After focusing her lens on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos creator Richard Montañez in her latest film “Flamin’ Hot,” Eva Longoria explains how she set out to redefine what it means to be one of Hollywood’s “hardworking heroes” by shining a light on several heroes including her “mentor” Dolores Huerta. Longoria’s comments came during her Wednesday night speech, as she was honored as one of Time Magazine’s inaugural class of Latino Leaders.
“I remember I wasn’t even famous and I met Dolores. I was on ‘Young and the Restless’ as a struggling actress and I met Dolores through a friend,” Longoria told the room. “I was hanging out with her and she told me, ‘What do you do?’ And she was talking to me and she said, ‘You know what? One day you’re gonna have a voice and you better have something to say.’”
Longoria continued, sharing that the civil rights activist inspired her to grow in other areas of her career as well: “I never forgot that. And she’s been a mentor ever since. She’s the reason I got a Master’s in Chicano Studies. She knows it.”
Huerta, who was also on Time’s Latino Leaders list, gave a rousing speech earlier that evening that brought the audience together, prompting each audience member to shake their neighbor’s hand and greet them as “African relatives” (which was in reference to a point she made about all of the world’s people being descended from Africa) and had the room out of their seats with chants of “Si se puede.”
Longoria used the latter part of her address to acknowledge how she responded to Dolores’ message.
“I wanted to get behind the camera because I knew I would have a bigger impact and the changes I wanted to see in the world and specifically in our countries, specifically in our community, because that’s how we’re going to shift culture and that’s where we see how policy affects people. I knew I wanted to have the opportunity to tell our stories from our perspective, and not for us, for everybody. So it’s not by us, for us. It’s by us for everybody. I wanted to create heroes for us that look like us on the big screen and I made a movie,” she said, referencing “Flamin’ Hot,” which is currently available for streaming on Hulu.
“Flamin’ Hot” tells the story of Richard Montañez. The son of immigrants, Montañez was working as a Frito Lay janitor when he created Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and disrupted the food industry by channeling his Mexican heritage.
“I remember reading his story, and I was like, ‘I am Richard Montañez.’ We are all Richard Montañez. We’ve all been told, ‘No, that job is not for somebody who looks like you.’ ‘No, that job is not for you because you’re a woman.’ ‘No, maybe you shouldn’t dream that big.’ And Richard dared to ask, but why not me? Why can’t ideas come from somebody like me? Why can’t great things come from somebody who sounds like me? Who has an accent?” Longoria continued.
“But I really quickly realized when I was on set, how Hollywood defines what our hardworking heroes look like — and they never looked like us. When we screened at the White House, on the lawn with a thousand Latinos, President Biden introduced the film. It was so beautiful, because everybody was seeing themselves reflected back and they were laughing, they were crying, and they were saying all these ‘cabrónes’ and ‘pendejos,’” she remembered, as the room went up with laughter. “The moment was so big for me, because it was just surreal for people to go, ‘oh, I identify with that.’ Because if he went through all of that, and accomplished what he did, maybe I can do the same. And that was the point of the film.”