Hollywood veteran Edward James Olmos once offered a piece of sage advice to Eva Longoria in the 1990s when she was an extra on the set of “Selena” in her hometown of Corpus Christie, Texas. “Move to LA,” he told the young actress.
More 20 years later, Olmos presented Longoria’s feature directorial debut “Flamin’ Hot” with the award for Best Feature Film at the 38th annual Imagen Awards, which celebrate the wide ranging talents of Hollywood’s Latino community.
At Los Angeles’ historic Biltmore Hotel on Dec. 3, “Flamin’ Hot” swept the final three awards of the ceremony as Jesse García won best actor – feature film and Longoria won best director – feature film. During her acceptance speech, Longoria acknowledged how Olmos and others present in the audience, including George Lopez, helped to shape her career.
“Flamin’ Hot” tells the true story of Richard Montañez, the Mexican American Frito Lay janitor who came up with the idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Speaking with Variety on the red carpet, Longoria explained how the story of Montañez inspired her to step into the director’s chair.
“I felt like I am Richard. I’ve been told ‘no.’ I’ve been told, ‘Maybe that job is not for you.’ And he really defied all odds and defied expectations of himself and his community,” she said. “I became obsessed with telling the story and I felt like I had the opportunity to create a hero for us. We never get to see ourselves on screen, much less in a positive way. And so to me, that was important to take on that job.”
In her speech, Longoria also brought up her CNN docuseries “Searching for Mexico” and the significance of focusing on that particular country even when she was asked if she “would do a different show.” She remained dedicated to exploring Mexico, and connected this anecdote to the importance of positive representation.
“I said, the same people who go ‘Taco Tuesday!’ are the same people screaming ‘Build that wall, build that wall!’ So we have to show them the beauty of who we are, the beauty of this country, the beauty of the Latino community,” she said. “So our imagen matters because it teaches other communities who we are, but most importantly, teaches our community who we are.”
In addition to “Flamin Hot,” other titles that took home multiple awards include DreamWorks’ “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” and the Apple TV+ comedy series “Acapulco.”
Also present at the event was “9-1-1: Lone Star” nominee and “Suits” alum Gina Torres, arriving with her daughter and co-presenter Delilah Fishburne. Gina Rodriguez, nominated for her comedy series “Not Dead Yet,” was eager to give out hugs as she joyfully reunited with friends on the red carpet.
Speaking with Variety, Rodriguez reflected on her nomination and how meaningful this event is to her.
“Imagen is the one that kind of started my entire journey by supporting me in ‘Jane the Virgin,’ so to be back with my second television show is an honor. It’s kind of surreal and it’s always a blessing to be surrounded by my community, to see us uplifting one another and supporting one another. It’s always been my happy place.”