Eva Longoria: Hollywood trailblazer who won't hear 'no'

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Long before Eva Longoria arrived in Hollywood, it was a fool’s game to tell her something wasn’t possible.

When her mother said she couldn’t have a quinceañera, Longoria got a job at Wendy’s and paid for the milestone birthday bash herself. When she wanted to be a cheerleader and the answer was again “no,” Longoria found a way.

“My mom wasn’t saying, ‘No, you can’t be a cheerleader.’ She was saying, ‘We can’t afford it,’” said Longoria, who gained mainstream prominence as a star of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.” “That’s a different problem. Let me solve the problem. I had to be resourceful.”

Longoria’s refusal to accept defeat has been a strength in navigating a cutthroat industry resistant to change. Not satisfied with acting credits, she has methodically accumulated experience and credibility: directing, producing, mentoring, philanthropy, engaging in political activism and advocacy for Latinos. She cut her own path so others could have one to follow.

“I realized there can’t be one success story in our community,” Longoria said. “We need 20 of us, 40 of us, 100 of us filmmakers, actors, whatever it is. We need to multiply our impact.”

She made her feature film directing debut with last year’s “Flamin’ Hot,” which tells the story of Richard Montañez, the janitor turned Frito-Lay executive who has long claimed to have invented the popular spicy Cheetos snack. And with veteran unscripted producer and executive Cris Abrego, Longoria launched Hyphenate Media Group, which is billed as part production company, part talent scouting agency and part business incubator. To jump-start its production efforts, the company has taken over the full slate of Longoria’s UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, which includes the upcoming Apple TV+ miniseries “Land of Women,” a dramedy based on Sandra Barneda’s bestselling novel that will star Longoria.

“I don’t by any means feel anointed by the industry as like, ‘You’re in the club,’” Longoria, 49, said. “We’re always going to be an other — whether that’s my Latinidad or the fact that I’m a woman. I don’t think I really care if I belong or not. I’m going to build my own success. What I’m trying to do is, I think, much bigger than what’s been defined for me.”

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