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Camila Mendes, Zoe Saldana and more share how being Latina is their superpower

Latina actors reunited at Netflix and Elle's lunch celebrating Latinas in Hollywood to celebrate their culture and projects.
The actors attend Netflix and Elle's Celebration of Latinas in Hollywood at Ka’teen on Oct. 16, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
The actors attend Netflix and Elle's Celebration of Latinas in Hollywood at Ka’teen on Oct. 16, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. Presley Ann/Getty Images for Netflix
/ Source: TODAY

It was a day of celebrating powerful Latinas in Hollywood. 

Zoe Saldana, Camila Mendes, Victoria Justice and more actors reunited at Ka’teen in Los Angeles as part of Netflix and Elle’s Latinas in Hollywood luncheon on Oct. 16. The celebration lauded the Latinas paving the way for other women to be front and center in unique and non-stereotypical roles. 

The streamer boasted about having cast 15 Latinas in leading parts, from Saldanas’ upcoming series “From Scratch,” Mendes’ film “Do Revenge,” Melissa Fumero’s upcoming comedy “Blockbuster” and Aimee Garcia’s “Christmas with You.”

As new and old friends came together to talk about their projects, they embraced their Latina selves in an industry that oftentimes appears to cancel their shows and projects.

“I am so happy to have these incredibly talented, accomplished women, all of you Latinas here today. I want to congratulate each and every one of you because I know it has taken courage,” Elle editor-in-chief Nina Garcia said during the lunch attended by TODAY. “It has taken to be bold, it has taken to be driven, to work extra hard to get to where you are today.”

Netflix and Elle Celebrate Latinas In Hollywood
Melissa Fumero, Camila Mendes, Zoe Saldana, Lee Rodriguez, Elle Editor-in-Chief Nina García, Victoria Justice, Aimee Garcia, Karla Souza, Génesis Rodríguez and Cristela Alonzo were among the attendees.Presley Ann / Getty Images for Netflix

TODAY spoke with a handful of the invited guests, who shared the moments that made them the powerful Latinas they are today.

Camila Mendes 

"There are several moments in time that have shaped me to become the strong Latina that I am today. I think rejection or any time that I’ve been severely hurt by something in my life or have felt down about not being good enough, I feel like the moments when I conquer that feeling and rise above it, that’s when I feel like my most proud Latina self. I’m like, "Wait, why am I feeling like s---? I’m amazing! Why am I putting myself down? I’m incredible and everyone should be so lucky to have me!" And once I get in that mindset, I’m like, OK, I’m that boss ass b---- Latina self, right now."

Zoe Saldana

"There’s never just one moment, I have to be honest. It’s a compilation of moments and these moments continue to happen. What I remember that made me feel like I am an authentic Latina, and this is beautiful, my grandmother cooking, the stories she shared with me when she was making Pelau and rice and beans and everything. Learning about the folklore of the Caribe, learning about the Dominican Republic, specifically, learning about the pride that we feel, being Dominican American that settled here in the states since 1961, and knowing the history of what got us here. It's our love, it's our poetry, music, it's our people, it’s the way we dance, it's the way we sing. It’s the way we talk. It’s the way we teach and the way we make love...It’s an ongoing thing. There’s never going to be one moment. There’s always going to be a moment as to why I’m reminded that I have no reason to envy anybody else because I love being Latina."

Genesis Rodriguez

"The moment that changed my life, or my whole identity of being Latina was when I did a Disney animated voice but I did it in English and Spanish. I dubbed myself and I was one of the first actors to do that in voice animation. I was like, "What?! I can't believe no other people were doing that before for me." I was really proud of my family to see the movie and hear my voice in Spanish, and then a bunch of kids in the English market to get to know me with my voice. That was a really big moment."

Karla Souza

"I think the second that I came to Los Angeles and I realized the need for our storylines to be told in a much more complex and nuanced way. I loved that there was work to do because that's what I need in a task. So when I see a challenge or a task, I'm going for it. And I saw that there was already such a community of women that embraced me and sort of invited me. We used to do Latinas for lunch at Eva Longoria's house with Gina Rodriguez and America Ferrera, Melissa (Fumero) was there... I realized there was already community and we were trying to figure out how to make us have the storylines that we dreamed of and have those storylines that we weren't getting. So now that we're celebrating and I see this list of all these different nationalities and all these shapes and sizes of Latinas, all types of genres of things action and romance and romantic comedies and listen that we're now a part of everything and I can't wait to see more of it. But I know that it's fruits of our labor. I'm so excited to celebrate it and it's evidence that our work is giving fruit."

Melissa Fumero

"I feel like I was a little late to realizing my Latina-ness was my superpower, probably sometime in college. I think it’s the thing that makes me the most unique but also at the same time bonds me to other Latinos in such a special and unique way. It can be very empowering because you realize there’s things about how you grew up, how you relate to your family, how you relate to other people that is unique to your culture. I think it can give you a lot of confidence."

Netflix and Elle Celebrate Latinas In Hollywood
"Lopez vs Lopez star" Mayan Lopez, "Middle Classy" comedian and creator Cristela Alonzo and "Christmas with You" lead Aimee Garcia pose for a selfie.Presley Ann / Getty Images for Netflix

Cristela Alonzo

"I think it was my entire childhood, I was raised by a single mom. It's that thing where, never tried to do anything but I learned from the best. I learned her traits, I am that, she is me and I am her. So I think that without that, I wouldn't be where I'm at, but also I never think about what I'm doing at the moment. I really just like to do the work and enjoy myself."

Mayan Lopez

"My Latina superpower is (being brave) and my mouth. I am loud, I call attention, I command and also I'm not afraid to call people out, which I think is important. Be brave, be unafraid because Latina is fire!"

Deja Monique Cruz

"(I realized being Latina was my superpower) when I was able to play a girl who's literally ... becoming a woman in a quinceañera (in “Christmas with You”)... I feel like that's really when I realized I had a Latina superpower because I could dance and sing and it really showed on the screen that Latinas have power and it's beautiful."