Thursday, October 11, 2012

Report on the 2012 HOLA Awards

It was a pleasant autumn evening in New York. The sun began to set over the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and picturesque New York Harbor. And then the buzz of people. The 2012 HOLA Awards (with presenting sponsor Delta Air Lines) began with a tapas reception on the first floor of the Battery Gardens restaurant, located inside Battery Park and adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at the southernmost point of Manhattan.

Amongst tasty hors d'oeurves and tapas, there was much hobnobbing and networking. Celebrities and those honored with HOLA Awards walked the red carpet and posed for the photographers in the press corps. At about 8pm, the guests were ushered upstairs where they were serenaded by the dynamic songstress Jeannie Sol. Once people were seated, she worked the tables singing a medley of songs that got the crowd going and many people's cameras out and flashing.

And with that auspicious beginning, masters of ceremonies Jorge Ramos and Odalys Molina started the award ceremony. After hearing a speech from Héctor Ruiz,  Regional Sales Manager, US LAC of Delta Air Lines, awards were handed out. HOLA Executive Director Manny Alfaro introduced Marlene Forté (HOLA Excellence in Television Award), who spoke eloquently about the good work that HOLA has done in her career. HOLA Advisory Board member and casting director Elsie C. Stark introduced Felix Solis (HOLA Excellence in Television Award) spoke how a friend recommended him for a role, thus beginning his career in television. He also said, "If you don't love what to do, get busy doing what you love." Also honored with awards were HOLA Excellence in Media Award recipient José Díaz Balart (who could not attend as he was in Venezuela covering their recent presidential election and who sent in a video acceptance speech), NBC Latino (who was pleased to win their first award for Excellence in Media) and an HOLA Special Recognition Award for the New York City Latin Media and Entertainment Commission.

Other guest speakers included SAG-AFTRA Co-President Roberta Reardon and SAG-AFTRA Co-Secretary-Treasurer Amy Aquino who gave rousing speeches extolling the work that HOLA does and how SAG-AFTRA is united with HOLA in making the lives (and careers) of actors better. Latin Heat editor (and one of the co-hosts of "HOLA L.A.") Bel Hernández recollected several memories of her good friend, the late Lupe Ontiveros, which capped off a memorial tribute which also honored those who passed away in the previous year (including Pedro Armendáriz, Jr.; Carmen Belén Richardson; Piri Thomas; Ruth Fernández; Yomo Toro; and former HOLA members Rich Ramírez, Graciela Más and Gabita Miller). 

Tony Plana introduced David Zayas (José Ferrer HOLA Tespis Award), noting they once shared the same girlfriend (onscreen, that is), and that Plana opined that Zayas was quite sexy. Zayas accepted the compliment and the award and returned the love, dubbing Plana sexy as well. Zayas spoke how as a teenager he saw José Ferrer in a film and the pride he felt when he found out he (like Zayas) was Puerto Rican. This led to a desire to be an actor, in which he took a detour in the Air Force as a member of the New York Police Department before accomplishing his goal. He also highlighted his wife, actress Liza Colón-Zayas, saying that every time he sees her on stage, it is another acting lesson for him. HOLA Member Coordinator Soledad del Río introduced J.W. Cortés (HOLA Excellence in Reality Television Award) who brought the crowd to their feet when he spoke about his two sons (including one with special needs) and that he did the NBC television series "Stars Earn Stripes" to highlight and honor the veterans, members of the armed forces and first responders. (Cortés served in the Gulf War as a Marine.)

Also bringing people to their feet were Jeannie Sol with her rendition of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" from the Broadway musical Evita and Anita Vélez-Mitchell (HOLA Special Recognition Theater Award), who received a standing ovation for the crowd after her speech. The evening was capped off with a rousing upbeat medley of songs by Ms. Sol to have people dance the night away. In all, it was an inspirational event that people will talk about for some time after its end. The nonagerian (who looks far younger than her 96 years of age) was introduced by her daughter, HLN's Jane Vélez-Mitchell.

Age and mortality were also themes of the night as mentioned by Lina Gallegos (Outstanding Achievement in Playwriting), Miriam Cruz (Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor) and Frank Robles (Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor) who won their awards for the production Locuras en Wíchita (Wild In Wichita). Also, overcoming odds was another recurring theme as expressed in speeches by Cortés, Alfredo Huereca (Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor and Outstanding Achievement by an Ensemble Cast) Elaine Del Valle (Outstanding Solo Performance) and Andrés Chulisi Rodríguez (Outstanding Solo Performance).

The evening was capped off with a rousing upbeat medley of songs by Ms. Sol to have people dance the night away. In all, it was an inspirational event that people will talk about for some time after its end.

The Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA) would like to thank Delta Air Lines (for being the event's presenting sponsor); NBCUniversal; CBS; SAG-AFTRA, Actors' Equity Association; the staff of the Battery Gardens restaurant; Louis Perego Moreno (also known as Tío Louie); Jorge Ramos and Odalys Molina; Jeannie Sol; Anthony Ruiz; Shanddel Espinal; José Luis Victoria; Ricardo Bacallao; volunteers Ismael Cruz Córdova (who also live tweeted the event), Betty Cutié; Laura Riveros (who was also our "Miss HOLA", helping out with the handling of awards), José Roldán, Jr., Becky Rumayor, Patrick Michael Valley and Phoenix Ximénez; and, of course, everyone who attended and/or supported HOLA and the thirteenth annual HOLA Awards. For more photos of the event (by Anthony Ruiz/ARuiz Photography), click here. To see additional photos by Shanddel Espinal, click here.

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