Emilio Estefan talks about the challenges of Latino representation in media

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Legendary music producer Emilio Estefan weighed in with his take on how to boost Latino representation in showbiz. Latinos, he said, should be true to their identities.

“I feel proud that I didn’t have to change my last name I didn’t have to change my sound because people liked it,” he said. “We bring something a little bit different and that’s what makes America.”

The Cuban-American Estefan, who is married to superstar singer Gloria Estefan, has endured one of the relatively few key figures in American show business. He’s won 19 Grammys, and President Barack Obama awarded both Gloria and Emilio Estefan the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

While Latino spending is a driving force in the American economy, representation in media is still lacking, according to a new report by the Latino Donor Collaborative.

In 2022, only 3.1% of lead actors in TV shows are Latinos, and the percentage of representation in films is no better. Yet, at the box office, Hispanic customers purchased 29% or $2.9 billion of all box office tickets sold in 2019, before the Covid pandemic shut down theaters.

The report also found that not only is there a lack of Latino representation but many of the portrayals of Latino are negative. Examples of these roles included undocumented immigrants, orphans, criminals, and poor and uneducated people.

“The unfortunate reality is that Latino representation in mainstream entertainment in the United States continues to be very small and has not significantly improved in the last five years,” the report said.

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