29+ Celebrities We Didn't Know Were Latino and Latina
| LAST UPDATE 05/10/2023
As Hollywood continues to embrace diversity, we've seen a rise in Hispanic faces on the big screen, and some came as quite the surprise. From Cameron Diaz to Fergie, these celebrities are proud of their Latin-American roots.
Diaz, who has been an A-lister for decades now, only publicly discussed her heritage quite recently. In a 2011 interview, she opened up about her father’s family, who came to Florida from Cuba to work as cigar rollers.
As Diaz added, they migrated in the late 18th century during the Spanish-American War. Today, she still owns cigar presses and choppers that her great-grandfather used when he first moved here. But while she admits she "grew up with the Cuban heritage... culture, food, language..." she has yet to learn Spanish. Keyword, yet...
Jessica Alba "always felt a deep connection to her Mexican-American roots," as she revealed to PopSugar: Her great-grandparents originally migrated from Mexico - and certainly made their arrival known. From building railroads to founding the East Barrio School for Latinos, Alba's family did a lot during their time in Claremont.
It's no wonder Alba couldn't be prouder of her family heritage and even talks about it with her daughters. "I want my girls to embrace their Latino roots, know how much we have contributed... and understand that the road ahead is richer when we acknowledge and embrace our heritage," she explained. We love to see it!
Bruno Mars' background might just be as colorful as his wardrobe: He has a delightfully mixed heritage, but admits that he never gave his race much thought. "Everyone's kind of mixed up there, kind of brown because it's sunny," the artist reflected of growing up in Hawaii.
Mars was born "Peter Gene Hernandez" to a Filipino mother and a Puerto Rican-Jewish father. Following this, Hernandez soon discovered that his ancestors - European Jews and Filipinos - were viewed as defining features by record label executives and producers. Thankfully, though, he's since come to embrace all of his roots.
Who knew that Oscar Isaac's heritage had a lot to do with his character's backstory in Star Wars? "I was born in Guatemala, and one of Guatemala's biggest claims to fame is that Guatemala is featured at the end of A New Hope," he revealed to Fandango of the movie's medal ceremony, filmed in Tikal.
Sure enough, his on-screen character also paid tribute to the Central American country. "I said, 'How cool would it be if that's where Poe was from?!' You know, he's a Rebel fighter, that's where the Rebel base is, why wouldn't he be there?'" Isaac recalled of pitching the idea to director JJ Abrams.
During a Las Vegas performance in 2019, pop star Christina Aguilera took to the stage to perform her English-Spanish track Desnudate. After the song finished, she revealed some big news: "Let's not forget: the Latin album is coming!" Only her bilingual album was anything but random.
In fact, it wasn't the first time the half-Ecuadorian tapped into her Latin heritage. Back in 2000, Xtina made waves after her Spanish-language album, Mi Reflejo debuted. Despite not speaking the language fluently, she was proud of her work. "I should not have to prove my ethnicity to anyone. I know who I am," she explained.
Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte has a lot to be proud of. But among his greatest joys is the fact that he boasts such a rich background. While most people probably don't know this, the athlete's mother was actually an immigrant who left Cuba for the United States.
"When he won the gold medal, the individual gold medal... all I could think about what was my parents went through and how he's there representing the United States," his mom, Ileana, proudly revealed. "To see him up there with the American flag, it was great."
Many of us have been keeping up with Charlie Sheen on our screens for years now. But the truth is that the Two And a Half Men actor has been going by a stage name for as long as he can remember. His birth name? Carlos Irwin Estevez. That's right. But that's not where the surprises end...
The star is also from Spanish ancestry, something he's had trouble connecting to in the past. While his grandfather hails from northern Spain, it never played a big part in the actor's upbringing. "It was never a part of my life growing up, my parents never infused it into our household," Sheen recalled.
Between 2009 and 2015, Aubrey Plaza starred in NBC’s Parks and Recreation, the show which officially launched her into the limelight. But she also received lots of attention as a teenager in Delaware, where she won multiple diversity awards due to her unique heritage.
Although she felt somewhat awkward due to her "half-Latina" status, she's still very proud of her father's Puerto Rican heritage. In fact, she's always embraced it. "My aunts and uncles used to teach my friends salsa at all my birthday parties in middle school," she hilariously revealed. "It. Was. Awkward."
Sara Paxton caught her first major break in 2002, playing Sarah Tobin in Greetings From Tucson - six years after working in the industry! She then made a name for herself in films like Sydney White and The Last House On the Left in 2009. But what we didn't know, was that her mother was of Jewish-Mexican descent.
In fact, the Hollywood beauty has even tried to embrace her Hispanic heritage on-screen. "I've tried!" she exclaimed. "I've gone on auditions and I've been like, 'You know my family's [Latin]… I've spoken a little bit of Spanish,' and they're just like, 'Ha ha ha – that's good!'" A+ for effort, girl.
Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi
Granted, she first became famous for her Italian roots on the reality show Jersey Shore. But what many people don't know is that Nicole Polizzi, also known as 'Snooki,' isn't even Italian at all - she's actually Latina! Yes, really. But don't take our word for it...
She actually came clean in an interview, saying, "They were calling out Guidos and Guidettes…so I went, and I auditioned, and here I am." In reality, Polizzi was adopted from her birthplace of Santiago, Chile, by an Italian-American family living in New Jersey.
Most of us probably didn’t know that Glee Star Lea Michele, too, has Latin roots. But then again, neither did she! On an episode of TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are, the actress and songstress discovered that her Sephardi Jewish father was actually of Spanish heritage, via Turkey and Greece.
Perhaps it was this very discovery that led her to audition for the iconic Latina character, Maria from West Side Story. "I worked so hard on the audition. Literally, I learned Spanish for it," she recalled. Sadly, despite both her heritage and efforts, Michele didn't get the part. Nonetheless, she's still got lots to be proud of!
An iconic pinup girl and actress of the 1940s, Rita Hayworth was once one of America's most famous faces. But that's also why it may come as a shock that she was born Margarita Carmen Cansino! The film studio she worked for wanted to ensure that she was seen as an 'All-American girl,' so her Hispanic roots were kept secret.
Erin Blakemore, a writer for JStor Daily, revealed that Hayworth was the daughter of an Andalusian immigrant. Apparently, she was first scouted while working a nightclub in Mexico. It wasn't long before her ethnicity, name, and even hairline were given a "makeover," as far as studio execs were concerned.
She became a household name from her time playing teen, Rory Gilmore. But the truth is that the Gilmore Girls star is very different from her famous role. In an interview with Latina magazine, Bledel admitted that while most people assume she’s Irish, her mother was actually raised in Mexico while her father is Argentinian.
Safe to say, her Latina identity is incredibly important to her. "It's the only culture my mom knows from life, and my father as well," Bledel confessed. "They made the decision to raise their children within the context they had been raised in." Sure enough, she was raised speaking Spanish and eating delicious Mexican food.
Wilmer Valderrama was born in Miami, Florida, where he began to pursue his acting career before being cast in the hit series That 70s Show. But the actor was originally born in Venezuela. Despite eventually migrating to the US, he credits his work ethic and success to his ancestors - parents, in specific.
He even revealed what his father had instilled in him when they finally settled down in Florida. He said, "Mijo, we came here to work…Your full-time job is to get the education that we didn't have... to learn how to speak English and obtain the tools you need to get to where you want to be." We're sure Wilmer made him very proud.
She's one of the most famous singers in modern history, a "the golden-voiced diva," as Forbes once put it. Sure enough, 200+ million record sales, 5 Grammy Awards, and 1 impressive vocal range later, Mariah Carey's name is known by all. But most don't know that she also happens to be Latina.
In fact, the name "Carey" was completely made up by her grandfather. After moving from Venezuela to New York, he was eager to adopt a more Western-sounding name. While we can't quite picture Mariah Carey going by anything other than, well, that, she would've been known as Mariah Núñez if fate had run its course...
This next celebrity partially owes his career to his Latino roots! That's right. Louis C.K was originally born in Washington DC, but at just one years old, his family returned to Mexico City for roughly 6 years. "Coming here and observing America as an outsider made me an observant person," the comedian later reflected.
Despite Spanish being his first language, Louis eventually lost it after many years of living in the United States. Nonetheless, he still cherishes his Mexican citizenship. "My Abuelita, my grandmother, didn’t speak English. My whole family on my dad’s side is in Mexico," he proudly explained.
Sure, his last name might be a bit of a giveaway. But the truth is that most people are unaware of Frankie Muniz's Latino heritage. The child-star is most famous for starring in Malcolm in the Middle, where he won an Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations while playing his famous character.
As for off-screen? Muniz grew up in New Jersey, before bouncing around from North Carolina to Burbank, California, to the Midwest. His mother was Irish-Italian, and his father was from Puerto Rico. In fact, the half-Latino actor was born with the name Francisco Muniz, eventually shortened to Frankie.
She might have first gotten her start in Sci-Fi roles like Firefly, but she certainly hasn't stayed there. This Hollywood actress has maneuvered her way around several genres, including famed comedy Deadpool and drama Homeland. However, Morena hasn't forgotten where she came from...
"I have this internal cultural struggle where there's a side of me that is very Brazilian that misses the food and culture, and a[n American] side that really loves the structure," Baccarin recalled of her heritage. "I feel that my drive and ambition is more American, while the passionate, laid-back side of me is all Brazilian."
Zoe Saldana first appeared on our screens in 1999, during an episode of Law and Order. Fast forward to today, and she's become one of the biggest names in cinema, playing leads in hits like Avatar, StarTrek, and Guardians of the Galaxy. But she's also become one of the biggest names in Latino-American heritage.
The actress is of mixed ethnicities, being half-Dominican and half-Puerto."There's something really beautiful about being first-generation," she proudly revealed to Glam Belleza Latina. In fact, she plans on raising her kids to be fluent in Spanish just like she is - "even if [they] have to use Rosetta Stone," she joked.
David Blaine is best known as a world-famous street magician, but where did he pick up his fascination with magic tricks? Could it be from his grandmother, who reportedly carried around a deck of tarot cards? Or perhaps his mother, who allegedly gave him his first magic set?
Perhaps it was thanks to his Hispanic heritage. After all, it was Latino culture that birthed magical realism. Whatever the case may be, from being able to hold his breath for 17 minutes straight to other remarkable feats, this half-Puerto Rican, half-Italian celeb is certainly making the Latin world proud.
Ever since packing her bags and heading towards L.A., this New York native has taken Hollywood by storm. Over the years, the child star has risen through the ranks of the industry in shows like Shake It Up and films like Midnight Sun. But there has been one downside.
According to Thorne, many have questioned her ties to Latin heritage, despite her father being Cuban. “People ask me all the time, ‘How did you have a quinceañera if you’re not Latin?’ It’s a little annoying that people don’t realize I’m Latin, but it’s okay because I’m like right up there to tell them that I am.” Love to hear it.
In an article she wrote for PopSugar, Fast & Furious actress Jordana Brewster opened up about the realities of growing up as a Brazilian in America. As a child, she moved from Rio to New York City. And the culture shock that awaited her left a lasting impression.
But despite the cultural differences, she "always considered being Latina one of [her] greatest assets." And she even encourages her children to feel the same. "I'm doing everything I can to infuse my Brazilian culture into them. I'm creating a mini Rio in Los Angeles for my boys," she proudly confessed.
Though he goes by the stage name Kid Cudi, this award-winning rapper also has another alter ego. Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi's alternate persona apparently comes from his Latino heritage, as his father is of both Mexican and Native American ancestry. Yes, really.
While many might not know this, "Juan Pablo" is the name of Cudi's other alter-ego, something that represents a part of his early life. "Juan Pablo is that character that I created. He was raised in a Mexican family, but he's black," the artist explained in an interview with MTV.
They always claim they know her, comin' to her, calling her Stacy - but this Fergalicious beauty has another persona as well. Stacy Ann Ferguson, otherwise known as Fergie, is actually part Latina. Born in Hacienda Heights, California, her great-grandmother hails from Guanajuato, Mexico.
But while she's mostly Irish and Scottish, she loves her Hispanic roots. "I'm very proud to be part Mexican," Fergie told Latina magazine in 2008. "I'm one of a growing number of Hispanics in America, but you wouldn't necessarily know it. This is becoming the norm, and it's the beauty of our melting pot."
She might be Quentin Tarantino's "muse," but the truth is that Uma Thurman is actually so much more than that. The Kill Bill actress has been on the receiving end of endless impressive accolades over the years - from the Academy Awards to the BAFTAS to the Golden Globes!
But the truth is that the former model's life off-screen is just as captivating as it is on-screen: Thurman was born to Nena von Schlebrugge, a model from Mexico City who grew up integrated in Mexican culture. Thurman, contrarily, was born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts, but is proud of her rich culture.
Yes, that's right - the original Wonder Woman is also a Latina! Despite playing an American superhero in the Wonder Woman TV series, Carter is half-Mexican on her mother's side. Though Lynda is unable to speak Spanish fluently, she can understand it very well.
And she has always been very vocal about her roots. "Everyone knew I was half Mexican. I was proud of it. I was Hispanic Woman of the Year!" she proudly told Adelante in 2009. "There was a big celebration. I did a TV special show honoring my Mexican roots from the classical flamingo to the barrio East LA."
This bombshell was known all over the world for her looks and charm, winning beauty pageants across America at a young age. Sure enough, it wasn't long before she was cast in her first film, 1964's A House is Not a Hoe. Just 2 years later, Raquel Welch's success officially skyrocketed. But what about before the fame and fortune?
Welch was born in Chicago, Illinois, to an English mother and Bolivian father. "My father came from a country called Bolivia. He was of Spanish descent," she revealed in a 2010 interview. Her birth name was Jo Raquel Tejada, and her cousin, Lidia Gueiler Tejada, was the first female president of Bolivia!
Bobby Cannavale is best known for playing Italian-American roles, which led him to star in films like The Irishman and TV shows such as Boardwalk Empire. And while he is half-Italian on his dad's side, the actor is also half-Cuban, thanks to his mother!
Mrs. Cannavale was born in Havana but left Cuba in the aftermath of the Cuban revolution, settling in New Jersey. In 2015, Bobby was flown to Cuba by GQ magazine and managed to track down his mother's childhood home! "All the furniture there is the same furniture that my mom had in the '50s," the emotional star revealed.
This funnyman has spent years entertaining us in films like How It Ends and TV shows such as SNL, where he was known for his hilarious impressions. But the truth is that the Big Mouth funny guy also had an equally “quirky” background to match! Keep scrolling.
Armisen's mother was Venezuelan and born in San Fernando de Apure, Venezuela. As for his father? He was half German and half Korean. While that makes the comedian half-Latino, he's fully immersed himself in the culture: "I've always been fascinated by Latin comedy and Latin TV," he explained.
Best known for her role as Ashley Banks - Will Smith's cousin in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - Ashley Banks is widely recognized by most. But we didn't know she also hails from Central America, thanks to her Afro-Panamanian mother and Indo-Trinidadian father.
According to Ali, balancing her African American ancestry with her Latin roots was complex as a child. "I remember friends saying, 'Why is your hair different?" she recalled. "It was so... confusing when you're little." We're glad to see she's since overcome her obstacles to raise awareness for those in similar shoes!