19 Celebs You Didn’t Realize Were Latino or Latina

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: Olympic Gold Medalist Ryan Lochte attends day 1 of 'Swim For Relief' Benefiting Hurricane Sandy Recovery at Herald Square on October 8, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
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Hispanic Heritage Month just passed, but it's never too late to acknowledge the impact that those of Latino descent have had on the entertainment world. Latin characters and actors are now part of our favorite television shows, are winning major awards, and just being all around inspiring and breaking stereotypes as they go. While we can name Jennifer Lopez, Selena Gomez, and Eva Longoria as some obvious Latin A-listers, there are plenty more in the entertainment world that share the common bond — if not an obvious sounding last name. Here are 19 stars that you might not have guessed are Latino or Latina.

Louis C.K.

Louis Szekely, known as Louis C.K., was born in the U.S. but brought up in Mexico to Hungarian and Mexican parents. In his cover story for Rolling Stone in 2013, C.K. said of his background: “My experience is as a Mexican immigrant, more so than someone like George Lopez: He’s from California… My abuelita, my grandmother, didn’t speak English. My whole family on my dad’s side is in Mexico. I won’t ever be called that or treated that way, but it was my experience.”

Bella Thorne

Bet you didn’t think so many Latinos have red hair, eh? Annabella Thorn was born in Pembroke Pines, Florida (my hometown, hey!) to a Cuban father, Delancey Reinaldo “Rey” Thorne and Tamara Thorne of Italian/Irish ancestry. She was recently the cover star of Latina’s December 2014/January 2015 issue, telling the magazine, “I know I’m Latina. I don’t think speaking Spanish or having dark hair is what makes you Latin. That’s ridiculous and it irritates me when people question it.”

Alexis Bledel

Who knew Rory Gilmore was actually fluent in Spanish? Alexis Bledel’s father is a native Argentinian and her mother was born in the U.S., but moved to Mexico when she was young. Bledel is never shy in claiming to be a very proud Latina, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “I could just keep this to myself rather than confusing people about my background but I think people from Latin American countries look very different.”

Kid Cudi

Kid Cudi was born in Cleveland, Ohio to an African-American mother and Mexican father, and was born Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi.

Aubrey Plaza

Aubrey Christina Plaza was born in Delware to a Puerto Rican father, David Plaza, and Irish/English mother, Bernadette. Of her upbringing in a predominantly white community, Plaza told Latina magazine, “I was like the only diverse kid in my high school, and I’m half-Puerto Rican. But yeah, I have a huge family and tons of cousins in Puerto Rico.”

Henry Ian Cusick

Desmond was one of my favorite characters on Lost, and I had a feeling that eternal tan had to come from somewhere. Cusick was born in Trujillo, Peru to a Peruvian mother, Esperanza Chavez, and a Scottish father. He grew up in Spain and Scotland and also speaks fluent Spanish.

Oscar Isaac

Oscar Isaac Hernández was born in Guatemala, to a Guatemalan mother, Maria, and a Cuban father, Oscar Gonzalo Hernández-Cano. His family later settled in Miami before moving to NYC to attend Juilliard. On dropping his very Latin last name, he told The Telegraph, “Being called Oscar Hernández in Miami is like being called John Smith; there are 15 pages of us in the phone book.”

Joan Smalls

The gorgeous supermodel Joan Smalls can attribute her exotic looks to her Puerto Rican heritage. Smalls lived in Puerto Rico until she was 19, when she moved to NYC to pursue her modeling career which has since skyrocketed. 

Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars was born in Hawaii to a Puerto Rican father and Filipino mother, but don’t be fooled by his name: he changed it early on in his career from his birth name, Peter Hernandez. Why? Mars says he was often pigeonholed to make only Latin music. “Your last name’s Hernandez, maybe you should do this Latin music, this Spanish music,” Mars said he was often told as he began to make the rounds of music labels in L.A.

Andrew Keegan

Andrew Keegan was born in Los Angeles to an American father with German/Czech ancestry and Lana Ocampo, a Colombian hairdresser. He is reported to speak fluent Spanish. 

Jordana Brewster

The Fast and the Furious actress was born in Panama City to a Brazilian model mother (who was in Sports Illustrated) and American banker. She lived a few years in Rio de Janeiro where she learned fluent Portuguese. Of her multicultural upbringing she told Latina“I call myself a Brazilian-American. When I was living in Brazil I felt very American and when I was in America I felt very Brazilian. I always felt like a fish out of water.  High school and middle school were really hard for me… but I realized how lucky I was that my parents traveled with me and my sister. It broadened my perspective.”

Tristan Wilds

Tristan Wilds from 90210 was born in Staten Island, New York and is half Dominican. He has stated that he only gets offered black roles because he doesn’t “look Latino enough.” He also told the New York Daily News I’m a really big fan of Latin food. I want to go back home and have some good arroz con pollo!”

Nicole Richie

Nicole Richie is famously known as Lionel Richie’s adopted daughter, but very few know her biological parents. Nicole’s birth name is Nicole Camille Escovedo, and it is believed that her father was Peter Michael Escovedo, who was a percussionist for Lionel Richie and the brother of Sheila E. Richie told People in 2003, “My parents were friends with Lionel. They trusted that they would be better able to provide for me.”

Tatyana Ali

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Tatyana Ali is a fusion of many backgrounds, with her mother being Afro-Panamanian and her father being Indian from Trinidad. She told NBC Latino that she culturally identifies as “Afro-Carribean.”

David Gallagher

David Gallagher Lopez, of 7th Heaven fame, was born in New York to an Irish father and Cuban mother.

Sara Paxton

Sara Paxton is of Mexican descent. Her mother was born in Monterrey, Mexico and she has said she wants to try to play Latina characters despite her “Anglo” appearance, explaining, “I think it’s because they have this stereotype of what a Hispanic girl is supposed to look like, and I don’t fit that typical look.”

Kat Von D

Tattoo artist, model, musician, and personality Kat Von D was born in Nuevo León, Mexico to Argentinian missionaries living in Mexico.

Vanna White

Vanna White has been a staple of Wheel of Fortune since 1982, but unbeknownst to many, her father Miguel Angel Rosich was Puerto Rican but left her family when she were young. White then adopted her step-fathers last name, Herbert Stackley White Jr., a former real estate agent. 

Ryan Lochte

In case the blonde hair and blue eyes threw you off, Ryan Lochte is actually half Cuban on his mother’s side. His mother was born in Havana and met his father at University of Miami, in a predominantly Latino community. Being an athlete, Lochte says one of the perks of his Latin heritage is the food, stating, “One of my favorite Latino foods that my grandma or my mom make is breaded steak with some black beans and rice. I could eat that pretty much any day.”