2013 NCLR ALMA AWARDS®
- Tony Plana
- Wilmer Valderrama
- Nancy De Los Santos Reza
- Robert Rodriguez
- Rosario Dawson
- Carlos Santana
Ricardo Montalban Award for Lifetime Achievement
Beyond serving as a trailblazer on the big screen, the small screen, and the theater stage, Tony Plana is an advocate and a champion for the Latino community. Plana, the Cuban American actor, writer, director, and producer, has assembled a lifetime of professional achievement while using his talent and notoriety to make a difference in the lives of Latinos throughout the nation. Plana has demonstrated a concerted effort to fuel the positive portrayal of Hispanic Americans in all forms of media while using his voice to amplify the needs of the Latino community as they relate to education, immigration, and more.
Having starred in more than 70 feature films and multiple television series, Plana has played a long roster of memorable characters and demonstrated the wide range of his repertoire. Among his most well-known roles, he starred as Ignacio Suarez, the widowed father to America Ferrera’s Ugly Betty in the ABC landmark series, the first Spanish-language series to be adapted to English for a major American network. Ugly Betty has received the highest ratings and most critical acclaim of any Latino-based show in the history of television.
Plana is also the co-founder and executive artistic director of the East L.A. Classic Theatre, a group composed primarily of Hispanic American theater professionals. For the past ten years, the East L.A. Classic Theatre has been dedicated to serving the Latino community through educational outreach programs in primary and secondary schools and through bilingual productions of traditional and contemporary classics.
Through the East L.A. Classic Theatre, Plana has developed a unique and innovative literacy program called Beyond Borders: Literacy through Performing Arts. It is designed to enable students to expand their educational horizons and academic achievements by moving beyond their personal, cultural, and vocational borders.
Plana was educated at Loyola High School in Los Angeles and Loyola Marymount University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree through the Honors Program in Literature and Theatre Arts, graduating magna cum laude. He received professional training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, England. For his notable career as an accomplished actor and his dedication to strengthening education through the arts, he is awarded the Ricardo Montalban Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Outstanding Social Activism Award
Wilmer Valderrama was born to Venezuelan and Colombian parents who were persistent in the idea that one should work and maximize opportunities to achieve the American Dream. Perhaps best known for his role as Fez on That ’70s Show, he followed his parents’ belief by translating his success into new roles for himself as producer, director, activist, and social dynamo.
Valderrama is notably accessible to fans through social media, using Twitter and Instagram to promote the causes and projects that he supports. Despite following political and social activist pursuits, he continues to enjoy success in the entertainment industry as an active content creator and producer for television and online programming, such as the YouTube series “King of the Floor,” which features breakdance battles, and starring as a detective in the NBC series Awake.
As co-founder of Voto Latino, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing new and diverse voices into the political process, Valderrama is a strong proponent of encouraging and empowering young Latinos to register and vote. He believes that the organization has been critical in mobilizing Hispanic voters, but at a certain point action is in the hands of the people. “We’re only as powerful as what our people are willing to do,” Valderrama explained.
Valderrama is ardent about the value of education for Latinos. He is the official spokesman for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s (CHCI) Ready to Lead college readiness program. To promote the importance of higher education for Hispanic youth, he attends workshops, appears in public service announcements, and leads other media campaigns. At CHCI’s 2012 Education Policy Summit, Valderrama and Tony Plana hosted “Young Latino Perspective—In Their Own Voices,” a panel in which Hispanic students discussed obstacles and personal challenges to pursuing higher education.
Using social media to encourage civic engagement and higher education, Valderrama is a role model for all young Latinos. For his use of social platforms to raise awareness and empower young people, especially Latino youth, he is recognized with the Outstanding Social Activism Award.
Outstanding Industry and Community Service Award
Writer and producer Nancy De Los Santos Reza has been an integral part of the recent vanguard of talent responsible for numerous Latino-themed films, television series, and documentaries over the last two decades. Born and raised in Chicago to Mexican American parents, she has focused her career on what she calls “being a part of presenting a realistic Latino/a image on television and in film,” and indeed, her long list of writing and directing credits affirms her dedication to this mission.
De Los Santos is the Associate Producer of Selena, starring Jennifer Lopez and Edward James Olmos, and My Family, starring Olmos, Jimmy Smits, and Esai Morales. She has written for the award-winning PBS series American Family and the acclaimed Showtime series Resurrection Blvd. She is the co-writer and co-producer, with Susan Racho and Alberto Dominguez, of the Cinemax documentary “The Bronze Screen: 100 Years of the Latino Image in American Cinema.”
In Chicago, De Los Santos’ early career included producing Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel’s film review program, At the Movies. Under her tutelage, the show was nominated for two Emmy Awards. She is a member of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the WGA West Latino Writers Committee, and she was the first Latina elected to serve on the WGA West Board of Directors (2006–2008).
De Los Santos volunteers her media expertise to community organizations such as Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), New Economics for Women, and the Los Angeles International Latino Film Festival. She’s a founding member of The Wise Latina Society, a radio show dedicated to encouraging Latinas who are experts in their fields to reach their full potential. This past year, she co-authored, with eight other Latinas, 8 Ways to Say I Love My Life, a self-help book geared directly toward Latinas. She’s a founding member, with Azucena Maldonado, of the Latina Golfers Association (LGA), encouraging Latinas to get into the game. To foster the improvement of public speaking skills, she has served as president of Toastmasters International’s Voces Latinas.
An ardent supporter of NCLR, De Los Santos has served on the writing staff of the NCLR ALMA Awards, the NCLR Capital Awards, and multiple NCLR Annual Conferences. She received her degree in radio, television, and film from the University of Texas at Austin, and she holds a graduate degree in communications from the University of Michigan. For her passion to tell her story and ensure Latino stories and voices are recognized in the entertainment industry, she is awarded the Outstanding Industry and Community Service Award.
Anthony Quinn Award for Industry Excellence
Robert Rodriguez, celebrated filmmaker, grew up in Texas as one of ten siblings born to Mexican American parents. At a young age, he exhibited an avid interest in film production. His large family naturally became cast and crew for his first ventures in film.
Initially rejected from the film program at the University of Texas at Austin, Rodriguez taught himself basic editing and directing skills and created video shorts which went on to win local contests. He gained enough recognition that he was admitted to the film department and eventually graduated from the University of Texas. While there, he created the award-winning fantasy short “Bedhead,” which chronicles the misadventures of a young girl whose older brother’s mess of hair she cannot tolerate. This is seen as a pivotal point in Rodriguez’s journey toward pursuing filmmaking as a career.
Rodriguez went on to make El Mariachi (1992), a low-budget film he intended for the Spanish-language home-video market; however, it was acquired, “cleaned up,” and distributed by Columbia Pictures in the United States. It is widely considered to be the touchstone of the 1990s indie film movement and gained notoriety as “the movie made for $7,000.” With the sequel and second installment of the “Mexico Trilogy,” Desperado (1994), he achieved mainstream success and single-handedly launched the American film careers of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek. Subsequent notable films he created include From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Spy Kids (2001) and its sequels, Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003), Sin City (2005), Planet Terror (2007), and Machete (2010).
Rodriguez not only writes, directs, and produces his films, but also often serves as editor, director of photography, camera operator, composer, production designer, visual effects supervisor, and sound editor, earning him the nickname “one-man film crew.” He calls his style of moviemaking “Mariachi-style,” which involves using any resources and talents at his disposal—and a bit of ingenuity—to overcome challenges or obstacles. According to his book Rebel Without a Crew, “Creativity, not money, is used to solve problems.”
No stranger to the NCLR ALMA Awards, Rodriguez has been nominated for four awards and won Outstanding Latino Director of a Feature Film for Spy Kids (2002). In 1996, despite being based in Austin, Texas, he headed the “25 Most Powerful Hispanics in Hollywood” list, published by Hispanic magazine. At the 2010 Austin Film Festival, he was honored for “Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking.” His achievements are an inspiration to the Latino community and all aspiring filmmakers, and they make him truly worthy of the Anthony Quinn Award for Industry Excellence.
Outstanding Commitment to Cause and Community Award
Actress and singer Rosario Dawson has matched her talents on the big screen with an equal passion for activism in the Latino community, supporting numerous causes and charities. Born to a mother of Puerto Rican and Afro-Cuban descent, she grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. On the front steps of the abandoned apartment building her family renovated, she was discovered by director Larry Clark and given a role in the controversial film Kids (1995). Before long, she was starring in hits such as Men in Black II (2002), 25th Hour (2002), Alexander (2004), Rent (2005), Sin City (2005), Seven Pounds (2008), made-for-TV Five (2011), and Trance (2013).
Dawson is a strong advocate of the Lower Eastside Girls Club, which provides a place where girls and young women can grow, learn, have fun, and develop confidence in themselves and their ability to make a difference in the world. She led the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Lower Eastside Girls Club’s new headquarters. Wearing pink hard hats, she and a number of elected officials celebrated the construction of the new community center. “We are cementing not just a building here—we are cementing young girls’ futures,” said Dawson. “This space is a celebration of neighborhood.”
Along with her support of the Lower Eastside Girls Club, Dawson has contributed to a number of causes and charities. As co-founder and chairwoman of the nonpartisan organization Voto Latino, she empowers young Latinos to get out and vote and make a difference. She is also an active board member of V-Day, an organization to end violence against women and girls; a board member of Operation USA, an international relief agency; and an honorary co-chair of the Aspen Institute Task Force on Learning and the Internet. As a passionate environmentalist, she works with a number of organizations including the Environmental Media Association and Global Green.
In 2011, at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, Dawson was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award for her exceptional contributions to the Hispanic community and encouragement of others to get involved. She also received the Latino Spirit Award, given to her by California Governor Jerry Brown, for her service to the Latino community and leadership of Voto Latino. For her service in opening the doors of opportunity for Hispanics, especially for young Latinas, Rosario Dawson is recognized with the Outstanding Commitment to Cause and Community Award.
Outstanding Commitment to Cause and Community Award
Inimitable among the world’s most celebrated guitarists, Carlos Santana has created one of the most recognizable sounds in music. His discography has fused Afro-Cuban rhythms and sensibilities into genres spanning rock, pop, blues, jazz, and R&B. Early hits such as “Black Magic Woman” and his 1970 rendition of Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va” played a major role in introducing mainstream American audiences to Latin idioms in rock music. As his career progressed, it was marked by positive messages, growing spiritual consciousness, and momentous artistic collaborations—not to mention ten Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards.
However, Santana’s legacy goes beyond breaking musical barriers. In 1998, shortly before the arrival of his acclaimed multiplatinum album, Supernatural, Carlos Santana and his family founded the Milagro Foundation. With a mission to help underserved and vulnerable children in the areas of education, health, and the arts, the foundation makes grants to schools, community centers, food banks, and youth empowerment programs in the United States and Mexico. Between 2009 and 2011, the Milagro Foundation also partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to ensure that children in underserved communities could access healthy foods and nutrition education.
Arts education has become one of Santana’s signature causes. In 2012, he founded the Carlos Santana Arts Academy, an arts-focused elementary school in the Los Angeles Unified School District where 95% of the students are English language learners. The school is supported in part by the Milagro Foundation, which, in addition to funding from private donors, is backed by proceeds from the sale of Santana’s concert tickets and his brands of musical instruments, shoes, handbags, hats, and wine.
Santana was born in Autlán de Navarro, Mexico, and moved to San Francisco from Tijuana as a teenager. By selling more than 100 million records, his music has traveled around globe. In December he will receive the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors and attend a reception at the White House with President and Mrs. Obama, punctuating a lifetime of achievement in the arts. For his decades of support to children and families, Carlos Santana is recognized with the Outstanding Commitment to Cause and Community Award.