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 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.
Over the years, Imagen has partnered to with major studios such as The Walt Disney Company, Warner Brothers Entertainment, and NBCUniversal to host job fairs, professional development workshops, supplier diversity seminars, networking events and more. Imagen has also worked with local colleges and universities across the country to bring panels of entertainment industry professionals who share their experiences with the next generation.
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. This list is announced annually and has provided a networking opportunity for executives during the celebratory reception.
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.