Ten Self-Made Latinas You Should Know About

Daniela Vega Self-Made Latinas BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of WMagazine.

It is the turn of a new year, a time when most people start diets or new lifestyles. But welcoming 2021 is different than usual. From witnessing the assault on the U.S. Capitol building to experiencing a deadly pandemic, 2021 has not started particularly chipper, and the last thing you may want to do is organize a planner or make financial plans.

Self-care is essential, and if you feel like there is not an ounce of encouragement in you to focus on establishing goals, then be sure you’re not the only one, and this definitely warrants a day (or many!) of Netflix, at-home spa treatments, or talking with friends via FaceTime.  

Once you are ready to sit down and work on that meal plan or your career goals and need some motivation, take a look at the following Latinas who have slayed the game!

Elizabeth Acevedo BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of The Boston Globe.

Elizabeth Acevedo

Acevedo is an Afro-Dominican, award-winning poet and performer. She is the author of The Poet X, With the Fire on High, and Clap When You Land.

As the proud daughter of Dominican immigrants, her experiences and hard work have led her to a successful and meaningful career. She especially feels fortunate to be able to draw from her identities as a Black woman, a person who grew up in a low-income household, and a “minority of a minority of a minority.”

Acevedo is a teacher who did not see herself (or her students) represented in literature and took matters into her own hands.

Sonia Sotomayor BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Sonia Sotomayor 

If you don’t know much about Judge Sotomayor, this is the perfect time to learn about her background. Her ambition will inspire you beyond belief.

Sonia Sotomayor is a Nuyorican who grew up in the Bronxdale Houses housing project. In her memoir, My Beloved World, Judge Sotomayor talks about many challenging moments throughout her life: witnessing her father’s alcoholism as a young child, being diagnosed with diabetes at age seven, mourning her father’s death at age nine, and much more.

Through it all, she persevered. Judge Sotomayor is an example to follow. She has “clawed her way to success through self-reliance, discipline, and the help of mentors and friends,” as described by NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg.

Julissa Calderón BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of People en Español.

Julissa Calderon

“Remain faithful. Sometimes that’s all we have, but it’s always all we need,” said Calderon in a video that walks you through her journey to becoming a full-time actress.

Born to a Dominican family in New York, Calderon was raised in Miami and later moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career. Once in L.A., she found herself working as a waitress for some time. That was, of course, until she was hired as a Pero Like producer.

Calderon now plays Yessika Flores in the Netflix series Gentefied, a queer, Afro-Dominican activist. Her story is one of hope, resilience, and courage.

Cristina Jiménez Moreta BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of the Washingtonian.

Cristina Jiménez Moreta

Jiménez has been fighting for immigrants’ rights and advocating for immigration reform for over ten years. She entered the United States as an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador in her teenage years and has since transcended various educational and financial barriers.

In 2008, she co-founded United We Dream. In 2017, she was named a MacArthur Fellow and won the Freedom From Fear Award. And in 2018, she was included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

But her honors and awards are not what make her special. Jiménez’s career is inspiring because of her commitment to lifting others up with her along the way. She is determined to elevate the voices of the most marginalized and ease the journey of future generations of immigrants in the U.S.

Tessa Thompson BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Styllist.co.uk

Tessa Thompson 

Thompson was born to an Afro-Panamanian father and a mother of European and Mexican descent. She is an actress who has appeared in Mississippi Damned, For Colored Girls, Dear White People, Selma, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Endgame, and more.

As the granddaughter of an Afro-Panamanian immigrant whose full identity was often erased, she is an advocate for nuanced representations of Afro-Latinas in Hollywood.

My grandmother died when I was sixteen, and she had Alzheimer’s. I didn’t get to speak to her about what her experience was – of being inside her skin, and then leaving her home, and then being in America, and then having to also deal with race here. Those stories are beautiful and interesting. They are the kind of stories I would love to see more of,” she told Remezcla.


Daniela Vega BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of The Guardian.

Daniela Vega 

This Chilean trans actress’s leap to fame took place in 2017, after her acclaimed performance in the Academy Award-winning film A Fantastic Woman. In 2018, Vega became the first trans person to present an Oscars award and was named one of the world’s most influential people.

As a young girl in an all-boy school, Vega was bullied by her classmates. She began her transition at age 17 and faced the backlash of a conservative society. “At that time, trans people had no chances: I couldn’t go to university; I couldn’t sing; I couldn’t do anything,” she shared with TimeOut.

Vega suffered from depression due to the discrimination she had to endure, and it was the possibility of an art career that saved her life. Her story of success is now saving the lives of many other transgender youths.

Julissa Reynoso BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of mmlafleur.com

Julissa Reynoso

Reynoso is a Dominican-American attorney and diplomat. She served as the United States ambassador to Uruguay from 2012 to 2014 and was recently named chief of staff to Jill Biden.

She was born in a rural village in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to the South Bronx, New York City, in 1982. She has discussed how, in South Bronx, “[she] walked the streets for pleasure and insight, attended catholic schools where [she] learned of the English language, met and dismissed the ‘American dream,’ and witnessed and experienced the devastation of poverty.”

Reynoso is part of several Latina staffers in Biden’s White House who will not only fuel your ambitions year-long but also for the next four years.


María Lorena Ramírez BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Vogue Mexico.

María Lorena Ramírez

She is a 25-year-old, long-distance runner from Mexico’s Rarámuri indigenous community.Ramírez grew up in a poor family of nine children and built her endurance crisscrossing through her home landscape,” as reported by Eugenia Coppel. 

Ramírez first made international news in 2017 for winning Puebla, Mexico’s 50k Ultra Trail Cerro Rojo race in huaraches and traditional Rarámuri clothing. She completed the race in seven hours and three minutes and defeated 500 competitors from 12 different countries.

Ramírez is a force to be reckoned with who continued to run both nationally and internationally. She was also featured in Vogue Mexico and starred in a 2019 Netflix documentary called Lorena, Light-Footed Woman.

Jupiter Velvet BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Twitter.


Jupiter Velvet

Jupiter Velvet is a trans, femme, queer Latina, and a Miami-based drag artist. She is one of six Miami icons featured in Karli Evans and Cassandra Keith’s film Emergence.

As she continues her medical transition, she has voiced that it has become harder to find the motivation to do drag, “especially when drag women doing drag [are] so often discredited and mocked.” 

However, she is part of a long history of trans, drag performers. Jupiter Velvet is a character she created and “a way for [her] to live out the female teen adolescence [she] wasn’t allowed to.” She defies all societal expectations and inspires young trans, drag artists around the world.


Carmen Cabana BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Justina’s Corner.

Carmen Cabana

This Afro-Latina cinematographer and filmmaker has an excellent eye for storytelling.

Cabana is the genius behind the camera of season one and two of Tanya Saracho’s Vida. Her work also includes Hulu’s High Fidelity, season two of Netflix’s Narcos, Amazon’s pilot Los Angeles, HBO Access pilot Sterling, and over 20 indie feature films.

Regardless of the type of project, she is always able to beautifully capture emotion through the lens of the camera and the use of color. You don’t want to miss what she will do next!