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Famous Afro-Latinos On What Their Identity Means To Them

"You're not one or the other. You're both. And you should be proud to be both."

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Bruno Mars — singer, half-Puerto Rican

Kevin Winter

“Growing up in Hawaii, there are not too many Puerto Ricans there...so because of my hair, they thought I was black and white,” Bruno told Latina.

"My last name is Hernandez. My father’s name is Pedrito Hernandez, and he’s a Puerto Rican pimp. There’s no denying that."

Gina Torres — actress, Cuban-American

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

"When I became an actress, I quickly realized that 'the world' liked their Latinas to look Italian. Not like me," she said in the Mun2 video Black and Latino. "So I wasn't going up for Latina parts...Regardless of the fact that I spoke the language and understood the culture better, those weren't the parts that I could take seriously. Suddenly I had to explain why I look the way I look."

Dascha Polanco — actress, Dominican

Phillip Faraone

In a radio interview on The Breakfast Club, Dascha said, "I consider myself a black woman. And I think a lot of Dominicans should because from what I see, that's what we are."

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Judy Reyes — actress, Dominican-American

Mark Mainz / Getty Images

In the video Black and Latino, she said, "I would get positive reactions at auditions for both African-American and Latino parts. But I didn't look Latino enough, because of the curly hair, and the freckles, and the nose...It bothered me because what I look like doesn't change that I'm a Latina. And you're telling me that I'm too dark?"

Gina Rodriguez — actress, Puerto Rican

Emma Mcintyre / Getty Images

Gina posted this Instagram post for #MovementMondays: “In this country, there has been an ongoing conversation about encompassing the Latino community in one vision, but that’s impossible because we come in all different shades and sizes, with different traditions, different slang, and different life experiences…If we can highlight what makes our individual Latino culture (Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Chilean etc) special and yet unite as a whole then we can be empowered as a solid and strong community of 55 million plus. Our Latino community includes Afro-Latinos, my amazing father Gino Rodriguez happens to be an Afro-Latino.”

Tatyana Ali — actress, half-Panamanian

Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

In Black and Latino, she said, "When we first moved here, my mom would speak in her native language, Spanish, to other Spanish-speakers, and people just kinda looking at her funny. Like, 'Why is that coming out of your mouth?'"

Lauren Vélez — actress, Puerto Rican

Chelsea Lauren / Getty Images

In an interview with Huffington Post, she said, "...When I was first auditioning as an Afro-Caribbean woman, I couldn’t get an audition as a Latina. People didn’t know what that was, they just said, ‘Well our vision of a Latina looks more Mexican, or Central American, or Spanish.’"

Sabi — singer, dancer, songwriter, actress, half-Salvadoran

Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images

"Growing up, I felt like I had to pick a side. Either I was black or I was Latina. But I didn't fit with the full Latinos or Blacks," she said in Black and Latino.

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Laz Alonso — actor, Cuban-American

David Becker

"You're not one or the other," He told NBC Universo. "You're both. And you should be proud of being both. And not be embarrassed or ashamed of it. There's nothing to be ashamed of."

Soledad O'Brien — journalist, half-Cuban

Thos Robinson

In the CNN documentary Black in America, she said, "I’m black. I’m Latina. My mom is Cuban. Afro-Cuban. My dad is white and Australian. And I think because of my job, often a question like 'How do you identify?' is really not about the question. It’s always 'What side are you on?' 'What perspective do you bring?'"

Christina Milian — actress/singer, Cuban-American

Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty Images

Christina told Huffington Post, "We’re all different, but you have to accept our differences. As far as Afro-Cuban [goes], I’m finding more and more that there’s people opening their eyes to seeing that. Latinos come in all colors, all shades.... You should see my mom and her brothers and sisters. Same parents, but we just vary in color, shapes and sizes. But we’re still Latinos — that doesn’t change a damn thing. You can tell it’s in the core of our blood.”

Selenis Leyva — actress, Cuban-born American

Jamie Mccarthy

At the P&G Orgullosa’s Nueva Latinas Living Fabulosa Forum, Selenis said, "Did I ever feel like I didn’t want to be Afro-Latina? Absolutely not. I had an amazing abuela — may she rest in peace — who was Jamaican-Cuban, and she was the most beautiful Afro-Caribbean. My daughter, she’s white [laughs]. She’s Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican, and she looks white. But that’s okay! We come in so many wonderful shades and body types."

La La Vazquez — actress, Puerto Rican

Chris Weeks

“The character can be Puerto Rican and speak Spanish just like me," La La wrote in an essay for Latina. "But Hollywood defines Latina as Jennifer Lopez and Sofia Vergara. As beautiful as they are, we’re not all one race in Latin America. But I don’t go to auditions so that I can give history lessons to film executives.”

Carmelo Anthony — basketball player, half-Puerto Rican

Christian Petersen / Getty Images

“A lot of people are surprised when they hear about it or when they see my tattoo (a Puerto Rican flag),” Melo said to NY Daily News. "But it’s good to know that people are recognizing that side of me — that side of my heritage."

Junot Díaz — writer, Dominican

Ricardo Hernandez / AFP / Getty Images

"The funniest thing about being a Latino is that no one actually gets your national origin correct," Junot told NPR. "Being Latino guaranteed that I was going to be Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican. Whoever you hated, I was at that time...And the fact that my family's of African descent, I mean, I'm what they would call mulatto back on the island. But I had siblings who were phenotypically black. So you hated black people, we fit into that little category, too. You know, that's what happens when you come from a place like Santo Domingo."

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