Posts Tagged ‘bilingual’

A new Bilingual/Bicultural Latina in Hollywood

In celebrities, latinas on April 4, 2011 at 7:45 pm

This past Friday I was fortunate enough to attend the red carpet event in LA for the world premiere of “Cougar’s, Inc.” a fairly low budget film with big name actors such as Denise Richards, Jim Belushi, Sarah Hyland (from Modern Family), Kathryn Morris (from Cold Case), Kyle Gallner (from Nightmare on Elm Street), among others. I was very proud to know that among all of these big time names was also my sister- a rising star and only Latina, Catalina Rodriguez.

Catalina was born in Colombia and was raised in Miami. She’s made a career in modeling and TV commercials for major brands, but her

Catalina and Dayanara Torres

passion is set on acting. Some of you may remember her from the CW’s “Watch Over Me” where she played the sexy villain Sasha, alongside Dayanara Torres. She’s also been in smaller movies such as “Spin” alongside Shalim (Charytin’s son) and Fernando Carrillo and has also finished shooting a movie with Ving Rhames, Steven Bauer (Scarface), and Hemky Madera (Weeds) set to release in 2012.

Working in advertising in New York City and knowing the growth and flux of the Hispanic market in the U.S. has meant

Catalina with the cast of "Spin"

opportunities for Latinos across all categories. Here I was seeing the impact first hand, as my sister was finally in a movie that may hit the big screen in a few cities and is already On Demand (via Time Warner channel 1000). I obviously had a ton of questions for her. Here’s my conversation with her as she’s getting her hair and makeup done for the red carpet…

Cata (as I like to call her), how much fun was it to shoot alongside Denise Richards?

On the set of "Cougars, Inc" with Denise Richards

I had a blast! The entire cast was great. Denise is very nice and down-to-earth, she’s also very funny. I also had a great time ad-libbing with Chris Murphy (Eddie Murphy’s son), he’s got great energy and while off-set he’s quite and tranquil; on-set he completely transforms and really comes to life.

Your character in this movie is loud, extroverted and has a heavy accent. Being a bilingual/bicultural Latina that speaks English without an accent, did it bother you to have to portray the stereotypical Latina that has an accent on the big screen?

To be honest women such as Sofia Vergara, Penelope Cruz, and Salma Hayek have worked very hard to open these doors for me. I’m an actress that plays characters and Dominica (my character) is this woman…not a stereotype but a testament to all of those women out there who live in the states and have an accent. I came across women like this all of my life growing up in Miami so I wouldn’t consider them a stereotype but a part of our Latino mix in the U.S. Think about it, if I wouldn’t have played her somebody else would have and I’m just blessed to have gotten the part!

Do you think with the amount of Latinos influencing America, roles for Latinos in Hollywood will begin to change even more?

Cougars, Inc Red Carpet Premiere (L to R) Graham Larson, Kathryn Morris, Kyle Gallner, Ashton Larsen, and Catalina

Sure! I think we’ve been seeing that evolution happen already. We now have women like Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez, America Ferrera and Eva Mendes playing women on the small and big screen, not playing Latinas with an accent. They just happen to be Latinas adding a whole new dimension, talent and exotic look to Hollywood.

How hard has it been to break into Hollywood as a Latina?

Don’t get me wrong it hasn’t been easy. I still remember the words one of my acting coaches told me once when I first got to LA “Catalina, beautiful woman in Hollywood don’t play girl next door roles.” I was grateful that he put in that category of beautiful woman but now that just means I have to work even harder to not get type-casted because as we all know, there are many more girl next door roles in Hollywood than lead roles. The best part of all is that I have an amazing family that is an incredible support team – they all keep me positive and looking ahead.

Also, Hollywood is getting much more open-minded, I remember only a few years back I wouldn’t even get a second-call back because my last name was Rodriguez.

Have you thought about changing it?

Yeah I won’t lie, it’s crossed my mind. But at the same time why would I want to change what differentiates me?

After a few hours of more chat, Cata is ready to put on her dress and leaves us with this…

Catalina on the cover of "Cougars, Inc" - she's wearing the red dress

To all the Latinas going after their dream all I have to say is don’t give up! I don’t mean to sound like a cliche, b ut if you really want it than go for it regardless of what anyone says but get good at it – you need to master your craft. I do that everyday and feel great about myself knowing I am doing everything I can to achieve my dream…the worst thing that can happen is asking yourself in the future ‘what if’ or having any regrets for not being proactive.

I feel good about this chat and can only be proud of my sister. Regardless of whether she is playing a stereotype or not she’s rolling with the punches and beginning to make a name for herself. I can only imagine what Hollywood will look like in the year 2050 when Latinos are supposed to represent a projected 29% of the population. In the mean time, I’m excited for what is ahead and the doors we Latinos are paving for ourselves here in the U.S. everyday.

PS: You can follow Catalina Rodriguez on twitter @crodriguez1227 and on facebook: catalina rodriguez


Bilingual/Bicultural Latinos don’t live in two worlds: Part I

In advertising, bilingual, multicultural on November 30, 2010 at 1:16 am

If you haven’t noticed by now advertisers and brands are anxiously trying to reach the Hispanic market. Most importantly they are stumped as to how to properly target that bilingual/bicultural consumer who lives in both the Anglo and Latino worlds, as they always say. Given we represent almost 70% of Hispanics in the U.S., it’s important they talk to us in the most relevant way possible.  Many have come to the realization that it’s not about reaching us in-language -it’s not about English or Spanish; but rather content regardless of language. But what happens to all those other times when you are not living your Anglo or Hispanic side but are just part of the mainstream…and I’m not talking white America?

You might say, it’s easy to target Latinos with music, food, or refranes/colloquialisms that are specific to the Latino culture. But what happens when you try to target us in our Anglo world? What are those Anglo occasions?

For example, what happens when I go to a Thai restaurant, then head out to a bar to watch some football with some friends and then catch a breakdancing battle all in one day? What world am I living then? This is exactly what I did a few weeks ago on a Sunday night and yet it’s hard for me to imagine how marketers/advertisers are supposed to reach me on such an eclectic night like that.

That’s why I see it a little bit different. When we talk about content it shouldn’t be about Anglo vs. Hispanic but about the vast amount of cultures that make up America…not Anglo but multicultural. Latinos don’t live in two worlds, they now have the option to live in multiple worlds. Just think about it, that Sunday night I lived three different worlds and cultures. I participated in Thai culture -with chopsticks and all, I participated in traditional Anglo culture with beer, football and foosball, and then I participated in breakdancing culture – along with hundreds of 16-25 year olds who shared moves I can’t possibly replicate. The greatest thing about that night is that there wasn’t one time when I was thinking as a Latina or as an Anglo. I was just being me. Enjoying every second of what New York City had to offer. Embracing life for what it is and being a part of those cultures as if they were my own.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it was a missed opportunity when there wasn’t a single brand sponsoring the vast amount of Latinos and multicultural kids who were showing off their moves at the Kings of New York Breakdancing Battle or when 10 Latinos including myself were enjoying a delicious Thai meal together. But then again, it really wasn’t an opportunity that was missed according to brands.

As an advertiser, I am going to share with you what usually happens inside corporate America. As executives plan strategies on how to best target Latinos of various acculturation levels; large amount of studies, research and findings are bought to help with this planning process.  What usually happens is that these quantitative studies show a side of bilinguals that is usually seen on TV today…The majority of Latinos love soccer, the majority of Latina moms are stay at home or work part-time, Latinos are the first group to head out and catch the summer blockbusters…and the list goes on and on. So, unfortunately it’s not a stereotype but what they consider the facts. While some brands are beginning to open up, we need to help many other brands scratch the surface- but they need numbers to believe it and to convince those making the decisions.

It’s time we as Latinos start to show the influence we have in America. It’s time we unite and use social media (from twitter, to facebook to our blogs) to our advantage. So that every time we post a video, share a link or upload a picture we share with others what we are truly into beyond the norm. This way we can start to teach advertisers but most importantly clients/brands that we do more than the stereotypes and we can start to open their minds to our many eclectic and diverse worlds.

So, let’s start here. What are you into? I have opened a facebook account so we can share what we do beyond the stereotypes… LatinasyPunto on facebook.

Hispanics are in more places than you think

In bilingual, hispanic population, travel on November 2, 2010 at 11:23 pm

A few weeks ago I left New York City to enjoy a day in the North Fork area
of Long Island or what we call the wine country of New York. It’s a nice place to relax, have great conversation and enjoy some good wine with friends.

We ended up sleeping over night in the little town of Greenport and realized that everywhere we visited – the small shops, boutiques and even ice cream stores had bilingual signage.

I was very curious about this as I knew this was a very ‘white’ part of America. But I quickly realized that most of the meals I was eating, the sheets I was sleeping in and even the wine I had been drinking was created in large part to the amazing contribution, service and hard work of the Latinos in the area.

Bilingual menu in "Flavors" Dessert Cafe (Image by Fidel Sciortino)

Who would have ever thought that Greenport with population of about 3,950 has almost 20% of Hispanics? (read more about their population increase) Their presence is so apparent that even signs in the streets and even menus in the restaurants cater to them.  In fact, the local dessert cafe “Flavors” has their entire menu in both English and Spanish.

When I asked the owner the reason for this, he said very matter-of-factly and with a smile on his face; “we need to cater to the people that come here, there are a lot of Hispanics.”

In the kitchens most restaurants had Latinos cooking delicious dishes for all of the town’s guests.

So even when I visited a Lingerie Boutique called “Intimate Secrets” it wasn’t surprising to see that the owner and store attendant was Mireya Torres; a hard-working woman and mother who is very proud to have her own business by providing beautiful lingerie from Colombia to all of her guests.

Mireya Torres owner of "Intimate Secrets" (Image by Fidel Sciortino)

This isn’t just happening in Greenport. According to a report created by the University of New Hampshire, “the Hispanic population is dispersing rapidly — though selectively — from traditional gateway cities in the Southwest, not only to surrounding suburbs, but also rapidly in many rural parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, North Carolina, and Georgia.” We have now gone beyond cities like LA, Miami, Chicago and Dallas, where we once considered to be the ‘traditional’ places to find Hispanics.

So, next time you drive by a town in the middle of ‘white’ America…you may have to rethink how ‘white’ that town really is because Hispanics as we all now know are trekking new places and discovering new land in search of better opportunities and in turn changing and influencing America as they go.

What cities have you visited that weren’t so Hispanic a few years ago? Share your story.

Taking Bilingualism for granted

In bilingual, Uncategorized on October 18, 2010 at 11:29 pm

I just read an article on the October Issue of  “Psychology Today” (an article called Double Talk) where they interviewed various bilingual people from all walks of life. Beyond the fact that they didn’t interview any Bilingual Hispanics, which kind of bothered me given there are so many of us in the states; they did have some really good points about the advantages that bilinguals have vs. monolinguals, such as:

  • Bilinguals often intermingle their languages (Spanglish), not out of laziness or lack of ability, but in a natural quest for optimal self-expression and understanding
  • Bilingual brains are fitter. Using two languages throughout life delays the onset of dementia symptoms by an average of four years
  • Bilingualism enhances attention and cognitive control in kids and adults
  • Bilinguals are better at learning additional languages, if those languages bear little resemblance to the ones they already know

That’s when it hit me! Wow, this very reputable magazine is pretty much saying that if you are bilingual you are special (in a good way) and that we think and perceive things very differently than those who don’t think, act or live in two languages. Have I been taking for granted this special ability? Have I been living life knowing that yes, I do live two different languages and sometimes felt one language described something better than in English, like the word “tierno” could never be communicated in English with the same feeling and intention as it does in Spanish- the word “endearing” or “sweet” just doesn’t sound the same. Perhaps you’ve never taken this special ability for granted but have you stopped to think how important we really are?

That’s when I went ahead and did some more digging to find out how unique we really are in America and found out that in fact – in the U.S. there are more than 55 million bilinguals and when it comes to U.S. Hispanics, 70% of us are bilingual. These are very interesting facts given that almost everyone who is from another country can be bilingual if they just learn English when they get here. Yet from research I’ve conducted, many of those people who are bilingual feel less than those who speak one language. They feel they can’t accomplish everything they would like to even though they studied in their own country. They feel they can only do things in the hospitality, fast food, cleaning arenas or anywhere that gives them a break. Is it fear? Beyond documentation or immigration status, what else is keeping a lot of these people from succeeding? Is it a lack of role models or a push to be steered in the right path?

Whatever it is I just want to let you know with this blog post that regardless of what you do…whether it’s blue collar or white collar the fact that you are bilingual definitely gives you an edge. You automatically have exposure to two languages, two cultures, two meanings, and definitions for what is around you. It gives you power that others can’t understand. It gives you one more bullet point in your resume.

Don’t ever take it for granted and instead push yourself like I am everyday after that article to use your bilingualism to make yourself better in everything you do.

A Latina in the Philippines Part 3

In travel on August 2, 2010 at 1:40 pm

It’s interesting how the more and more differences I seem to observe between Filipinos and Latinos living in the U.S. the more I stop myself to reflect on the larger picture and notice that both groups seem to have more in common than we may even know at first glance.

For one thing, there hasn’t been a single Filipino parent I have met who doesn’t take pride in their child’s accomplishments, especially when it comes to education. Families of all socio-economic levels that I’ve met so far fill their mouths with saying things like “my daughter has won major awards”, “all my children have passed the board exam” or “I have six children and they are all professional”.  It seems to me this is no different than how many parents around the world feel as education means more than a degree but a door to a brighter future…

And that’s where I’ve noticed that like Latinos who travel to the U.S. in search of their American Dream, Filipinos also do their fair share of traveling in search of a better life. While I knew there are a ton of Filipinos who have taken over large pockets of cities in the U.S. like Los Angeles, Miami, NY/NJ I had no idea that many of them are also taking their specialties beyond nursing to places such as Australia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and even Ireland (just to name a few).  In fact, the number of overseas Filipinos account for about 11% of the total population of the Philippines…that’s about 8-11 million Filipinos in search of their “dream”. The main difference with Latinos who come to the states is that in many instances Filipinos leave their country through employment agencies or other programs with degrees in nursing, civil engineering, architecture, etc…. They then rapidly certify their degrees in these countries to be able to continue pursuing what they’re good at instead of settling for any job. This advantage comes from their ability to be multilingual.

This is why language is key. While the U.S. struggles to understand how to speak to Hispanics…whether in English or Spanish or even in Spanglish or perhaps with cultural relevance regardless of language – here’s a country who has already figured it out and is doing just fine. Of course keeping in mind they don’t have the added cultural layer that U.S. Hispanics have of being bicultural in one country.

To my astonishment Filipinos have managed to use their media (from TV shows, and billboards to radio and even DJ endorsements) in both Tagalog and English with ease; going back and forth between languages because to them at the end of the day it’s about the content. So, as a foreigner it’s incredible to see a commercial where the model or spokesperson flips to both languages while the supers (or the writing that you see in the commercial) are all in English yet still manage to convey the message that this particular product will make my hair thicker and stronger (check out this Jollibee (Filipino fast food chain) commercial as an example:  And, if you travel to other cities away from the capital where even street signs are in English, you’ll soon realize each island has multiple dialects and schools teach children Spanish and/or Mandarin as a pre-requisite…making these people multilingual.

Perhaps there are more than a few things U.S. Latinos can learn from our Filipino friends who may look a bit different than us but who are also in search of that “dream”. From their focus on higher education, to their priority in adopting a new culture while staying close to their own values; these seem to be great tips that can certainly help us Latinos back in the U.S.

It’s Latina time

In Uncategorized on May 18, 2010 at 4:56 am

Today I came across this quote:

“The XIX century was known as the European century; the XX as the American one. Now the XXI century will be remembered as the Century of Women.” – Tsvi Bisk, Center for Strategic Futurist Thinking, 2008

As a woman, it’s pretty inspiring but if I had anything else to add I would say at the end: “and Latinas will have a lot to do with that.”

This is because it shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that by the year 2050 the number of Latinas in the U.S. will increase by 150%, compared with 45% for the total female population (U.S. Census Data 2006, 2004 estimate). This will also mean that Latinas spending power will increase, marketers are going to want to talk to us in English and Spanish, and we’ll have the power to decide!

What an empowering thought. That’s why this is our opportunity to change the way we are seen (if it isn’t a positive outlook).

For example we’ll have the power to debunk current stats and even stereotypes that we are faced with today.

  • Let’s show America that we do go to college and graduate and not just drop out of school to get blue collar jobs
  • Let’s show our families that we don’t have to have children in high school or even in our early 20s – it’s okay to wait a little longer
  • Let’s chase our dreams and start-up our own companies and establish new career ventures
  • Let’s take advantage that for the most part many of us are bilingual and can cater to a larger audience

But let’s stay true to who we are as Latinas, with our roots and values the way our moms taught us so that we can pass this down from generation to generation. I know it’s easier said than done. But, I’m an example and I know it can be done. Come on women, together we can do it!