Imagen Awards Tackles Latinx Representation, Politics

Kenny Ortega - Imagen Awards - H Getty 2019
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Television series ‘One Day at a Time’ and ‘Pose’ took home multiple awards at the event, held Saturday night at the Beverly Wilshire.

“It’s a celebration of familia,” Queen of the South showrunner Benjamin Lobato told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet of the 34th annual Imagen Awards, which recognizes the Latinx community in entertainment. There was indeed a sense of familia throughout the night — producers and friends interrupted interviews to offer hugs to each other on the red carpet, while cast and crew from different shows showered praise on others in the Beverly Wilshire ballroom during their winners' speeches. 

Pose star Angel Bismark Curiel, another honoree, reflected on the significance of the awards: “These are peers whom I share heritage, background and culture with. We’re all in one building celebrating.”

Amid the celebrations, however, politics was never far from people’s minds. “Nights like tonight remind us of the work we have ahead,” Kenny Ortega told THR, referring to the lead-up to the 2020 elections. “We have a year to change the scene and get this country back to a place of fairness and responsibility,” shared the director behind the High School Musical and Descendants franchises (and is making his first television series with Netflix, premiering next year), “I am not going to be quiet.”

A regular attendee at the awards, Ortega also emphasized the power that entertainment wields, and urged the creative industry to find products and projects that remind everyone how important hope, fairness and justice are.

Others advocated for fresh characters for the Latinx community to take on. Writing was a third career for Luisa Leschin (after dancing and acting), who was driven to write after being cast in one too many “stereotypical” roles — playing gang girls, hookers, maids — and realizing she could make a greater impact as a writer by creating different roles in her stories for the Latinx community. She received the Norman Lear Writer’s Award, honoring her career in an industry that was not particularly hospitable to minority writers when she was starting out. “It was a jungle, there was no path. We all had our little machetes trying to make a path for other people.”

Throughout the evening, many acknowledged those who had come before, and shared their desire to carry on the legacy and create opportunities for others. Gloria Calderon Kellett, the co-showrunner for One Day at a Time, told THR, “I’m so glad to have a powerful position now by being the showrunner and opening the doors for other Latinos coming up.” She also directed the season finale of Mr. Iglesias, which was recently renewed for a second season by Netflix.

After performing at and attending last year’s Imagen Awards as part of the Coco ensemble (for voicing the lead, Miguel), Anthony Gonzalez took home the best young actor award this year for his role in the feature Icebox. Among other award winners were Isabela Moner, who stars in Instant Family and Dora and the Lost City of Gold, taking best actress.

This year’s edition saw an increase in the number of entries for the awards, and the Imagen Foundation also announced two new categories that will be awarded next year — for film music composition and TV direction.

Reflecting on the year, Helen Hernandez, founder and president of the Imagen Foundation, said, “Maybe finally, the glass ceiling in this industry is cracking for us.” She also rallied the community to respond to the politics of today and use their voices and creativity to create change. To rapturous applause and a standing ovation, Hernandez said, “Sí se puede.”