Michael Cimino, Christian Serratos, Anthony Ramos and More Latinx Artists on the Rise
By Manuel Betancourt, Liz Calvario and Jen Drysdale
If you're on the lookout for new actors and singers to stan, you won't need to look any further. As we continue celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, we wanted to give a shout-out to some of our favorite Latinx artists on the rise.
Find below a list of performers you'll be seeing and hearing a lot in the coming months. They've each captured our attention with their candor and their talent. Their recent and upcoming roster of projects — everything from leading roles in big screen musicals to collaborations with some of music's biggest names — make us eager to see their careers continue to explode in the years to come.
He may share a name with the late Academy Award-winning filmmaker behind 1978’s The Deer Hunter, but young up-and-coming actor Michael Cimino is having no problem standing out on his own. Born and raised in Las Vegas, the actor, singer and guitar player had made a mark in the horror film Annabelle Comes Home — where he also put his musical skills to work.
His song, “Everything I Own,” was included in the film’s soundtrack. But the young performer broke out big earlier this summer as the titular star of Hulu’s Love, Victor, a spinoff of the beloved YA coming out flick Love, Simon. Dealing candidly with yet another coming-of-age tale, the highly anticipated series put a spotlight on the challenges of coming out within a Latinx family.
"We are in a time where we have so many people [that] are accepted, but also so many people are on the complete opposite spectrum of that," he told ET ahead of the show’s premiere. "We need to be working to get everyone to be accepted just for who they are. Because it doesn’t really matter what your sexuality is, how you identify yourself as a person. You just need to be yourself authentically."
Cimino has a number of projects in the works (including Dana Gonzales’ film, Centurion XII) but audiences will surely be keeping an eye out for more of Love, Victor, which was renewed for a second season just this past August.
Fans of Twilight andThe Walking Dead may be familiar with Serratos' work, but soon everyone else will be too, as she prepares to play one of the world's most famous Latinas on Netflix’s Selena: The Series.
The 30-year-old actress' portrayal of Selena Quintanilla already had viewers doing a double take when the show's teaser was released last November. Now, fans are anxiously awaiting Selena: The Series' Dec. 4 premiere, to see Serratos bring the late icon back to life.
And as if she didn't have enough on her plate, Serratos has managed to balance Selena: The Series with her role as Rosita on The Walking Dead. In a 2019 interview with ET, Serratos said she loved being able to "hold it down for the Latinas" on the AMC series.
"It's cool because, I don't know, there's a few, but there's not many Latin women in comics," she shared. "I think it's probably a bucket list thing for me [to play her]."
For many U.S. viewers, their first look at Melissa Barrera came courtesy of Tanya Saracho’s groundbreaking queer series, Vida. But before she gave life to the free-spirit Millennial Lyn, the Mexican-born actress had cut her teeth in Spanish telenovelas like Siempre tuya Acapulco and Tanto Amor, as well as in Netflix’s Club de Cuervos.
Her biggest role yet? Leading lady Vanessa in the upcoming big screen adaptation of In the Heights. "The dancing, the music, it's so Latino," she told ET ahead of what would have been its summer 2020 release. "It's just going to be epic and I am so excited for the world to see it and fall in love with Latinos because we're such beautiful people, so [culturally] rich and so full of history."
Vida may have bid viewers goodbye earlier this year, but you won’t miss Barrera for too long. While we keep waiting to catch In the Heights in theaters next summer (fingers crossed), she’s also signed on to star in Benjamin Millepied’s Carmen adaptation opposite Jamie Dornan. Oh, and she’s currently hard at work on the set of the much-buzzed-about Scream 5.
Speaking of In the Heights: the awaited musical film pairs Barrera with Anthony Ramos, another actor who’s on the cusp of becoming a household name. Ramos, who originated the roles of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton in Miranda’s other Broadway smash, Hamilton, got his start on the stage.
But with roles on shows like She’s Gotta Have It and films like A Star Is Born, Monsters and Men and Trolls World Tour, not to mention in the recent Disney+ filmed performance of Hamilton, the Brooklyn native has been slowly making waves in the industry.
Add in an EP (The Freedom EP) and a debut album (The Good & the Bad) as well as an infectious YouTube channel and you can see why the GRAMMY-winning performer was tapped to headline Warner Bros. big musical film, a project that’s very near to his heart.
"In the Heights is one of the greatest experiences of my life," Ramos told ET last year. "For many years, the Latin community, we haven't been able to tell our story in this way, especially the Latin community in New York. There are very few neighborhoods that embody that story as authentically as Washington Heights, and they were so happy to have a musical set there."
We may have to wait a bit longer before we see him make the role of Usnavi his own next summer, but you can catch Ramos in the upcoming Mark Williams thriller Honest Thief, which stars Liam Neeson and Jai Courtney.
Jenna Ortega commands attention with every role that she takes on. Ortega has been acting since the age of six, breaking stereotypes of what a Latina should look like on screen. She first gained fame as the younger version of Jane Villanueva on Jane the Virgin, before landing her own Disney Channel sitcom, Stuck in the Middle, in 2016.
The 18-year-old Mexican American actress is known for her wide-ranging talent, taking on sweet and relatable roles in her early works to sassy and fierce performances on You and in The Babysitter: Killer Queen.
"I'm glad that our [Hispanic] presence is known here, especially at a time where on-screen diversity is not as strong as it should be. As someone who is of Latin descent, I can't wait to just scream it from the rooftops about how proud I am of my culture, my heritage," Ortega told ET about celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. "Our community is such a loving, kindhearted group of people."
Ortega also uses her platform to raise awareness and support immigration reform, politics, the LGBTQ community and is all about self-love. Ortega recently lent her voice to Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous. The show was renewed for a second season. Up next for the rising star is a role in Scream 5, as well as the release of her first book, titled It's All Love.
Jefnier Osorio Moreno, best known as “Lunay,” is one to watch. The Puerto Rican singer has been freestyle rapping since he was 12. Which, if you must know, was less than a decade ago. Like many up and comers this century, the young performer first rose to fame with the aid of social media: his raps on Facebook and SoundCloud were instrumental in getting him noticed by a pair of producers who later connected him with the likes of Anuel AA (for the single “A solas”) and Ozuna (“Luz Apaga”).
But it was the remix of his song, “Soltera,” featuring Daddy Yankee and Bad Bunny, that truly catapulted him into the spotlight, eventually helping him earn the title of Best New Artist at last year's Latin American Music Awards.
"It's an incredible and beautiful opportunity as a 19-year-old artist that is working hard for what he wants and wants to succeed," he told ET ahead of Premios Lo Nuestro, which would similarly go on to crown him Best New Artist – Male. "Puerto Rico has supported me since the beginning. I don't have any words to describe how I feel. I'm blessed."
On top of releasing his very first album last October, Épico, the Latin trap and reggaeton singer has kept busy these past few months, releasing new EPs (with cover images featuring him in face masks), remixes, and even videos for new songs (including “Relaciones” and “Victoria,” with Beéle), proving that he has no plans of slowing down any time soon.
Born to Colombian parents in Toronto, Canada, Reyez's life was filled with music from a young age. As a child, she learned to play guitar from her father, and in high school, she started writing her own music. Reyez's talent found her a spot at the Remix Project's Academy of Recording Arts, where she was mentored by Daniel Daley of Dvsn, and in 2014, she released her first single with rapper King Louie.
Over the next few years, Reyez earned notoriety for songs like "Shutter Island," "Gatekeeper" and "Figures." In 2018, she was nominated for four awards at Canada's Juno Awards and two MTV Video Music Awards. Just two years later, she was nominated for her first GRAMMY, for Best Urban Contemporary Album for Being Human in Public.
High-profile collaborations followed, with Eminem on his 2018 album, Kamikaze, and on Beyonce’s curated 2019 album, The Lion King: The Gift. Reyez was also featured in Bey's recently released Black Is King on Disney+. Before the coronavirus pandemic, Reyez opened for Billie Eilish on her Where Do We Go? world tour, and was booked to perform at Coachella.
Reyez's debut album, Before Love Came to Kill Us, dropped on March 27, and to the delight of her fans, she's continued to drop new music videos -- keeping us all entertained in quarantine.
The Allentown, Pennsylvania, native went from a relatable teenager to a Netflix star seemingly overnight, when the streaming service's new musical series, Julie and the Phantoms, premiered last month. Reyes, who was cast in the leading role from more than 700 taped auditions, stood out immediately to executive producer Kenny Ortega. She's a raw talent with magnetic energy, an incredible voice and a charming gap-toothed smile.
The Puerto Rican actress knows that in Hollywood, she's an unlikely star. "I know firsthand the struggles of growing up in a world where you don't see too much representation and don't see many people that look like you," she said in a recent interview with ET, noting that fact makes her role on Julie and the Phantoms even more special.
"I constantly get messages from people saying, 'I've been looking for someone that looks like me and seeing your curly hair and your skin, I see myself. You really have encouraged me to follow my dream as well,'" Reyes continued. "It means so much, because I know that feeling of just really wanting to find someone that you can grasp on. Being a part of that is amazing and a dream come true."
Sech may only be 26, but his music career is a long time coming. The artist, real name Carlos Isaías Morales Williams, was born to pastor parents in Panama, and developed his singing voice as a kid in his church's choir. He worked on his craft by singing to customers while working as a street vendor, and joined the singing group Los Principiantes before trying to make it as a solo act.
After his song, "Miss Lonely," became a hit in Colombia in 2017, he was discovered by music producer Dimelo Flow, and was taken to the next level.
The Panamanian singer is best known for his Latin GRAMMY-nominated single, "Otro Trago," which reached No. 1 in Panama, Spain, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Honduras and Mexico and even had success on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song, off his 2019 debut album, Sueños, was just a sign of things to come.
Working with artists like Farruko, Zion & Lennox, Maluma, Nicky Jam and more turned Sech into one of urban music's most sought-after collaborators. His second album, 1 of 1, was released in May, with the song "Relación" earning him his fourth Top 10 on the Hot Latin Songs chart and becoming a hit on TikTok.
Mexican singer-songwriter Natanael Cano is leading the way with his unique trap corrido sound. At just 19 years old, Cano has become the leader in the fusion genre that is taking Latin music by storm.
Working on his distinct sound since his mid-teens, Cano taught himself how to play guitar at 13. By 17, he was working full-time as a musician, posting videos of his songs on YouTube and his social media. His breakthrough came when he collaborated with Bad Bunny on the 2019 remix hit "Soy el Diablo."
With plenty of songs and a body of work to pull fans in, Cano is the No. 1 regional Mexican artist in Apple Music’s catalog, garnering more than 300 million streams on the platform. He is the first Mexican artist -- and the first regional Mexican act -- to be highlighted by the Up Next program, which has previously featured Bad Bunny, Lunay, Megan Thee Stallion, Billie Eilish, and Jessie Reyez, among others.
The singer also recently made history as the first regional Mexican artist to perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Cano performed "Yo Ya Se," which is featured on his latest album, Soy El Nata.
Corina Smith has been enamoring Venezuelan audiences for well over a decade. Now, the singer and actress is making waves in the U.S. with her pop melodies mixed with reggaeton beats.
Getting her start in the 2009 musical series Somos tú y yo, un nuevo día, as well as NPS: No Puede Ser, Smith instantly knew music was her passion. It wasn’t until her 2016 single, “Escape” featuring Gustavo Elis, was released that her singing career took off.
“Music has always been my language,” Smith told ET. “I definitely feel that I was born to express myself through my songs. It’s the only thing that makes me disconnect from reality.”
Smith has since released a number of tracks and collaborations, including “No Somos Nada” featuring Kevin Roldan, “Pasatiempo” with Alex Rose, "Suave” and “Drama.” The 29-year-old artist is getting noticed worldwide, selected by YouTube Music as one of the Artists to Watch in 2020 in Colombia. Smith has big plans for 2021, and hopes to reach more people and countries with her music.
“I feel like my purpose is to find people who are like me in some way, either how they feel or the way they think, and connect with them through my songs,” Smith told ET. "I hope 2021 brings me closer to all my fans. I hope I can inspire others to dream bigger. And the rest of the time, I want to be making incredible and innovative music 24/7 surrounded by only good vibes.”
Latin GRAMMY nominee Nicki Nicole brings a refreshing look and sound to the ever-evolving urban genre. In just one year, the 20-year-old Argentinian singer has caught the industry’s attention with her blend of R&B, trap and pop music.
Her first introduction to fans was the melodic “Wapo Traketero,” followed by the guitar-based song “Años Luz,” which skyrocketed her popularity in her home country. From there, Nicole showed her range with her critically acclaimed debut album, Recuerdos, boasting of hits like "Cómo Dímelo” featuring Cazzu and "Shorty” featuring Duki.
As her social media presence rose, so did her impact in the industry. Her LP garnered her first Latin GRAMMY nomination in the Best New Artist category, as well as recognition overseas. She was recently nominated for her first MTV EMA in the Best Latin America South Act category.
Her latest single, "Mala Vida,” has surpassed 15 million streams in just weeks, while her recent collaboration with Trueno, titled "Mamichula,” has over 260 million streams in two months. It hit No. 33 on Spotify's Global Charts. And, get ready, because more music is on its way.