I recently joined the extended Billboard family as a contributor and went down to Miami to cover the 2015 Billboard Latin Music Conference and Awards (April 27 – 30). I’ve greatly enjoyed collaborating with the inimitable Leila Cobo, who, quite simply, knows more about Latin music than anyone on the planet. She’s a pro, and definitely someone I look up to.
You’ll be seeing my byline on billboard.com/latin quite a bit this year, as I join Leila and the Billboard team in building the ultimate digital destination for all things Latin music.
Click below to see Billboard’s beautiful spread with exclusive portraits from the conference.
Billboard Latin Music Conference Exclusive Portraits
And click here to view all of our great online coverage from this year’s conference & awards, including exclusive interviews with Carlos Santana, Daddy Yankee, Natalia Jimenez, Nicky Jam, Luis Fonsi, Wisin, Carlos Vives, Ivy Queen, and many more.
See Also: Highlights From the 2015 Billboard Latin Music Conference & Awards
I was honored to contribute to Marie Claire‘s Global Beauty Issue (May 2015), spotlighting three Latinas whom I greatly admire: mogul (and all-around idol) Salma Hayek, supermodel Joan Smalls, and actress Genesis Rodriguez.
Follow the link to read the full feature —> Marie Claire
Mention the name Daddy Yankee to anyone in the Latin music industry and they’ll automatically think of the words legend, icon, or leader. Credited with making reggaeton a global phenomenon in 2004 with his hit “Gasolina,” the Puerto Rican superstar has more top 10s on the Latin Rhythm Airplay chart than any other artist (30) and more No. 1s on Top Latin Albums than any other urban act (6). It’s no wonder his peers — both established and emerging acts — constantly cite him as a source of inspiration.
When he’s not recording hits in the studio, Yankee is known for bringing the heat to any performance. The 2015 Billboard Latin Music Awards — which aired on Telemundo on April 30 from the BankUnited Center in Miami — were no exception, as Yankee took the stage twice. First, to perform his hot new single “Sígueme y Te Sigo” as a worldwide television premiere, and then with Carlos Vives and Wisin for “Nota de Amor,” an irresistible marriage of Colombian vallenato and reggaeton that’s as much about love as it is about dancing.
It was the most talked-about moment of the night at the 2015 Billboard Latin Music Awards — Jennifer Lopez onstage, singing a medley of Selena Quintanilla’s most beloved hits, including “Como la Flor,” “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” “No Me Queda Mas,” and “I Could Fall in Love,” dressed in a pale pink ensemble reminiscent of the late queen of Tejano music. The heartfelt performance came 18 years after Lopez’s indelible portrayal of Selena made her a household name. Backed by the original Los Dinos band — made up of Selena’s brother A.B. Quintanilla, sister Suzette Quintanilla-Arriaga, and widower Chris Perez – JLo delivered an emotional tribute to an icon whose influence is still felt, 20 years after her life was tragically cut short.
After the performance, the Quintanilla family opened up to Billboard about how it felt to be a part of such a special moment, where the idea for the tribute came from, and how they’re keeping Selena’s legacy alive.
Amidst all the celebrity-laden ads on Super Bowl Sunday, there was one that stood out: Ecuador’s 30-second spot highlighting the stunning natural beauty of the small Andean country containing a world within itself — the Galapagos Islands, the Pacific Coast, the Andes mountains and the Amazon rainforest — to the familiar tune of a certain Beatles classic.
A three-part tagline anchored the memorable “All You Need is Ecuador” spot: “Like Nowhere Else, All in One Place, So Close.” The first two points are undeniably true (this coming from a proud Ecuadorian), but I’m going to have to talk to the airlines about that third one, because getting there from Los Angeles is never less than a full-day ordeal.
If those few seconds weren’t enough to make you want to make the trip, maybe these interesting tidbits will.
There was a great deal of excitement, understandably so, around Disney’s announcement of a new princess, Elena of Avalor, this week. An olive-skinned, gorgeous babe who looks like she goes to Jasmine’s same hair salon to get blow-outs, Elena was widely celebrated in the media because, well, it’s crazy that there still hasn’t been a Latina royal in the Disney family.
We came close about a year ago with Sofia The First, whom many also assumed was Latina. But it wasn’t long before the backlash started, mostly consisting of “She’s too white!” comments. All of which caused Disney to clarify — or perhaps backpedal — and state that Sofia was “a mixed-heritage princess in a fairy-tale world. Her mother is originally from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Spain (Galdiz) and her birth father hailed from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Scandinavia.”
Disney Junior’s VP Nancy Kanter further clarified: “What’s important to know is that Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world. All our characters come from fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities but none are meant to specifically represent those real world cultures. The writers have wisely chosen to write stories that include elements that will be familiar and relatable to kids from many different backgrounds including Spain and Latin America.”
Following that uncomfortable PR moment for Disney, Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, had a direct conversation with Kanter in which he apparently pressed, “When are we going to have a real Latina, not a counterfeit?’”
With diversity in Hollywood being such a hot topic — as it should be — and the Oscars around the corner, it seems like the perfect time to reflect on one of the most trailblazing Latinos in entertainment: Anthony Quinn.
Born Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1915 and raised in poverty in Los Angeles, Quinn was the embodiment of the American Dream. Though he eventually worked in almost 150 films and won two Oscars, the stage is where it all began, so it’s fitting that the landmark, 70-foot “Pope of Broadway” mural in downtown Los Angeles erected in 1985 in Quinn’s honor is undergoing a $150,000 restoration effort starting this month, with expected completion in 2016.
According to Variety, “The Boy Next Door” did not disappoint at the box office. It came in second after “American Sniper,” earning a solid $15 million from 2,602 locations. Its opening weekend audience was weighted toward females, who made up 71% of ticket buyers, and Hispanics, who comprised 45%.
“Basically, Jennifer Lopez is great, and people responded to her,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “She was the number one reason people wanted to see this movie.”
What would Christmas be like without Mariah Carey? It’s a sad, sad thought. But the crazy thing is Carey’s holiday classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You” almost never happened.
As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the song, instead of focusing on Carey’s botched performance at the Rockefeller Center tree-lighting ceremony earlier this month, let’s revisit the backstory of perhaps the greatest Christmas tune ever recorded.
First released on November 1, 1994, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” was the lead single off Carey’s fourth album, “Merry Christmas,” now hailed by Billboard as the most successful Christmas album of all time.
In today’s oversaturated market, anyone with half an octave releases a holiday album. But back then, it was considered somewhat corny for a pop star to do so, especially a 24-year-old vocal virtuoso.
News broke on Wednesday, December 17, that the United States plans to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and will open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than 50 years. The historic move came after the release of an American intelligence agent who had been in captivity in a Cuban prison for 20 years, and an American contractor, Alan P. Gross, who had been captive for five. In exchange, the U.S. released three Cuban spies who had been imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001.
Secret talks were held over the last 18 months between Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro, encouraged by Canada and Pope Francis. Establishing direct contact between leaders of the two countries for the first time in half a century, Obama and Castro reportedly had a phone call on Tuesday to finalize the deal.
Calling the embargo on Cuba a failure, Obama addressed the nation in a televised speech Wednesday morning, stating: “We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.”