The National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) is honored to present the 2015 Raul Julia Award for Excellence to MSNBC and Telemundo News Anchor JOSÉ DIAZ-BALART, and the Horizon Award to actress/comedian CRISTELA ALONZO and director ALFONSO GOMEZ-REJON at the NHFA’s 19th Annual Noche de Gala. The special evening will be hosted by NHFA founders Jimmy Smits, Esai Morales, Sonia Braga, Merel Julia and Felix Sanchez on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at The Mayflower Hotel. Filmmaker ROBERT RODRIGUEZ will present the Horizon Awards and Filmmaker MARCOS ZURINGA will present the student speaker. The Honorable LORETTA SANCHEZ is the honored guest speaker.
MELLORI VELAZQUEZ-a first year MFA graduate student at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts- has been selected to speak on behalf of the 2015 Scholarship recipients. The Noche de Gala dinner, underwritten by Ford Motor Company, will also feature a musical performance by Indie Rock sensation NINA DIAZ.
José Diaz-Balart is the host of “The Rundown with Jose Diaz Balart” on MSNBC, in addition to anchoring two programs on Telemundo, “Enfoque con José Diaz-Balart” and “Noticiero Telemundo.” Diaz-Balart began his career in 1984 and has since become one of the most respected voices in Hispanic journalism in the United States. His achievements include being the only journalist to serve as news anchor on two national television networks in Spanish and English on the same day for an entire season. He has received numerous accolades for his work and most recently was honored with the 2014 Life Achievement Award by the Hispanic Federation and the Communications Award by the National Council of La Raza.
“The Raul Julia Award for Excellence acknowledges the person or institution, who is making a critical difference for Latinos in media and/or entertainment” said Felix Sanchez, NHFA Chairman and Co-Founder. “Jose Diaz Balart is a renowned journalist, who seamlessly bridges English and Spanish language news reporting, bringing original and progressive reporting to issues of particular concern to the Latino community.”
The Raul Julia Award is presented annually to the person or persons who most advance the mission of NHFA. Previous awardees include Juanes, Rita Moreno, Demian Bichir, U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra; journalist/talk show host, Cristina Saralegui; Film Director Robert Rodriguez; Creator/Producer Roberto Orci; Film Director Patricia Riggen; Film Director Gregory Nava; ABC News Anchor Elizabeth Vargas; and TV Executive Producer/actress Sandra Bullock.
NHFA is pleased to present this year’s Horizon Award to two individuals who have not only emerged but continue to make a positive impact in all that they do, both personally and professionally. The award was established as a way to recognize the rare rising star that shatters the status quo and redefines the environment.
This year’s first Horizon Award recipient is actress/writer/comedian Cristela Alonzo, who made TV history in 2014 by being the first Latina to create, produce and star in a network sitcom, “Cristela.” This achievement capped a whirlwind year, having released her first stand-up CD through Comedy Central, “Some of the Hits”; was a viewer favorite guest host on ABC’s The View, and will be making her feature film debut in the upcoming Angry Birds movie with Jason Sudeikis and Bill Hader. She topped several comedy lists in the past year, including “Variety’s Top 10 Comics to Watch,” “Top 10 Comedy Acts to Watch in 2014” by LA Weekly, Cosmo Latina’s “8 Women You Should be Following on Twitter,” Time Out’s “Comics to Watch,” Cosmo’s “13 Female Comedians to Watch for in 2014,” and “One of the 50 Comedians You Should and WILL Know” by Vulture.com.
The second Horizon Award recipient is director/producer Alfonso Gómez-Rejon, who directed this summer’s critically acclaimed indie feature film Me and Earl & the Dying Girl, which won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award in the US Dramatic Competition at Sundance Film Festival, 2015. Gomez-Rejon began his career as personal assistant to such esteemed filmmakers as Martin Scorsese, Nora Ephron, Robert DeNiro and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu. He has gone on to direct second unit for his former bosses, as well as the likes of Kevin Macdonald, Ryan Murphy and Ben Affleck (on the Academy Award-winning Argo). He has directed many episodes of Glee and American Horror Story, as well as numerous national commercials. He was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Directing For a Miniseries for American Horror Story: Coven, as well as for Outstanding Miniseries as the show’s Co-Executive Producer. He also directed the pilot for Fox’s Red Band Society, which was picked up for series.
This year’s event will also feature a highly anticipated performance by Nina Diaz, lead singer for the San Antonio band “Girl in a Coma.” Hailed by NPR as “one of the two or three most exciting, scary good vocalists in rock today,” Nina began singing, playing guitar and writing songs since the age of 13 for Girl in a Coma. At age 17, Nina and the band performed at NY’s Knitting Factory as part of a television show taping where Joan Jett happened to be in the audience. She was so impressed that she signed GIAC to her Blackheart Records label on the spot. They went on to release four successful albums. Nina recently decided to take a break from Girl in a Coma to work on her solo career and has since consistently performing to sold out crowds.