Eva Longoria on loving her Latina roots and challenging Hollywood's expectations: 'Being Mexican is who I am'

Eva Longoria poses for photo at the premiere for the movie
Eva Longoria s creating new molds in Hollywood for Latino voices. (Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

The star power of Eva Longoria should never be underestimated. A proud Mexican-American from Corpus Christi, Texas, the multihyphenate powerhouse has won the hearts of television viewers since her breakout role in ABC’s Desperate Housewives.

Now, the icon is all smiles in an interview with Yahoo Entertainment when speaking about how her Mexican heritage, specifically Tejana culture, inspires her perspective on life — from daily activities to the way she runs her businesses, which include several restaurants and a production company, UnbeliEVAble Entertainment.

“Being Mexican is who I am,” Longoria says. “For me, it exudes in everything that I do every day from how I style my hair, to putting on my lip liner, to putting on my hoops, to what I make for breakfast, how I have my café con leche, how I drive. It seeps into every aspect of my life.” (Longoria prefers to make her Cuban café con leche using a cafetera, in case you were wondering.)

A staunch activist for gender equality, she's also used her platform to shine a light on issues impacting Latino communities, specifically Latino visibility on and off-screen, something she says is vital in preserving the wellbeing of Hispanic communities.

“The problem is when you don't have a person of color within your community, if your neighbors aren't Latino, the only reference you have of us is the news. And that doesn't do a very good job of portraying who we are,” Longoria explains. “And so, representation in TV, in film, in music, in art, it matters because it educates the community about who we are.”

The concern is warranted. According to UCLA’s 2021 Hollywood Diversity Report, Latinos accounted for only 5.7 percent of all film roles in 2020 — up slightly from 2019 when it was 4.6 percent. While the uptick is promising, she says it’s not enough.

Longoria also stresses the importance of having Latinos behind the camera and in other positions of power. After all, "that's why I became a producer and that's why I became a director," she says. "It was to make sure that our stories are told because it's important. It educates people about who we are. It educates our community about who we are, and that is even more important. If I am a Latino watching, literally, the erasure of my culture, then I think, ‘Oh OK, I am not worthy. My stories don't matter.’ And that's way more dangerous. We need to make sure that we share our own community, our worth — and celebrate it.”

Despite her strong will to make it in business, Longoria admits she suffered from impostor syndrome when she started directing television. “I was terrified on set,” she explains. “I remember driving to the set with knots in my stomach going, ‘I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know why I said yes.’”

Longoria’s film directorial debut, Flamin’ Hot, about the unlikely Latino creator behind the popular Cheetos flavor, is currently in post-production, adds to her 17 director credits, per IMDb, so she has clearly gotten the hang of it. “I learned that I was more than prepared," she says. "I learned that I had all the tools I needed. I was enough.”

Still, she warns other young Latino artists to be aware of the challenges the Hollywood industry might throw at them. “Go into [the business] knowing there are systemic barriers,” she advises. “There is a systemic culture that is taught not to let you in. Just know that you have to work twice as hard.”

Or, put more simply: “I did work my ass off and that is my advice: work your ass off.”

Longoria’s latest venture is one that has seldom been chartered by Latina celebrities: the tequila industry. This month, the actress and entrepreneur announced the launch of Casa del Sol, a Latina-owned and operated tequila brand inspired by the legend of the Aztec goddess of agave, Mayahuel.

The star admits she had little knowledge about the process of making tequila before diving into the business. But that ended up being a good thing.

“I didn't know it's aged and I didn't know the tradition and the craftsmanship behind it. I didn't know it could have notes of vanilla," she admits. "I was like, 'Isn’t it just that stuff you take shots of in South Padre Island?'”

Learning about the process was “eye-opening” for the star, who was quite studious early on as she began building the seeds of the brand. After all, the celebrity tequila market today is mostly dominated by white men, which makes her launch especially significant.

Folks like Nick Jonas, George Clooney, Dwane “The Rock” Johnson, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, Kendall Jenner and others have used their celebrity as a draw — something Longoria has been keenly aware of.

Eva Longoria's new tequila brand is a reflection of the star's own love for her Mexican roots
Eva Longoria's new tequila brand is a reflection of the star's own love for her Mexican roots. (Photo: Brian Bowen Smith

"I've been approached by many brands to be the face, but every time I was approached by a tequila brand, it felt like they wanted to be celebrity forward," she explains. "Casa Del Sol was the first time where it was female-led and tequila forward. They were all about the tequila, the craftsmanship and the traditions."

“With tequila, it has to be rooted in Mexican heritage. It just has to be," she adds, “I read so much once I got involved in Casa Del Sol about the soil and the overproduction of the agave plants, and how tequila is in so much demand that people are cutting them down sooner than they should be cut down. It takes about seven years for an agave plant to mature.”

She is making sure the brand is giving back to communities in Altos de Jalisco, the region where Casa Del Sol is produced, by developing programs that level the playing field for women who have historically had limited access to services and resources to improve both their personal and professional development.

“I love giving back in the process,” she explains. “It's important to build community initiatives for the people of Jalisco and the people who give us this high-quality tequila. For me, it’s making sure workers are guaranteed a fair living wage and taking care of the agave not only to assure the quality in our bottles, but to make sure that the growth technique is natural.”