soul goes a long way and might get someone through a difficult time."

Which Latina icon did you look up to growing up?

"For the longest time it was Natalie Wood. I was about 8 years old when I saw her in West Side Story and for years thought she was Latina. It's a tough question because when I was growing up there weren't too many Latinas in the public eye readily accessible to a young person and not many were necessarily advertising that they were Latina, but even so there were a few stand outs for me - Rita Moreno again because I saw her on West Side Story. I thought she was so fierce and strong."

What advice do you have for other Latina’s eager to make it as an actress and also wish to give back to their community?

"When looking for that survival job, make it one that keeps you in the entertainment industry. If you need to work as a receptionist or do administrative work, do it for talent agency, a casting director's office, or a production company. Keep your ears and eyes open, be a sponge. Take class and fine tune your instrument."

Can you tell us about your independent film projects?

"There are several. I'm starring in They Call Me La Lupe based on the life of Cuban singer, Queen of Soul, La Lupe. Also, a musical drama titled Mr. Moe's Holding On, I play the mom to the lead character. Another project is Burning Down, which is inspired by true events about a NYC firefighter's quest to deal with a painful, abusive childhood and the breaking of that cycle. I play his mother in the flash backs."

How did you make your dreams come true?

"By being organized, being strategic, having a game plan, sticking to it and planting a lot of seeds. Plant the seeds, water them, feed them and they will grow into beautiful flowers."

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