National Hispanic Media Coalition president and CEO Alex Nogales took aim at movie studio executives Friday night, at his organization’s 21st Annual Impact Awards, an event recognizing the activism and screen work of prominent Hollywood Latinos and their allies.
The annual black-tie gala comes just eight days before the 90th Annual Academy Awards, which have become the subject of protest by the Latino media-advocacy group. Nogales’ organization for the first time in its more than 30-year history is targeting the film industry, after years of focusing on television networks and local news media stations.
Nogales’ organization has planned a protest on March 3 — the day before the Oscars ceremony — to decry the lack of inclusion of Latinos in more lead and speaking roles in film, saying that the disparity ultimately shuts Latinos out of awards contention year after year.
“Tonight is a show of people that are working in film and television. This is about celebrating them and pushing the studios and pushing the film industry to do better,” Nogales told Variety before the event. “They should be ashamed of themselves for not utilizing these wonderful actors here tonight and across the nation.”
The night featured a number of speeches from honorees who in various ways addressed the disparities for Latinos in roles and jobs all across the entertainment industry, including the ranks of movie and TV studio executives, producers, writers and below-the-line jobs.
Aubrey Plaza, among the night’s honorees for her work on the film “Ingrid Goes West,” accepted an award for outstanding performance in a motion picture. With her characteristically dry sense of humor, the “Parks and Recreation” alum highlighted the fact that no Latina has ever won the best actress Oscar during her acceptance speech, sarcastically accepting the award from the Academy.
“I’m going to accept the leading best actress award on behalf of the Oscars ceremony because I heard a fun fact tonight that I never knew before, which is that no Latina actress has ever won best actress at the Oscars,” Plaza said. “Ever. So I’m going to accept that tonight to manifest that energy.”
She joked that her starring role in “Ingrid Goes West” wouldn’t win her the vaunted prize, but “I’ll play some kind of psychotic character, some kind of criminal lunatic, those complicated characters I’m good at, and I’ll do that for you. And I’m going to win that award.”
The gala also comes amid a roiling, national immigration battle over the fate of Dreamers. The anti-immigrant actions by the administration of President Donald Trump provided a dramatic backdrop, giving the decidedly urgent tone as prominent Latinos in Hollywood vowed to press for more authentic representation of Latinos in media.
Randy Falco, Univision Communications president and CEO, received the organization’s award for outstanding service and commitment to the Latino community. Falco, 64, has become an outspoken critic of the Trump administration’s rhetoric toward Latinos and the media, saying in his acceptance speech that he long ago saw his network as playing a vital role for U.S. Latinos.
“I saw Univision as a brand that goes beyond simply having resonance with an audience and one that actually embodies the hopes and dreams of that audience,” Falco said.
Others honored at the Impact Awards were the makers of Disney-Pixar’s “Coco,” honored for outstanding motion picture. Nicholas Gonzalez (“The Good Doctor”) was recognized for outstanding performance in a television series. Tony Revolori (“Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel”) was awarded for outstanding performance in a motion picture.
Gonzalez, a Texas native of Mexican descent whose early work included Showtime’s “Resurrection Blvd,” said that while there’s been much progress made for diversity, Latinos continue to be underrepresented.
“I’ve been answering the same questions for 20 years. How does it feel? What strides have we made?” he said. “I’d love to say the strides are big … but there’s still so much because I feel it really comes down to just rampant racism and a lot of ugly truths that people don’t want to admit.”
NHMC also honored activist and actress Diane Guerrero (“Orange is the New Black” and “Jane the Virgin”), who was feted with the Lupe Ontiveros Indomitable Spirit Award, named in honor of the longtime Latina actress who advocated for increased and wider-ranging opportunities in acting roles.