By STEVE MORRIS
Published: Thursday, February 16, 2012 | 7:37 PM
Alex Nogales, president and chief executive officer of the Pasadena-based National Hispanic Media Coalition. [Photo: National Hispanic Media Coalition]
The Pasadena-based National Hispanic Media Coalition is planning its annual awards gala next week to accentuate the positive in spite of what its president and CEO, Alex Nogales, calls Hollywood’s very poor record of showing Hispanics in a favorable light.
“Recognizing the positive portrayal of Latinos in the media is a social justice matter,” Nogales said Thursday. “Latinos make up 16.5% of America. We need and deserve to see uplifting reflections of our community onscreen.”
The Coalition’s 15th Annual Impact Awards Gala will recognize outstanding contributions to the positive portrayal of Latinos in media on Friday, February 24, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
“We welcome shows that have Latino themes because it shows us in a certain light,” Nogales said. “What we want is balanced programming. So for us, it is a pleasure for us to recognize shows and to honor those individuals in film and television that are contributing to the art.”
Asked if the awards and gala make a real-world difference, Nogales said that while progress has been made, more still needs to be done.
“Eleven years ago, when we started, the numbers were absolutely atrocious,” he said. “We’ve been working with NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX, and there’s been progress in terms of inclusion. The way we are perceived is always going to be the way we are treated, and Latinos across the nation are not treated well.
Comedic actor Rob Schneider and Spanish actress Claudia Bassols – who currently portray Rob and Maggie on CBS’s ¡Rob! – will be Masters of Ceremony.
TheNHMC Gala is one of the most sought-after Latino media events in the country and will host five hundred of the most influential people in Hollywood when it comes to advancing Latino talent on both the big and small screen.
In terms of inclusion, Nogales believes the film industry is lacking.
“Hollywood is an industry that is liberal and progressive as it claims to be, but when it comes to Latinos, they’ve got a very poor record,” said Nogales. “Forty-nine percent of the population in Southern California is Latino. You would think that we would have more, but the numbers are atrocious. Only two percent of the people in the industry, both in front of and behind the camera, are Latino.”
This year’s Impact Awards will honor onscreen talents Cesar Millan, Benjamin Bratt, Michelle Rodriguez, Efren Ramirez, and Aubrey Plaza; director Chris Weitz; and music artist Taboo. The Impact Awards Gala is also helps NHMC’s fundraising. Sponsors for this year’s gala are Disney, Univision, Google, CBS, Bright House Networks, and NuvoTV.
Among those to be honored at the awards is Media entrepreneur and best-selling author Cesar Millan. He will be honored with an Outstanding Reality Show Impact Award for his internationally popular and iconic series, Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan. Dog Whisperer is National Geographic WILD’s flagship series and airs in more than 100 countries worldwide.
Actress Michelle Rodriguez will also be honored. Her career was launched when she starred in the critically acclaimed indie film Girlfight. She has since starred in many franchise hits such as the adrenaline-charged The Fast and the Furious and the action-horror film Resident Evil. Rodriguez will reprise her roles in both franchises this coming year. She was last seen starring opposite Aaron Eckhart in Battle: Los Angeles for which Rodriguez is taking home an Outstanding Performance in a Motion Picture Impact Award.
Actor Efren Ramirez is perhaps best known for his iconic portrayal of “Pedro” in the comedy feature film Napoleon Dynamite. Due to the success of the film and the popularity of Ramirez’s character, FOX Television made Napoleon Dynamite into an animated series. His voice performance is so captivating that Ramirez will receive an Outstanding Performance in an Animated Television Series Impact Award. In spring 2012, Ramirez will star opposite Will Ferrell in the film Casa de mi Padre.
Seasoned television and film actor Benjamin Bratt is receiving an Outstanding Performance in a Television Series Impact Award for his role as “Dr. Jake Reilly” on the hit ABC primetime series Private Practice. He garnered an Emmy Award nomination for his role on NBC’s hit drama Law & Order. Bratt’s distinguished film career includes Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic, which received five Academy Award nominations. Other film credits include Miss Congeniality and Love in the Time of Cholera.
Comedienne and actress Aubrey Plaza will be recognized with an Outstanding Performance in a Television Series Impact Award for her deadpan-style portrayal of “April Ludgate” on the hit NBC comedy Parks and Recreation.
Director, producer, and writer Chris Weitz garnered attention worldwide with his work on such films as American Pie, The Golden Compass, and About a Boy, for which he earned an Academy Award nomination in 2003 for best adapted screenplay. In 2009, Weitz directed The Twilight Saga: New Moon, based on the popular book series and most recently directed A Better Life - a poignant, multi-generational story about a father’s love and sacrifice to build a better life for his child. Since the film’s June 2011 release, it has been selected by the National Board of Review as one of the “Top Ten Independent Films” of the year. Weitz will receiveing an Impact Award for Outstanding Direction in a Motion Picture.
Finally, musician and actor Jaime Gomez is best known by his fans as Taboo from the internationally successful band “The Black Eyed Peas.” The band has sold over 65 million records worldwide. Taboo has shared his success by supporting several charities and he is also a stirring advocate for the Latino community, avidly speaking out against racism. Taboo has earned an Outstanding Advocate for the Latino Community Impact Award for his commitment to social justice.
A reception for the awards will take place at 6 p.m. prior to the awards scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and will take place in the grand ballroom of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, 9500 Wilshire Blvd, in Beverly Hills. For more information, visit NHMC’s website at www.nhmc.org.