If you watched the Emmys this year, you’d be forgiven for thinking Latinas don’t exist. Not a single one of us made it on the broadcast, not as a nominee or a presenter. In fact, as a group, we’re the least represented on TV when compared to our numbers in the population. And when we do show up, we’re too often reduced to a stereotype — Sofia Vergara may be the highest-paid actor on television but her character on Modern Family is about as “spicy” as they come.
Thankfully, there’s a group of badass Latinas trying to change this. They’re writers and showrunners who are working to make sure Latinas are represented and represented authentically. Hollywood may have a certain type (straight, white, skinny), but these women aren’t letting that hold them back. They won’t be pigeonholed and represent a wide range of interests from prestige drama to children’s animation to network sitcoms.
Our favorite thing about these nine chingonas is that they’re working together. Many are part of the Untitled Latinx Project that works together to increase Latinx representation by Latinx creatives. They’re challenging an industry that for too long felt that one was enough — one Latinx, one woman, one black person, one LGBTQ person — when we knew one single example could never represent the diversity of experiences in any of those groups.
We love how these women are actively lifting each other up and felt it was time to lift them up in return! Share the love by following them on social and tuning into their latest projects.
Gloria Calderón Kellett
Gloria Calderón Kellett keeps making headlines with One Day At A Time, the rare family sitcom to focus on a Latinx family. Working with TV-icon Norman Lear, Calderón Kellett lined up an all-star cast with Latinas Justina Machado and national treasurer/original EGOT Rita Moreno as the powerful, hilarious matriarchs on the show. When Netflix canceled the beloved series, Calderón Kellett organized her community with #SaveODAAT, eventually finding another home at CBS’ Pop TV.
Ana Fabrega defies expectations, a hilarious Latina who’s humor is far from typical. She came up through New York’s stand up scene, making a name for herself with her absurdist bits. Along the way she befriended fellow Latinx Fred Armisen and together with Julio Torres, they created Los Espookys for HBO — the rare Spanish —language, Latinx-centered comedy to get mainstream billing at the prestige network.
As if her work on #JaneTheVirgin wasn't enough, @totalvaligirl contributed to shows like #GeorgeLopez, #Bordertown & #TheSimpsons!#wcw #screenwriter #moms #TheBakerAndTheBeauty #MentalHealthAwareness #thewodc pic.twitter.com/gOHXgiWpcc
— The WODC (@wodc_official) May 27, 2020
Writer/Producer Valentina Garza got her big break writing for the Simpsons, bringing her Cuban American perspective to the longest-running sitcom in American history. From there, she helped bring the short-lived Latinx cartoon Bordertown to life before becoming integral to the Jane the Virgin team. Garza was behind Jane spinoff, which almost made it to air before the CW passed on the pilot. Expect to see more shows from her soon!
Triple threat Julia Grob has been making us laugh since 2011 when her web-series East WillyB was featured in the New York Times. She’s been busy since writing for Netflix’s Mr. Iglesias, a show with a distinctly positive representation of our community, among other projects. Grob’s all about paying it forward — she’s active in the Untitled Latinx Project, describing her work there as “holding the door open for the next one.”
Fulfilling the dreams of little Latinas across the land, Silvia Olivas helped bring Elena of Avalor, Disney’s first Latina princess, to life. She hasn’t stopped there, serving as co-executive producer and head writer for Netflix’s Maya and the Three, which also features a Latina princess protagonist. And in case you thought she was one note, she recently sold a live-action musical to Netflix “steeped in Latin culture.”
Describing herself as a “plus-size Navajo Latina woman,” Sierra Ornelas notes in Hollywood, “there aren’t that many people who look like me.” But she hasn’t let that stop her, working with the powers that be while advancing Latinx representation. She came up writing for shows featuring Latina talent like Superstore and Brooklyn 99 and recently teamed up with white guys Ed Helms (The Office) and Mike Schur (The Good Place) to create and sell her own show, the upcoming Rutherford Falls on NBC’s Peacock streaming service.
Wish AOC was President? Ilana Peña is right there with you as the creator and writer of the upcoming Diary of a Female President. The new Disney+ show will follow a twelve-year-old Cuban American girl, destined to become President of the US, through her diary entries. If you’re wondering what the tone of the new show will be like, have no fear, Peña’s background as a writer for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend pretty much guarantees funny, feminist fare.
Headed to the Imagen Awards!Excited to celebrate Latinx awesomeness in the entertainment industry. We need all the positivity we can get these days. Also, I’m really feeling my hair tonight. #queenofthesouth #queenfamilia pic.twitter.com/SNvSQyq2xT
— Dailyn "La Jefa" Rodriguez (@dailynrod) August 11, 2019
Latinx TV characters are more likely to have committed a crime than actual Latinx people but that doesn’t keep us from rooting for the Queen of the South, the rare show to portray a woman “cartel kingpin.” The genre-bending drama is lead by the daughter of Cuban immigrants, Dailyn Rodriguez who wrote for a variety of shows (including Ugly Betty) before creating her own. Rodriguez is used to being the only woman (let alone Latina) in the room, tweeting the viral photo of Nancy Pelosi standing up to a conference-table full of white men with the words, “this is my entire career.”
Tanya Saracho is taking Hollywood by storm with her critically acclaimed Starz series, Vida. It’s the rare, original show to feature the queer Latinx experience, delving into issues of gentrification, identity, and more, with a Latinx-cast and writer’s room. Saracho’s advocacy for the Latinx community extends beyond the screen – she recently made waves by teaming up with fellow showrunner Calderón Kellett to launch the #OneVidaAtATimeHugChallenge to support asylum-seeking families.