The National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) marked its twentieth anniversary at the Latino Media Awards, held at the Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood on Saturday night. As the centerpiece of the annual four-day NALIP Media Summit, the event recognized outstanding achievements by Latinx creatives and executives in the entertainment industry.
“It feels very momentous,” NALIP Executive Director Ben Lopez told Variety. “It’s a consolidation of twenty years of doing the good work of advancing Latinx content creators and executives in media and entertainment.”
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While celebrating the advocacy organization’s milestone and the progress made by the industry overall, many of the night’s honorees acknowledged that the fight for inclusion is far from over. Despite widespread awareness of the diversity gap, numbers for Latinx representation in Hollywood remain dismally stagnant.
“It’s interesting because somehow the marketing of it seems to be very loud and yet the numbers are still very low,” said “How To Get Away with Murder” star Karla Souza, who was the recipient of the Lupe Otiveras Award, named for the pioneering actress and activist. “But accountability is starting to happen and I feel it, even though maybe I live in a small part of it. I do feel like there is change happening and I’m very grateful for what’s been going on.”
“One Day at A Time” creator Gloria Calderon Kellett agreed. “I think it’s still really rough,” she said. “I feel like Hollywood is very quick to pat itself on the back but when we are 18 percent of the population and our representation on TV is between five to six percent, that’s not great.”
Calderon Kellett wryly called attention to this point during her acceptance speech, in which she noted that there were only four Latina showrunners working in Hollywood, all of whom were present in the room that evening. Kellett and “Vida” executive producer Tanya Saracho received the Media Advocacy Award for their viral “One Vida At A Time” immigration fundraising campaign.
For her part, “Pose” actress MJ Rodriguez said she was encouraged by the advancements that have been made for increased visibility and inclusion. “We are starting now, “Rodriguez said before taking home the Outstanding Achievement in Television Award. “There are so many roles that women like me wouldn’t think they would be getting that we are now getting. It’s also about being taking seriously as actors in general, that we can do anything and we are not limited to just our transness. Our Latinx community, amongst many communities, sees that and that’s one of the reasons we are here today.”
Upon receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, “Selena” director Gregory Nava passionately invoked the humanitarian crisis at the southern border. On the carpet, Nava explained that he believes the Latinx entertainment community has an important role to play. “We have been under attack for the last five years. Our whole community has, so our moment really has come,” he told Variety. “There are sixty million of us. We are the future. Hollywood really has to start opening its doors to us and allowing us to tell our stories. But it’s not just for business. It’s also because our nation really needs to see our beautiful heart so that what’s happening on the southern border will never happen again.”
Nava also presented Oscar-winning production designer Eugenio Caballero with the Tech Arts Innovator Award. Caballero, who has lead master classes at the NALIP summit in the past, expressed his gratitude for the opportunities provided by the event. “There’s always a possibility of sharing knowledge or receiving knowledge,” he said.
Ahead of the event, host Al Madrigal reflected on NALIP’s seemingly counterintuitive endgame: “If you think about it, the ultimate goal for this organization is so that it doesn’t exist. If this organization is successful, it will be ultimately dissolved because there will be inclusion. But we still have a long way to go.”