Eva Longoria – Celebrating La Raza with The ALMA Awards
by Jay S. Jacobs
It’s hard to believe that glamorous and super-smart actress Eva Longoria has been host of The Annual ALMA Awards for eight years now.
Created by the NCLR (National Council of La Raza), the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, the awards celebrate the best Latino contributions to music, television, and film.
Amongst the Award winners this year are actor Michael Peña, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, rapper Pitbull, the TV series Orange Is the New Black and the film Cesar Chavez. For the second straight year, Longoria is co-hosting with actor and Extra host Mario Lopez.
The day before Longoria co-hosted The 2014 ALMA Awards, she got together with Delia de la Vara from NCLR and ALMA’s producer Flavio Morales to discuss this year’s award show on a conference call with us as well as several other media outlets.
Eva, as you know your adopted city of San Antonio is highly Latino and we are always big supporters of the ALMA awards here. I was wondering if this year people in San Antonio can look for more of a San Antonio connection of any kind… a performer or a presenter or a nominee that I can talk about?
Eva Longoria: Well your San Antonio connection is me. Last year we had Sebastian de la Cruz on, so that was a really big, proud moment for San Antonio. Whether you live in San Antonio or Los Angeles or Chicago or Florida or New York I feel there’s something for everybody in the ALMAs, in this award show. I’m constantly surprised at how many people are from Texas once I dig deep enough to go: you’re from where?
We want to make sure that this is an all-inclusive show, celebrating all the contributions that Latinos are making towards portraying positive images in television, film and music. So for me living in San Antonio as well and having so many strong ties there I feel like I am always representing not only San Antonio but the State of Texas. And not only the State of Texas but Latinos everywhere.
Why do you think that the ALMA awards continue to thrive and be so popular more and more each year?
Delia de la Vara: We’ve been very committed to it. The organization, our founder Raul Yzaguirre had a vision for a show like this that was needed. It was actually developed out of a report that identified that there was a lack not only of roles and opportunities for Latinos in entertainment and media to tell our stories, but that the portrayals were not accurate. So I think people support the show and tune into it because it’s missing from their TV lineup. They want to see a celebration of what our contributions are across the spectrum. One of the things I hear a lot in the feedback from our viewers – online and after the show – is how proud our viewers feel about being able to see themselves reflected on TV.
They bring their families out. It’s a big family/friends event or night for them to celebrate. It’s not often that we see so many positive examples of the work being done in television and film and the contributions that are being made throughout the music industry by Latinos. Seeing that demonstrated as part of the American fabric, the American culture. It’s not a separate thing. It is part of who we are in this country. I think those contributions and being able to see that in a public and accessible way is one of the things that keeps people coming back for more.
It’s also a place where talent can come and regroup with each other and support each other. I think Eva and some of the other talent that we have at the show have often said it’s a little bit of a reunion – knock on wood – because everybody is working and busy. The ALMA Awards are a place for them to celebrate in person as much as we celebrate across the country. That’s another special thing for us to have moved the show into Hispanic Heritage Month, so it really is part of a national celebration during Hispanic Heritage Month. Those are a couple key reasons that keep people tuning in. Then obviously it requires support, so our advertisers and our partners like Comcast NBC/U[niversal] see also value and opportunity in working as partners with us to bring this type of programming. Enhanced type of programming – diverse programming – through those different platforms on television and through cable and digital as well.
I know that Eva and the NCLR have been very politically active. I know the award show is celebrating the arts, but will the show also do anything to help raise awareness about the very important elections we have coming up in about a month and getting people out to vote?
Eva Longoria: Absolutely. We are absolutely going to be reminding people to get out and vote and how important their vote is. This is a very big platform we have with MSNBC and every year that we’ve had the opportunity to remind people of their civic duty – whether it was the presidential election or mid-term elections we definitely take advantage of having this audience available to us. So we will use that, because at the end of the day the show is produced by NCLR, which is an advocacy group. This is one of their main missions to make sure that not only are we represented in entertainment, but throughout every sector of what this country has to offer. So we want to make sure that we do get that message out.
The lifetime achievement award this year will go to Charo. Eva you may have been a little young to have watched her television career in the 70s but I was wondering if you could speak to as a performer yourself what Charo meant to you and means to you today.
Eva Longoria: Yes. I do remember Charo, because she was my father’s favorite. (laughs) But I just remember thinking her of being a Lucille Ball. We’ve done a lot to really remember all of those people who came before us, honoring Linda Ronstadt before and all of these pioneers – Rita Moreno – who really paved the way for all of these people that will be on stage on Friday night. So it’s a big honor to be able to recognize her and that’s one thing that we do as producers of NCLR. We really look at the people on whose shoulders we’re standing on and making sure we applaud them.
You’ve hosted award shows before, including this one eight times. Do you get butterflies still and will it help that you’ll have your friend Mario Lopez up on stage with you?
Eva Longoria: (laughs) Yes I always get nervous. I actually am not a fan of hosting. I’m not a fan of being myself. I’d rather be a character and say lines that are written for me as another person. (laughs again) So hosting for me definitely makes me very nervous. But it is great that I’m doing it with my great friend, Mario. We have such shorthand and such an energy between us because we’ve known each other for so long. Also he’s just great. He’s great at that stuff so I kind of just lean on him and throw everything to him as he’s the professional host.
My question really is twofold. We often talk about what we need to do further as a Latino community, but can you speak on what the ALMA awards has been able to do and achieve even within the last year from the last award show? Then my second question is when are we going to see a longer show because there’s just too much fit in that one tiny little hour.
Delia de la Vara: Sure. I’ll take a stab at both of those I guess. The ALMA Awards is an entertainment show. As the show I think what we’ve been able to do over the course of the past shows and each year over year is a couple things. One is Big Vida, look at opportunities to engage professionals, experts behind the scenes to bring diversity to the production, to give people opportunities and have them work on The ALMA Awards but also expose them to other potential business, other potential contracts and diversify that. Maybe Flavio can speak a little bit more to that with his crew. But I think the other platform that The ALMA Awards offers is being a stage for emerging talents as much as what Eva mentioned. The combination we look at is being a platform for emerging talent as well as recognizing those who have come before.
The ALMA Awards were a platform for Shakira before she was the Shakira we know of now. For Jennifer Lopez. For Christina Aguilera. The ALMA Awards stage was a stage that was crossed before they hit their broader US platform. So it has been a milestone. We take that very seriously. We look very closely at the talent that are coming up and try to be as inclusive of folks that might not have the big name right now but are probably going to be the next Eva Longoria, the next Michael Peña. We want to make sure that we’re cultivating that opportunity as well and focusing on the strong talent that we have right here right now. Flavio do you want to speak to…?
Flavio Morales: Again I think on every facet one thing is the people that are receiving an award and presenting and then just the behind the scenes. Being able to be on the production side and find so many great Latino talents – whether it’s writers, lighting designers, stage direction, directors – it’s a big movement. I think that it’s interesting. NCLR and Eva were very passionate about that. They were champions to bring us onboard two years ago, so it’s more than just the one-hour broadcast I think.
Delia de la Vara: Absolutely.
Eva Longoria: In terms of a longer show, yes, that’s a struggle the past few years. It’s a financial struggle as much as an opportunity to try to find a window where we can have more airtime so we can offer and present more awards. We have a pre-show live streamed on telemundo.com so we’re presenting some awards through the live pre-show. Then we’ll have an opportunity for some of the honorees and other friends of NCLR to be part of the After the ALMAs show.
So it’s also looking at what are some other platforms and how can we extend the presence of The ALMA Awards or the talent that we’re celebrating in other venues as well. Not just have this one time a year, but how can we look at extending these stories and celebrations throughout the year and in other platforms as well.
How did you select the 15 moments to highlights from the past 15 years of the shows because there are so many great milestones?
Eva Longoria: Yes there are a lot of great milestones. We looked at a list of folks who have been past honorees, who have been a part of the show either as presenters or attended and support even if they weren’t presenters. It was difficult to whittle down, but we’re also looking at folks who are able to be with us that evening to help us promote. Help us add a little bit more to our red carpet opportunity so they can be additional spokespeople and ambassadors. Be part of the show even when it’s such a tight one-hour program.
It was an opportunity to help bring in some of the friends and partners who have been with us over the past 15 shows. There are a few in there that have not been honorees, but are close partners and allies of NCLR in other initiatives, but related to entertainment and media. So it’s a combination. Most of them are past ALMA awards honorees and then a few of them are NCLR partners around an entertainment or media initiative that we have with them.
For example Fatima with the voice of Dora the Explorer is actually a broader partnership with NCLR around early childhood education and the new Dora – the new voice of Dora that is being launched this year. So we had her as part of our annual conference. But for the most part they all have a direct tie to The ALMA Awards as having come for [the] past… I don’t know maybe six, seven or more shows… or been an actual honoree. So they already are very familiar with NCLR’s history and The ALMA Awards’ history and can speak to that very comfortably. That’s how they were selected as our ambassadors.
Eva, the younger audience that will be watching the show tomorrow in terms of the shifting demographics in this country. What message do you have for young Latinos who want to be a performer like you or who hope to achieve great work in activism like you’re doing?
Eva Longoria: Well I think one of the great things again about The ALMA Awards is that it’s produced by NCLR and NCLR has over what – is it 300 Delia, 300 affiliates?
Delia de la Vara: Yes.
Eva Longoria: Yes. Over 300 affiliates across the nation. So luckily throughout the show we have a lot of different platforms that anybody who is watching – especially if you’re a young person – will tell you exactly how to be engaged and get involved. Whether it’s political activism or farm worker activism or education. There’s so many avenues and resources that NCLR has for young people to get engaged. For anybody to get engaged. But it’s such an amazing resource that is available for anyone.
I think that’s very different from your question of how do they [become] a star. Every time I get the question of somebody saying I want to be famous, that’s the end goal. I say well you could be a famous dentist. You could be a famous lawyer. You could be a famous astronaut. There’s many ways to be famous. It doesn’t have to be through acting or singing. That’s why we put a really big effort into recognizing those humanitarian efforts on our show of people who have done amazing things that are as we call civilians outside of the industry.
What performers and presenters do you think are going to get people the most excited and people should be most excited to tune in for?
Delia de la Vara: Flavio?
Flavio Morales: Well I think we have this really great moment with a musical performance from a band from Mexico, Café Tacuba. They performed in Coachella. They’ve been on The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel. They’re celebrating their 25th anniversary as a band. I think that’s going to be a great treat. We are going to be honoring for me personal NFL favorite Tony Gonzales.
I think one moment that we did last year and it worked so well was taking a moment to really show our contributions to this country and we have this great sort of American heroes moment that I think is – I’ll leave it at that. It’s going to be a very special moment that everyone has to tune into. I think that it really strikes a chord back to we are a part of the fabric of America. We have a long, rich history not just in entertainment so we want to be able to share. So we have 44 minutes to set together a really great show and then it gets extended over to the MSNBC post-show. But I think there’s going to be a lot of great moments.