Growing up, TV and movies are some of the first opportunities we have to learn about ourselves. Through consuming specific rehearsed scenarios, we are given the opportunity to learn what our interests are and the persona we want to assume. But as a young individual, it can be really detrimental to watch the latest hit series or movie release only to fail to see ourselves reflected in those narratives.
Representation in the entertainment industry matters because there are millions of young, malleable people out there looking to pop culture to find a piece of themselves. Yet, we are still seeing many different backgrounds being underrepresented in that realm. Though in 2022, we are finally beginning to see that door opening for new, fresh talent from all different backgrounds, whether in music, television or on the big screen.
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we wanted to showcase some of the most impactful burgeoning names of the moment. Not only do all of these up-and-coming ones-to-watch share their cultural backgrounds, but they also are all members of Gen Z. Take a look at how these young stars are changing the scene for the better.
Rachel Zegler comes from an American father and a Colombian mother and is not afraid to fervently champion her heritage. The actress and passionate musician broke barriers when she was cast among 30,000 auditioning individuals to play Maria in the iconic tale of West Side Story. When the movie was originally adapted from the Broadway hit play in 1961, a caucasian actress was cast to play the Puerto Rican Maria, erasing any sentiment of cultural celebration or representation for that character. Rachel Zegler stunned fans with an emotional performance that not only put her on the map — but finally showed that people just like her are worthy of assuming the spotlight. Keep your eyes peeled for her portrayal of the titular character in the upcoming Snow White.
Jenna Ortega has worked in the industry for years, starting young on Disney Channel’s Stuck in the Middle. But it is about time she’s become a household name, what with her impressive acting range and working toward equal representation within the film and television industries. The Mexican-American and Puerto Rican figure uses her platform to shine a spotlight on the explicit inequalities that non-white actors face in their day-to-day, but nonetheless, she is never afraid to rise to the challenge. The Gen Z actress starred in A24’s gritty horror movie, X, and is set to play Wednesday Addams in the upcoming Netflix series, Wednesday, premiering November 23.
Zion Moreno is the modern-day tv ‘it-girl’ we never knew we needed. She is a Mexican-American actress and model, most popularly known for her role in the highly-anticipated reboot of Gossip Girl. Zion’s character is a part of the upper echelon of an Upper East Side private school, and she navigates the character with ease. But perhaps even more impressive than her acting chops is her fearless sense of self-assuredness, as Moreno also proudly identifies as a transgender woman. Her boldness persists no matter the situation and she is surely an inspiration to all.
Colombian singer, songwriter, and actress Juliana Velásquez cemented her status as a musical force to be reckoned with when she won Best New Artist at the Latin Grammy Awards in 2021, at only 23 years old. She gained this recognition as a result of her sophomore album DOS DOS DOS, which is infused with indie sounds and intimate, emotional lyrics about mental health, love, and heartbreak. Keeping up with the momentum, she stars in an original on Brazilian Disney+, set to release soon, while also working on new original music.
Although Brandon Perea is on the cusp of Gen Z, we’ll let it slide because he is surely a star of the moment. The Filipino and Puerto Rican multi-talented creative began his career in the entertainment industry as a model, athlete, and skater, before taking a leap of faith to pursue his dream of acting. His breakout role in Jordan Peele’s buzzy film, NOPE, definitely set the tone for a fruitful career, as he provided comedic relief throughout the film and his charismatic energy is truly infectious.
Michael Cimino may be a young star in the industry, as he was born in 1999, but he has a long list of accolades to prove his status as a rising force to be reckoned with. The 23-year-old is of Puerto Rican descent, and he was raised by his mother and father in Las Vegas. As he grew older, he fostered a passion for singing and acting and had the chance to prove his skills through a series of short films and additional projects. As of late, he has starred in the 2020 Hulu series Love, Victor — an important story of identity — and this is surely not the last we’ll be seeing of him.
Hailing from Buenos Aires, Tiago PZK may not be a veteran in the music scene, but he has reached many milestones proving that he is sure to sustain a long-lasting career. When he was 20 years old the dynamic entertainer made his acting debut in the film Cato, before moving into the music space and landing three songs on the Billboard Global 200 list. He marries a smooth, soulful sound with energetic dance beats, which have already earned him a following of over five million — so if you weren’t already familiar with Tiago PZK, it was only a matter of time.