Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine


Latin Hollywood Lights Up Washington Life’s Red Carpet

Washington Life was proud to serve as the exclusive magazine media sponsor for this year’s starstudded National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) “Noche de Gala” festivities, which brought together an unprecedented A-list cast of stars, politicians and businessleaders for two celebratory evenings.


Columbian Ambassador Luis Alberto Moreno and his wife Gabriela kicked off the festivities on September 12 with an elegant VIP dinner at their residence with actress Merel Julia, wife of the late Raul Julia; United States Treasurer Anna Cabral and her husband Victor Cabral, senior counsel for NBC/Telemundo; NBC Universal President Jay Ireland; Raquel Equsquiza of gala dinner underwriter Ford Motor Co. and sponsors Michele Jordan of Pepsico, Janet Howard of Coca-Cola, Orlando Padilla of GM, and NHFA Board Member Gloria Rodriquez.


Alex wallau and Eva Longoria

The scene the following night at the gala dinner heated up the minute Eva Longoria entered the Mayflower’s ballroom in a lowcut, black backless BCBG number! Washington attorney Felix Sanchez and fellow co-founder of NHFA and West Wing star Jimmy Smits joined the beautiful and brainy actress along with Sen. Barack Obama on the red carpet before retreating to a private room for an exclusive interview and photo shoot with Washington Life. The trio were joined by Hollywood and Washington VIPs including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Representatives Loretta Sanchez, Linda Sanchez, and John Conyors, Guatemalan Ambassador Jose Castillo, “House of Sand and Fog” starlet Shohreh Aghdashloo, PBS President Pat Mitchell, surprise guest Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaragosa and Elizabeth Vargas, who rushed from her anchor chair at ABC’s “World News Tonight” in a silver beaded top and black velvet pants (both Armani) to accept the Raul Julia Award for “the person who most advances the presence of Latinos on TV or Film.” Then Grammy award winning Cubana Albita revved up the crowd for the spicy after-party….


After dinner, Smits led his entourage to the NHFA, Washington Life and Ozio sponsored post-gala fiesta where the stars showed off their sizzling salsa moves. Bolivian Ambassador Jaime Aparicio and wife Pamela, White House staffers Daniel Garza and Christian Woelk, Rep. Michael Honda, Washington Times social editor Kevin Chaffee, and a host of other VIPs sipped Patron and festive cocktails as the Latin beats and actors Kurt Caceres, Yvonne De La Rosa and Carlos Bernard beckoned everyone to the dance floor for “La Gran Desvelada.”

Edilia Gutierrez, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez & son Carlos JR. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, Merel Julia, Amb. Luis Moreno and Gabriela Moreno


Hollywood on the Potomac By Janet Donovan

Latin American parties are like one giant piñata: diverse, colorful and full of surprises. It’s no wonder then that the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts Ninth Annual Noche de Gala at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel was just that.

You’d have to have been somewhere else that night not to notice how NYPD Blues icon Jimmy Smits owned the night. The oft-reserved Brooklyn- born hunk was in his element, a reflection no doubt of his early childhood years spent in his mother’s home in Puerto Rico and his father’s native Surinam. Smits had just returned from hurricaine reconaissance in New Orleans with fellow entertainers Gloria Estafan, Andy Garcia and members of Miami Sound Machine.

Houshang Touzie , Shohreh Aghdashloo and Alberto Gonzales Pamela Aparicio and Rima Al-sabah Elizabeth Vargas

The ever-affable Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, (D-Tex) voiced pride in his state’s humanitarian accomplishments in housing a staggering 13,000 New Orleans evacuees. “I do not believe it was a political move on the part of the administration,” said Gonzalez, “but rather the geographical proximity of Texas and the fact that the state was equipped to deal with the problem.” Among the philanthropic endeavors recognized that night were those of the indomitable Esther Coopersmith, Pepsico and Ford Motor Co. The Foundation is the initiative of actors Jimmy Smits, Sonia Braga and Esai Morales, and Washington attorney Felix Sanchez.

Multi-talented Brazilian beauty Sonia Braga, who rose to stardom with her performance in Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, was unable to attend: Too bad, it was a missed opportunity to ask how she really felt about her love scene with “Samantha” in HBO’s Sex and the City.

Gene Sperling, Allison Abner with Son Miles Jimmy Smits, Eva Longoria, pat mitchell and Sen. Barack Obama Ashley Taylor, Hadley Gamble and Charlotte Grassi

Eva Longoria sure didn’t look like a “Desperate Housewife,” at least not in the traditional definition. She was recently named one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful,” but a hot tamale would be a better reference call. The former John Kerry-John Edwards campaign volunteer secured an exclusive international contract as the newest face of L’Oreal (worth about $6 million).

Longoria said she was most grateful for the enduring support of ABC’s Alex Wallau. “He is an executive who really puts his money where his mouth is,” she said, crediting him single-handedly for her stardom. and involvment with NHFA. She was also grateful that he sent the Disney private plane to take them all to Washington. “We’re like: “free food?” she told the laughing crowd.

Steven and Stephanie Christacos Felix and Diane Sanchez and Bolivian Amb. Jaime Aparicio and Pamela Aparicio

“I get so nervous being myself. I’m so used to playing someone else.” she said nervously after receiving a foundation award. Having started her career on The Young and The Restless, the first soap opera contract ever for a Latina, she soon breezed into subsequent roles and is now recognized everywhere. As he did at the Democratic Convention, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) delivered a show stopping speech. “The only problem I have tonight is trying to explain meeting Jimmy Smits to my wife when she is not here with me. She thinks he’s pretty hot,” he said before going on to praise the arts as “as a necessity, not a luxury.” Referring to how role models have changed, Obama interjected some humor by mentioning that while growing up, the only role model he had on TV was Flip Wilson. “Perhaps he was not the best model,” he told the chuckling crowd, “considering he was often dressed in drag.”

John Sedea, Paulo Benedetti, Yvonne Delarosa and Benito Martinez Jimmy Smits and Alissa Markert


“A.G.,” Smits pointed out, not only stands for Attorney General, but Alberto Gonzales, who assured guests that his first priority was his current appointment and that he was not in fact consumed by the possibility of a Supreme Court nomination once the Roberts hearings are over. Felix Sanchez, the driving force behind the NFHA and a former legislative assistant to Sen. Lloyd Bensten, exulted in the fact that Longoria has now opened the door for no less than six other Latinas on TV, and that NHFA has awarded more than $500,000 in scholarships to Latino students interested in careers in entertainment.

Daniel Garza, Christian Woelk Eva Longoria
Nashali Gigi Soto, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Rep. Michael Honda



Who are your favorite fashion designers?

    I love Carolina Herrera because she’s fabulous.
    When I look at Prada, I love it, but for the most part I wear Hugo Boss, as the cuts are bigger.
    Oscar De La Renta

Why did you get involved with the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA)?

    It goes back to my childhood. My parents instilled the notion of giving back. They did it through the church. They ingrained that in me. Nine years before we started the organization, Sonia Braga, Esai Morales, Felix Sanchez and I were talking about the fact that there was a lack of positive Latino images on screen. We wanted to change that.
    The commitment to diversity at PBS is really powerful. When I first came to town, I met with Felix and others to help PBS think about what we should do in terms of Spanish programming. Right away, we became the first broadcast network to launch a Latina drama series in prime time, and in many ways Felix and this group helped us put that together. The skeptics said we can’t put that on air, there won’t be an audience, but it was a hit. It’s really hard to imagine this was only 5 years ago given the recent success of “Mya and Miguel” on PBS as well as the success of actors such as Eva Longoria, Jimmy Smits and George Lopez amongst others.
    I have a great interest in the arts and believe artists cultivate the kind of empathy necessary to make a diverse country like ours work. This applies not only to the African-American community of which I am a part, but also to the Latino community. NHFA is a wonderful organization that promotes diversity in the arts and I’m happy to be supportive.
    I’m interested in any organization that promotes [positive] role models and I think there will be more Hispanics in the media and the news, in front of the camera and behind the camera. It allows our kids in the community to see role models and I think that’s very important.

What is the funniest situation you’ve encountered related to your profession or heritage?

    I was the first contracted Latina on The Young & The Restless. I played a beauty queen and they would always make me say things in Spanish, things that never made sense such as, “I made you enchiladas for breakfast….” But we don’t really make enchiladas for breakfast so I asked the producer to change that line. And then the producer said, “Well, what do you guys eat? And I said, “uh…, eggs and bacon!”
    You can hear my voice, so I obviously have no accent. I think the funniest thing is when I’m cast so obviously as a Latina, I go into a role and have to use an accent about 99 percent of the time. The funniest moment is the reaction on the set with the cast and the crew when we wrap and I speak with my regular voice. Everyone does a double take.
    Well I don’t know how funny it is, but I have a great story relating to my career: I was auditioning for gang member role and the first day the director looked at me and said, “Congratulations for doing this, I wanted to hire an authentic gang member who grew up around that. You’ll bring out the authenticity. What he didn’t know was that I grew up in Napa Valley in a predominately white area and was never really exposed to a gang population. I looked in his eyes, he was so sincere, if ignorant. So I just laughed to myself and thought it was so ironic.


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