To encourage the positive portrayals of Latinos in all forms of the entertainment media and to reward the excellence of those entities or individuals whose productions elevate the image and status of all Latinos. The Foundation also works to enhance opportunities for all Latinos in front of and behind the camera and serves as a liaison between the industry and the Latino community by providing access, education, and resources.
The Early Years
The Imagen Foundation’s beginning dates back to a 1984 meeting between Television Producer Norman Lear and Helen Hernandez, Vice President of Public Affairs for his company, Embassy Communications. Lear was acutely aware of the near absence of positive portrayals of Latinos in the entertainment industry and understood the importance of positive images. The two met with leaders of The National Conference for Community and Justice (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews, or NCCJ), a respected non-sectarian human relations organization committed to fighting prejudice and racial tensions. Out of this meeting emerged the Imagen Awards competition. Imagen, now an annual Hollywood tradition, recognizes and encourages the entertainment industry to portray the Latino community in a positive and accurate manner. The Imagen tradition is one that recognizes those producers, directors, and writers who contribute from “behind the scenes,” as well as the Latino actors portraying these positive roles.
With financial support from Norman Lear, staff support from NCCJ, the cooperation of many entertainment companies, the leadership of Helen Hernandez and a voluntary advisory committee of industry professionals and community leaders, the Imagen Awards became a successful enterprise.
Since 1985, the Imagen Awards, also known as the Latino Golden Globes, competition has brought out the best and most talented portrayal of Latinos in television and film.
The Imagen Foundation
In 1995, the NCCJ relinquished responsibility of the Imagen Awards to a group of Latino leaders who had been instrumental in organizing the annual awards. The Imagen Foundation was incorporated in 1996 as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization under Federal guidelines. As the organization was formed, a decision was made that all Board members represent key industry companies. The initial Board saw the opportunity to expand efforts to provide more opportunities for Latinos in the entertainment industry.
Since 1996, Imagen has hosted the Annual Entertainment Industry Job Fair and Career Conference. Each year, attendees have the opportunity to meet recruiters from a number of major studios, including Warner Brothers, Disney, and NBCUniversal. As of 2011, Imagen begun hosting quarterly workshops on job skills development, which specifically address the skills needed to succeed in different areas of the entertainment sector. The studio executives who present these workshops provide attendees with a wealth of knowledge on how to obtain a job and move upward in the entertainment industry. Imagen has also hosted workshops that reach out to minority and women-owned small businesses interested in procuring goods and services contracts with major entertainment companies.
In 2007, Imagen began a project to track Latino senior level executives in the industry. This effort, now known as the Imagen Most Powerful and Influential Latinos in Entertainment, has identified more than 100 industry executives as well as talent agents and managers in mainstream media. The list is announced bi-annually at a reception in Beverly Hills during Hispanic Heritage month and provides a networking opportunity for these executives.
The Imagen Foundation continues to be a resource and conduit for the entertainment industry and the Latino community. Imagen has evolved as an organization that uses its influence to promote, support, build bridges and connect national influencers, both Latino and non-Latino, with each other.