Harmony Santana Receives Gotham Award Nomination…

She’s received critical acclaim for her feature-film acting debut in “Gun Hill Road”… And, now Harmony Santana could be reaping the rewards too.

The 20-something transgender actress has received a Gotham Award “Breakthrough Actor” nomination for her spectacular performance in the coming out drama.

The film, which co-stars Esai Morales and Judy Reyes, centers around Vanessa (born as Michael), a shy male teenager trying to live openly as a girl while dealing with a disapproving ex-con father and supportive mother.

The half-Puerto Rican, half-Dominican actresses’ only previous acting experience was playing a Boy George look-alike in a high school production of the musical “The Wedding Singer.” But that didn’t stop the film’s director, Rashaad Ernesto Green, from selecting Santana for the hard-to-cast role.

“I looked at attractive gay males who might have had experience with drag to see if they might be able to portray the character,” recalled Green in a recent interview with The New York Times, who was seeking an actor who looked 16, could play a transgender character without what he called ‘significant female development’ and could convincingly convey a Hispanic background. “But they didn’t have the essence I was looking for. There’s a difference between someone who’s pretending to be female and someone who actually believes they are.”

But Green’s luck changed when he discovered Santana at the Queens gay pride parade.

“She said she was at the beginning of her transition, which was like, ‘Bingo,’” says Green.

Santana, who has only been living full-time as a woman since last year, was able to tap into her own experience of growing up in New York as a transgender teenager for the role.

“At one time I hated my father so much because he would always fight with my mother about me,” remembers Santana. “I would hear them through the cracks in the door that I shouldn’t be playing with my little sisters and doing girl things.”

“Gun Hill Road” premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in January and has been featured prominently on the gay film-festival circuit before opening commercially in New York City in August.

The Gotham Awards, which honor films produced outside the major studio system, will be handed out in New York on November 28.

Tatyana Ali Receives BET’s Black Girls Rock Award…

She made her triumphant return to television in TV One’s first original scripted series, “Love That Girl”… And, now Tatyana Ali is getting a little love of her own…

The part-Panamanian actress/singer, who rose to fame in the 1990s on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” received the “Young, Gifted & Black Award” at BET’s 6th Annual Black Girls Rock Awards, which celebrate the talents, lives and strength of Black women.

The 32-year-old Harvard graduate and self-proclaimed “education activist” told The Huffington Post, “I was so touched, because when I was little, there wasn’t anything like what Beverly Bond and BET is doing, there wasn’t anything like ‘Black Girls Rock.'”

Ali added, “To find those positive images that look like you do and maybe share the same experiences and the same struggles, you really have to search. My confidence and my self-esteem when I was younger would have been so changed by something like this. I’m just really happy to be on the other side of that so I can provide for younger girls what I didn’t have.”

Hosted by Tracee Ellis Ross and Regina King, the awards show was held at New York City’s famed Paradise Theater on Saturday night. The A-list event was highlighted with stellar performances by Mary J. Blige, Melanie Fiona, Estelle, Mary Mary, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu.

Other honorees included: Academy Award-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson, political activist and scholar Angela Davis, WNBA President Laurel J. Richie and The Rebecca Project for Human Rights co-founders Imani Walker and Malika Saada Saar.

Meanwhile, Ali, who released her first album, “Kiss The Sky” in 1999 says she’s “hopeful” that a musical project will come to fruition.

Lopez & Pitbull Both Receive ARIA Award Nomination…

They may have teamed up on this summer’s inescapable hit, “On The Floor”… But Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull now find themselves facing off against each other.

J.Lo and Mr. 305 have been nominated for an ARIA Award in the Most Popular International Artist category.

But the 42-year-old Puerto Rican-American pop superstar and 30-year-old Cuban-American rapper face some tough competition in a category where public voting decides the winner. They’re up against several international superstars, including British songstress Adele, Lady Gaga and Rihanna.

The ARIA (Australian Record Industry Association) is the Australian version of the Grammys.

The 2011 ARIA Awards will take place in Sydney on Sunday, November 27, 2011.

Meanwhile Lopez and Pitbull will face off against each other in the Favorite Artist in the Latin Music category at next month’s American Music Awards.

Mars & Pitbull Lead the Latino Pack of AMA Nominees

Doo-wop singer Bruno Mars and rap superstar Pitbull are leaders of the pack when it comes to this year’s American Music Awards… They’re the Latino artists with the most AMA nominations.

During a special ceremony in Los Angeles today hosted by Pitbull and Nicki Minaj, it was revealed that Mars and Pitbull received two nominations each.

The 26-year-old part-Puerto Rican singer/songwriter is up for Favorite Male Artist in the Pop/Rock Music category and Favorite Artist in the Adult Contemporary Music category.

The 30-year-old rapper/producer songwriter is up for Favorite Male Artist in the Pop/Rock Music category and Favorite Artist in the Latin Music category.

Other Latino nominees include: Enrique Iglesias in the Favorite Artist in the Latin Music category, Jennifer Lopez in the Favorite Artist in the Latin Music category and Miguel in the New Artist of the Year category.

British singer/songwriter Adele led all artists with four nominations, including Artist of the Year.

The 39th Annual American Music Awards will be broadcast live on ABC from Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre on November 20. Pitbull and Katy Perry have been confirmed as performers. Winners will be determined by online voting. See the full list of nominees and vote for your favorites by clicking here.


Michele & Longoria Recognized For Their “Impact”

Sweet charity! Mexican American actress Eva Longoria and part-Spanish actor and singer Lea Michele are being recognized as a Lifetime Impact Honorees for their noble philanthropic work at Variety’s Power of Women luncheon in Beverly Hills.

Each year, the industry magazine recognizes women in entertainment who pour themselves into causes greater than themselves to make a difference in the world around them. During the luncheon, 400 Hollywood insiders, A-list talent and special guests come together to celebrate, support and pay tribute to the philanthropic efforts of honorees. The goal: to inspire and encourage women from all walks of life to get involved, give back and make a difference.

“The Desperate Housewives” star is being recognized for her own non-profit organization, Eva’s Heroes, which aims to help special needs teenagers and young adults with special needs to integrate and flourish in society. Based in San Antonio, Texas, Eva’s Heroes provides after-school and summer programs, as well as monthly activities that help cultivate an inclusive atmosphere based on four tenets: interaction, growth, learning and love.

“My older sister, whose name is Elizabeth, has a mental disability, and she’s the oldest of four girls,” says the 36-year-old Longoria. “I was born into her world, so I didn’t know any other world. Growing up in south Texas we saw how many programs Elizabeth benefited from, so it was always a natural fit to give back to the special needs community because the special needs community gave to us.”

So what’s next for Eva’s Heroes?

“We want to go regional, statewide, nationally,” proclaims Longoria. “Every community could use the template that we use; it would be so easy.”

Meanwhile, “Glee” star Lea Michele is being honored for lending her voice to help People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) fight for animal rights, including a recent campaign against horse-drawn carriage rides in New York City.  Michele got involved with PETA five years ago after seeing a presentation on one of supermodel Janice Dickinson’s reality show.

“They showed a video, which was very disturbing, but it opened up my eyes,” recalls the 25-year-old Michele. “Afterward the spokesperson said if you could just take one moment and go look online, and I immediately turned off the television and went onto peta.com.”

Michele left a note saying she was a Broadway actress who wanted to help. She received an email reply by email the next day and has been working with them ever since.

“I’m constantly brainstorming (with PETA) about what we can do,” professes Michele. “I’m so thankful that being in this business and this industry gives you a little power to inform people on these issues.”

Along with Longoria and Michele, this year’s Lifetime Impact Honorees include actress Annette Bening, singer Mary J. Blige, DreamWorks Studios co-chairman and CEO Stacey Snider and actress Olivia Wilde.


Calle 13 Tops the List of Latin Grammy Noms…

Puerto Rican urban act Calle 13 has scored a perfect 10… Ten Latin Grammy nominations, that is!

During today’s announcement of nominees for this year’s Latin Grammys at a press conference in Los Angeles, Calle 13 dominated the competition. The hip-hop duo, comprised of step brothers Eduardo Cabra and Rene Perez, racked up a record-breaking 10 nominations, including Album of the Year for their most recent album, “Entren Los Que Quieran” and Song of the Year for their single, “Latinoamerica.”

Other multiple-nominees include music producer/engineer Rafa Arcaute, who scored six nods including a shared nominations with Calle 13 in Producer of the Year category; veteran Venezuelan songwriter Franco De Vita, who received  in five categories; Mexican singer/songwriter Marco Antonio Solis, who garnered four nominations, international superstars Ricky Martin and Shakira each received three nods; and Puerto Rican reggaeton duo Wisin & Yandel, who scored two nominations.

Meanwhile, the Best New Artist category highlights some rising stars from around the Latin music world: Pablo Alborán (Spain), Max Capote (Uruguay/Argentina), Paula Fernandes (Brazil), Il Volo (Italy), and Sie7e (Puerto Rico).

Click here for the complete list of Latin Grammy nominees in all 46 categories.

The 12th Annual Latin Grammy awards will be handed out on November 10 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The show will be televised live on Univision from 8:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT.

George Lopez Named An All-Star…

Mexican-American comedian & actor George Lopez will receive the 2011 ADCOLOR All-Star Award later this month. The 50-year-old Latin superstar is being recognized for his work as a philanthropist and pioneer in the entertainment industry.

“The ADCOLOR Industry Coalition is proud to honor George Lopez for his body of work as a comedian, actor and television host and we are equally proud to recognize him for his work as a philanthropist whose foundation works to help transform the lives of those in need,” says Tiffany R. Warren, Founder of The ADCOLOR Industry Coalition and The ADCOLOR Awards and Industry Conference and senior vice president, chief diversity officer for Omnicom Group Inc.

Other 2011 honorees include filmmaker Spike Lee and Dan Wieden, co-founder & CE of Wieden + Kennedy. They’ll both receive the Catalyst Award for their work as advertising agency pioneers.

Additionally, GLAAD (the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) will present an ADCOLOR Advocate Award for the first time in recognition of industry influencers from the LGBT community to two industry pioneers: Laurence Boschetto, president and CEO of Draftfcb and Aaron Walton, co-founder of Walton | Isaacson.

Past honorees include TV host Cristina Saralegui, activist, entrepreneur and “father of hip-hop” Russell Simmons, businessman and former NBA champion Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Queen Latifah, multi-platinum recording artist and award-winning actress.

Hundreds of the most talented influencers, tastemakers and rising stars are expected to attend the two-day event, which will include a special presentation by CNN’s Soledad O’Brienand a performance by NBC’s “Sing Off” season two winners. The 2011 ADCOLOR Awards and Industry Conference will be held in Los Angeles on September 16-17, 2011.

MTV VMAs: Mars’ Stellar Tribute to Winehouse

He may not have taken home a Moonman at the MTV Video Music Awards, but Bruno Mars stole the show with his high-energy performance during the special tribute to the late Amy Winehouse.

Flanked by a full band, including a horn and string section, the 25-year-old half-Puerto Rican singer performed a no holds barred rendition of Winehouse and Mark Ronson’s cover of “Valerie,” originally sung by The Zutons.

Sporting a stylish turquoise blazer, Mars showcased his stellar dance moves and outstanding vocals during the 1960s Blues-themed performance. The truly passionate tribute was one of the award show’s high points.

Get More: 2011 VMA, Music, Bruno Mars

In addition to Mars’ performance, the special dedication to the gone-too-soon “Back to Black” singer included a touching speech by Winehouse’s friend Russell Brand, as well as an exclusive look at her recent collaboration with legendary singer Tony Bennett for his upcoming album of duets.

So what did you think of the VMA tribute to Amy Winehouse?

Awarding Juanes’ “Vision”…

It’s no surprise he’s one of Latin Music’s biggest stars, but Colombian rock superstar Juanes also has a big corazon. And, he’ll be recognized for his philanthropy and activism next month in our nation’s capital.

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation announced today that the organization will present Juanes with its Vision Award at this year’s Hispanic Heritage Awards in recognition of his musical talent and commitment to humanitarian causes.

“Juanes is an artist in every sense of the word. His talents extend far and beyond the stage and bright lights,” asserts María-Esmeralda Paguaga, the executive producer of the Hispanic Heritage Awards. “It’s refreshing to have an artist of Juanes’ caliber use his voice and platform as a vehicle for change, and most importantly, as an advocate for peace.”

Hailing from Medellín Colombia, Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez better known as Juanes is a Grammy and multiple Latin Grammy winner, with a record 17 awards making him the Latin Recording Academy’s most heralded artist. He’s sold over 15 million albums worldwide and was hailed as Latin Music’s “Star of the Decade” by Billboard magazine.

Juanes has topped the charts with several songs that have become cultural anthems championing Latino pride, the power of love and respect for all mankind through the elimination of violence. He’s also taken his advocacy well beyond music through his own Fundación Mi Sangre and as a co-founder and principal organizer of the historic Paz Sin Fronteras (Peace Without Borders) concerts.  Through his work for the Mi Sangre Foundation, Juanes has become an internationally recognized leader in the fight to ban landmines, as he and the foundation work to protect the children of Colombia from the dangers of armed conflict and give them a voice in building the country’s future. Expanding beyond the borders of Colombia, Juanes has also become a global proponent in the fight to guarantee a basic right to peace for all.

“May we be able to understand the importance of turning hate into love, Juanes advises us in his song ‘Odio Por Amor,'” says Paguaga. “This sentiment represents one of the many reasons that the Hispanic Heritage Awards is proud to honor this singer, musician, producer and philanthropist with the Vision Award.”

This year’s Hispanic Heritage Awards, celebrating their 25th anniversary, will be held on September 15, 2011, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

The awards were established in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan as the official celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs between September 15 and October 15.

MTV VMAs Con Sabor Latino…

This year’s MTV Video Music Awards will have a decidedly Latin flair, with scheduled performances and appearances by some of the biggest Latino names in music.

Among this year’s featured Latino artists, MTV has announced Cuban-American rapper Pitbull will take center stage with Ne-Yo to perform their mega hit, “Give Me Everything,” alongside up-and-coming vocalist Nayer.

Pitbull’s name is the latest in a long list of previously announced performers, including Filipino-Puerto Rican American singer-songwriter Bruno Mars, Adele, Lil Wayne and Lady Gaga, who is slated to open the show.

Meanwhile, tween-sensation Selena Gomez is one of the artists scheduled to hand out moonmen during the awards show. She’ll also serves as hostess for the VMA pre-show live from the black carpet.

The VMAs will be broadcast live on MTV this Sunday, August 28 at 9 pm ET/PT.

Pitbull and Bruno Mars are multiple nominees. Fans can still vote for general VMA categories at vma.mtv.com.