NHMC’s 16th Impact Awards Once Again Impacts!


Mario Lopez on Stage 1

By Elia Esparza

Honors Mario Lopez, John Leguizamo, Lana Parrilla, Tony Hernandez, Gina Torres, Michael Pena, and Morena Baccarin!

Aimee Garcia
Aimee Garcia

Celebrity Hosts: Aimee Garcia and Tony Plana

Had the honor of being present (with my buds HOLA! LA hosts Bel Hernandez and Kikey Castillo,

Elia Esparza, Kikey Castllo, Lorena Alvarado, Bel Hernandez
Elia Esparza, Kikey Castllo, Lorena Alvarado, Bel Hernandez

producer Lorena Alvarado) at the 16th Annual Impact Awards Friday night at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (you know the Pretty Woman hubspot) in the heart of Beverly Hills.

The gala and awards show is hosted y the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and who are celebrating 27 years of media advocacy! Congratulations to President and CEO, Alex Nogales, who has stayed persistent and consistent throughout the years to rid our TV screens from bigotry, racism, and plain old hate talk and actions that only fire up the haters of this nation.

The awards show was very supportive of upcoming independent films and had  had Louie Cruz Beltran play a song from writer/director Richard Montoya‘s Water and Power which is still in post. It was something truly wonderful to experience in person. Then a clip of Rudy Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima which opened this very night, was shown. Louie, aside from being super duper gorgeous (looks a lot like his actor brother, the other Beltran) is an amazing and engaging entertainer and master percussionist. He had us with his second beat.

This year’s honorees:

Outstanding Media Entrepreneur — Mario Lopez, host FOX’s X Factor & Extra syndicated daily show, radio host, author, HBO boxing commentator

Outstanding Performance in a TV Series — Lana Parrilla, ABC’s Once Upon A Time as Evil Queen and Mayor Regina Mills

Lupe Ontiveros Indomitable Spirit Award — Tony Hernandez, Co-Founder and Executive Producer of the Immigrant Archive Project

Outstanding Performance in a TV Series — Gina Torres, USA Network’s hit original series Suits as shark lawyer Jessica Pearson

Outstanding Performance in a Motion Picture — Michael Pena, co-star in the critically acclaimed film End of Watch

Outstanding Performance in a TV Series — Morena Baccarin, co-star on Showtime’s series Homeland

Outstanding Theatrical Performance — John Leguizamo, for his performance for solo play Ghetto Klown

Congratulations to the winners! And, best of all, they all showed up!

The lovely Aimee Garcia co-MC’d like the professional she is. A past Impact Award recipient, Aimee is one of our [Latin Heat and LatinoWood’s] favorite actor. An ALMA, Imagen and SAG award nominee, this brilliant young woman a triple major from Northwestern University. Her credits include: WB’s Greetings From Tucson, ABC’s George Lopez Show, NBC’s Trauma, Showtime’s Dexter and most recently starred opposite Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman in MGM’s RoboCop (release Feb 2014).  It was recently announce that she recurring role on Dexter has been up to a regular role.

Tony Plana and Elia Esparza
Tony Plana and Elia Esparza

On stage with Aimee was veteran actor/director and the night’s comedian, Tony Plana, who brought the house down with has antics… “Someone just came up to me and thought I was George Lopez,” he shared. “I know I’m ugly but come on, I’m not that ugly!” Or something like that…. Well, we did know he had a comedic bone from his papa role in Ugly Betty, but he was cutting the edge here and only because George wasn’t in the house! Tony co-stars (tonight) in a Hallmark Movie Channel’s world premiere of Meddling Mom, with Sonia Braga, Saundra Santiago, Ana Auyora, Mercedes Renard, and Rose Abdoo.

Each award presentation was preceded with video clips that showcase why the individuals were being honored. Gina Torres, who happens to be married to actor Laurence Fishburne, gave a touching acceptance speech where she honored her late mother and her father, who served as her escort. She talked about being the child of immigrants brought up in the Bronx. “Hard working, immigrants,” she said.

Elia Esparza and John Leguizamo
Elia Esparza with John Leguizamo
HOLA! LA Hosts Kikey Castillo, Bel Hernandez with John Leguizamo
HOLA! LA Hosts Kikey Castillo, Bel Hernandez with John Leguizamo

Usually I save the best for last, but not this time. It always such a thrill to see John Leguizamo in person. He is beyond talented and versatile and I’m sure a complex man. All comedians are. Some are even rude to fans (won’t mention names) but not John. Always friendly and engaging. He is honored that night for being a multi-faceted performer and EMMY Award winner who has established a career that defies categorization. And, OMG, what energy! When had his arms around me in the great photo op moment, I could feel the positive charge. We love you, John, whether on Broadway, big or little screen, you are one amazing talent! Legions a head of everyone else of this generation!  Hope his new ABC pilot will be picked up and we can see him on a regular basis.

Mario Lopez let us know in the green room that the bump on his wife Courtney is baby number two! The couple looked radiant and she is three months pregnant. Mario as always sharing his hosting secrets with us… as if, Mario! Congrats to Mario and wife Courtney Mazza, who are already parents to baby Gia Francesca. On stage, Mario commented about how he’s been told that he’s going to be the Latino Ryan Seacrest… and “I said, no one day he’ll be the Caucasian Mario Lopez!” Lopez is proving to be a dynamo entrepreneur venturing not only into TV series, but authoring children’s and healthy eating books, but also owning or co-owing several businesses.

I have been a Lana Parrilla fan since I first noticed her on Spin City (2000-01)…she has gone on to appear in some of the most watched TV shows of the decade (24, NYPD Blue, SwingtownBoomtown) and was on Miami Medical just before landing her lead role in Once Upon a Time as the Evil Queen and Mayor Regina Mills. Lana shared about growing up Puerto Rican and talking about her late father, Sam Parrilla who was a professional baseball player for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1970. She grew up encouraged to pursue her dreams. In addition, Lana was a powerful advocate for the 2012 Obama Reelection Campaign, and was key note speaker at the Human Rights Campaign Gala last summer. Bravo, Lana! You have the best of everything!

Elia Esparza and Santiago Pozo
Elia Esparza and Santiago Pozo

Before dinner began, I had the pleasure of catching up with Santiago Pozo, President and CEO of Arenas, who is the film distributor for the amazing film, Bless Me, Ultima. Santiago and I go back many years, in fact he likes to share the story that I was with his company back when Arenas was just “Santiago and Elia.” To say I adore him, is an understatement. It has not always been a love fest, but I respect and admire him very much. I’ve always said that there is only one man in Hollywood I’d ever marry and that is Santiago Pozo. Only thing is, he’s never asked! All kidding aside, he’s a good friend and mentor.

I had never seen Michael Pena in person and I must say, he is handsome, charismatic, charming and a real pro on stage. He greeted the audience with a resounding “Hello, Raaaazzzza!” dressed in a designer suit, looking more like a Wall Street rich dude. What a distinguished career he has had. After his unforgettable role in Paul HaggisCrash, what could possibly top that? Most recently, his cop portrayal in End of Watch where he and his partner (Jake Gyllennhaal) get into on a mobster’s hit list for supposedly doing something not too cool. Before this film there is a slew of film credits: The Lucky Ones, Olivr Stone’s World Trade Center, Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Babel. Currently, he can be seen in Gagster Squad, and will star as Cesar Chavez in the Chavez film directed by Diego Luna.  Honestly, I’m not so sure how the real Cesar Chavez would feel about Mexicans from Mexico filming his movie (I think he would have preferred it made in U.S… something to do with the union). But, that’s another article. Oh, let’s not forget Michael’s amazing work on TV (HBO film Walkout, HBO’s Eastbound and Down, F.X The Shield) and is in his fourth season on Steven Spielberg’s NBC series Semper Fi!

Kikey Castillo chats it up with Mario Lopez as wife Courtney looks on
Kikey Castillo chats it up with Mario Lopez as wife Courtney looks on

Morena Baccarin was an interesting presence. She’s beautiful for sure, and her role as Jessica Brody on Homeland has brought her to this stage tonight, but most amusing was that when she was first notified about being the recipient of an Impact Award, she didn’t know if she was Hispanic… she’s Brazilian and absolutely did not know. Honest. She Googled it and found out she is Hispanic/Latina and also found out that Latinas outlive men… “So I’m Hispanic, and I’m sorry honey, but I’m going to live longer,” she said cheering on her hubby in the audience. Morena also said that she thought about changing her name when she first started working in Hollywood but opted not to and thanks her mother for naming her.  An accomplished actor and graduate of the prestigious Julliard School, we’re anxious to see what the future holds for this talented woman.

“The event seems to be well organized and the only thing I can say about this  year is that it was held too close to the Oscars,” said veteran actor, writer and acting coach Danny Mora. “Usually you can catch Wolfgang Puck in the kitchen but not tonight.”

Mora went on to state that the exciting thing is “the opportunities these awards present to some of the younger talent present because they could see iconic figures on the screen that they could hold as mentors… we didn’t have that.”

Fascinating to learn more about Tony Hernandez‘ Immigrant Archive Project, an independent national initiative dedicated to honoring and preserving the life stories of America’s diverse immigrant population. Magic is captured in this documentary. The Cuban-born Hernandez has received many recognitions for his outstanding work as the Founder, President and CEO of Latino Broadcasting Company (LBC). A much deserved Impact Award for him!

Congratulations to Alex Nogales, the NHMC Board of Directors, Business Advisory Board, Staff, and Impact Awards Sponsors (The Walt Disey Company and Disney ABC Television Group, Davila Multicultural Insights, Entravision Communications Corp, Comast/NBCUniversal, Univision Communications Inc., Arenas Entertainment, CBS Corp, Edision International, NuvoTV, Bright House Networks, HBO, SOS Global Express, The Nielsen Company, Moet & Chandon. TNT Agency is the official make-up and hair styling agency for NHMC.

Can’t wait for the 2014 awards!

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Elia Esparza is a leading expert in communications and journalism targeting the burgeoning Hispanic market and has produced and written dozens of articles. President and CEO of Always Evolving PR and a Communications Specialist, Elia, incorporates her 18 years experience in the areas of entertainment and education public relations, and marketing. promotions, market research and translations (Eng/Span).