Who Attended the Los Angeles Awards Gala?

Amid the festivities we will also celebrate the return of Thomas A. Saenz to MALDEF in his new role as President and General Counsel. Special guest presenters will include Antonia Hernandez, Dolores Huerta, José José, Keisha Whitaker, Lupe Ontiveros, a special performance by Nydia Rojas, and many more.

Giselle Fernandez

Giselle Fernandez

Five time Emmy award winning journalist, producer, film maker and Latin media and marketing entrepreneur, Giselle Fernandez is the President of the first Latina owned Hispanic themed media and management company in Hollywood, F Squared, and Flamenco Inc.

Born in Mexico and raised in Southern California, Fernandez is the daughter of a Jewish mother and renowned Mexican flamenco dancer father. As a young child touring Mexico with her mother, who was researching a doctoral thesis in Mexican folklore, Fernandez developed her passion for journalism. Fernandez graduated from Sacramento state university with a bachelor of arts in Journalism and Government.

Fernandez was named the 2007 philanthropist of the year, the 2007 Hispanic philanthropist of the year. The Legislative Hispanic Caucus awarded Fernandez the Hispanic Spirit Award and was awarded the prestigious Nancy Riordan award in 2007 by Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for her contribution to the children of L.A. and was recently inducted to the Latina Women’s Museum in Sacramento honoring outstanding Latinas in California.

Fernandez is an avid collector of Latin American art and the work of famous women photographers. Fernandez lives in Los Angeles with her husband, John Farrand, former President of Atari and CEO of Panavision, and their daughter, Talei.

Nydia Rojas

Nydia Rojas

Nydia Rojas (born 1980, Whittier, California), daughter of Arturo and Olivia Rojas, is an American singer of Mexican/Cuban/Yaqui Indian heritage and a celebrated prodigy on the mariachi circuit. Since the age of 10, Nydia Rojas has lent her musical talent and stylistic finesse to a genre steeped in tradition. As a vocalist who also plays numerous musical instruments, she continues to embrace her adored roots, inspiring young audiences around the country. As an advocate for music education, she is committed to serving as a role model for many generations to come, as she has focused much of her career to this relentless passion of hers.

Nydia Rojas released her debut album at only 15 years old and started setting the pace for mariachi music in the U.S. Nydia gained plenty of praise as she performed all throughout the country and her music was heard in many different lands, helping her gain fans from Mexico to Germany to Japan. Months shy of her 21st birthday, Nydia's third album, "Si Me Conocieras," was nominated for a Latin Grammy award alongside such established artists as Vicente Fernández, Alejandro Fernández, and Pepe Aguilar. This nomination, amongst a male-dominated genre, further established her as an outstanding performer in her field.

Soon afterwards, she went on national tour with the legendary superstar, Juan Gabriel. This tour gave her the blessed opportunity to work closely with Gabriel who expressed much admiration for her talent and shortly thereafter led to her fourth album, "Nydia." Juan Gabriel sang two duets with Nydia on this album and named her one of the best interpreters of his music from her generation.

Antonia Hernández

Antonia Hernandez

Nationally recognized for her commitment toward the betterment of underserved communities in Los Angeles and beyond, Antonia Hernández joined the California Community Foundation as President and Chief Executive Officer in 2004.

Established in 1915, the California Community Foundation is one of the largest and most active philanthropic organizations in Southern California, with assets of more than $1 billion. In partnership with its more than 1,200 individual, family and corporate donors, the foundation supports nonprofit organizations and public institutions with funds for health and human services, affordable housing, early childhood education, community arts and culture and other areas of need.

Previously, Hernández was president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), a national nonprofit litigation and advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights of the nation’s Latinos through the legal system, community education, and research and policy initiatives.

Hernández is a member of the boards of directors of the American Constitution Society, the national American Automobile Association, the Automobile Club of Southern California and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). She earned her B.A. in History at UCLA in 1970 and J.D. at the UCLA School of Law in 1974.

Dolores C. Huerta

Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta, President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, She continues working to develop community leaders, advocating for working poor, women and children. She travels daily speaking at universities and organizational forums on issues of social justice and public policy.

Ms Huerta is also the Co-founder, Secretary Treasurer /1st Vice President Emeritus of the United Farm Workers of America; A Board Member of the Feminist Majority. As the legislative advocate for the Community Service Organization and the United Farm Workers, Huerta was instrumental in passing historic legislation that brought disability insurance to farm workers, voting ballots in Spanish, driver’s licenses in the driver’s ethnic language, eligibility for public assistance for resident immigrants, and legalization for one million farm workers under the Immigration Reform Act of 1984-85 .

Huerta obtained many firsts in union contracts that had been denied to farm workers: drinking water and sanitary facilities in the field, medical coverage for farm worker families; an employer-paid pension fund, job security, seniority rights, rest periods, paid vacations and holidays, and protection from pesticides.

José José

José José

José José is considered one of the greatest Latin American singers of all time. José Rómulo Sosa Ortiz, known in the entertainment world as José José or El Príncipe de la Canción (The Prince of the Song) is a Mexican singer best known for his romantic ballads and gifted vocals. He has sold over 40 million albums in his career. Because of his performance and popularity, he is considered one of the most important Latin American singers from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

José José’s big break came on March 14 of 1970, when he represented Mexico in an international song festival "II Festival de la Canción Latina with an amazing performance of the song "El Triste". His popular romantic ballad style mixed with a unique voice made him the star of stars in Mexico. He played the lead role in small movies like Sueño De Amo and Buscando Una Sonrisa.

During the early 1970s, José José became one of the most known balladists in Latin America. In 1977, he signed a contract with Ariola Records and he recorded in London the album Reencuentro, that launched the hits " El Amar y El Querer" and "Gavilán o Paloma" and got back to the top of the lists of popularity; both songs are nowadays classics of Latin music. During 1978 and 1979 he achieved enormous success with the hits "Lo Que Un Dia Fué No Será", "Lo Pasado, Pasado", "Volcán", "Si Me Dejas Ahora" and the striking ballad "Almohada".

Keisha Whitaker

Keisha Whitaker

Keisha Whitaker is a mother of three girls and the wife of actor/director/producer Forest Whitaker. Keisha, originally from Massachusetts, received her degree in Broadcast Journalism from Endicott College. She has been featured as a writer for Boston Common Magazine, HMC Magazine (an online magazine for mothers) and most recently a contributor in LA Confidential.

Keisha shares her magic touch with charitable causes as well. She is a member of the Cedar Sinai’s Brain Trust, which raises awareness and finances for brain cancer research. Forest and Keisha are on the Honorary Committee of Artists for a New South Africa, while supporting Hope North, an orphanage based in Northern Uganda that cares for misplaced child soldiers from the war.

Keisha works with Penny Lane, an organization that helps children with emotional issues as well as LA’s Best which provides after-school programs and classes for underprivileged children in the Los Angeles School District. In 2008, Forest, Keisha and their three daughters were given the Family First Award from LA’s Best at their annual awards ceremony. Additionally, Keisha campaigned alongside Forest for President Obama traveling to multiple states to spread his message and encourage people to vote. Most recently, Keisha partnered with The Nelson Mandela Organization and Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa to help launch Nelson Mandela Day on May 14th.

Lupe Ontiveros

Lupe Ontiveros

Award-winning actress, producer, activist, and visionary Lupe Ontiveros is a woman who makes a difference. Whether it is as ‘La Nacha’ in the Oscar- nominated film “El Norte” or as a founding member of LA’s Latino Theatre Company, her voice is heard and the world is better for it.

After graduating from Texas Woman’s University, she worked for 15 years as a Social Worker in East Los Angeles and Compton areas where she became involved as an activist on issues confronting women and education. In 2003 the Domestic Violence and Abuse of Women issue prompted her to perform The Vagina Monologues with Jane Fonda, Margo Kidder and Rosie Perez in order to raise funds for a women’s shelter facility in Florida .

Her film credits include PICKING UP THE PIECES with Woody Allen directed by Alfonso Arau, CHUCK AND BUCK, directed by Miguel Arteta, AS GOOD AS IT GETS with Jack Nicholson, directed by James R. Brooks, THE BRAVE directed by Johnny Depp, MI FAMILIA/ SELENA, directed by Gregory Nava. Other credits to include GOONIES, Storytelling, just to name a few. Lupe also starred in the HBO feature REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES directed by Patricia Cardosa.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund