Feliz Cinco de Mayo, readers! You may think today marks Mexico’s Independence Day, but the real reason behind the celebration sounds like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster. On May 5, 1862, outnumbered Mexican forces triumphed over the French at the Battle of Puebla. In honor of the holiday, here are career-related words of wisdom from six celebrities who identify as Mexican.
1. Salma Hayek
Born and raised in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, Hayek is something of a Renaissance woman. A renowned actress (she scored an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Frida Kahlo in the eponymous 2002 film), she’s also crafted a hair and makeup line based on Mexican ingredients, and co-founded Chime for Change, an organization that aims to help women and girls all over the world. She’s also unstoppable when it comes to making big things happen work-wise. “I cannot find a distribution [company] in London. I can’t find distribution in many places,” she said of The Prophet, an animated movie she produced and did voice work in. “They think it’s too sophisticated for children. They say it’s too childish for adults. I’ll prove them wrong. Watch me. I’ll show it for free to every school. This is a labor of love. I’ll find a way.” A few days before that interview went to press, the news broke that distributor GKIDS had bought the North American rights to the movie. Take a cue from Hayek and bring that kind of perseverance to your passion for major results.
2. Lupita Nyong’o
It’s safe to say our crush on Oscar-winner Nyong’o isn’t going anywhere. Although her family is Kenyan, she was born in Mexico City and is openly proud of her Mexican-Kenyan roots. When it comes to her work life, the 12 Years a Slave actress has had to clear some self-doubt hurdles on her way to the top. “Every time I overcome an obstacle, it feels like success. Sometimes the biggest ones are in our head—the saboteurs that tell us we can’t,” she says in Glamour. “I’ve always had that going on: ‘I can’t,’ and then I do, so the voice says, ‘Well, that was an exception!’ It’s a tug-of-war between two voices: the one who knows she can and the one who’s scared she can’t.” When you’re dealing with your own I-can’t demons, follow Nyongo’s advice: “I say, ‘Sit down—I’ll get to you in a second, but let me do this first.’ The more challenging life gets, the louder that voice becomes—but then I have to be friendly to it, be gentle with myself,” she explains.
3. Selena Gomez
She’s admitted her Spanish needs some work, but that doesn’t detract from her Mexican roots. The former Disney star has grown into her new role as an actress and musician hybrid, and she’s learned a few things along the way. “One of my best friends always told me, ‘If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room,’” she says in Us Weekly. She uses that thought process to push herself and take on new challenges, expanding her horizons along the way. “I want to be the person who earns it. I’ve auditioned for every movie I’ve been a part of, and I’ve wanted to genuinely feel like I earned it,” she says.
4. Eva Longoria
Not only did Longoria do us a great service by portraying Desperate Housewives’ hilariously selfish yet touching Gabrielle Solis, she’s also an awesome advocate for Latino people everywhere when she’s not on set. As a producer on Devious Maids, she’s made it her mission to show that Latina women don’t fit into any one stereotype; they’re just as varied and complex as anyone else. Women everywhere can learn something from Longoria’s drive for visibility. “We have to create our own opportunities. It’s no secret that roles for women are few. As a producer and a director and a writer, you’re able to create your own destiny at some point in your career. I’d like to see more women behind the camera,” she says.
5. Jessica Alba
She went from appearing in movies to being a successful entrepreneur who tried to revolutionize how parents take care of their children. Alba appeared on an episode of PBS’s Finding Your Roots, in which she explored her Mexican ancestry. And if you want to follow in her footsteps of being an uber-successful entrepreneur, listen closely: “You have to be tenacious, you have to be focused, you have to have a real vision, and be extremely passionate about it. Be smart about the way you are going to go into a marketplace and how you market yourself to the consumer you are going after,” she says in Elle. And finally, she recommends that you follow your gut. “ No matter what kind of degree you have, if you don’t have common sense there is only so far you can go,” she explains. “Especially being an entrepreneur and having a new business, you have to think on your toes and anticipate problems and be able to adjust and adapt to situations.”
6. Sara Ramirez
OK, Grey’s Anatomy fans. We’re about to take you back. Remember when Sara Ramirez, who plays bone-cracking orthopedic surgeon Callie Torres, showcased her pipes in season seven’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy: The Music Event? In trying to juggle a small-screen career with her love for belting out tunes, she’s had her share of disappointing moments. The point is that instead of taking it personally, she used that critique to bounce back. “Sometimes we are lucky enough to get feedback telling us exactly what we need to work on. Work on it, get better, and get more prepared,” she says. “If nobody is telling you why you didn’t get the part or the job, then you have the option to frame it like this: ‘It wasn’t for me.’”
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