Latinovators

LIZZIE VELASQUEZ

Born in Austin, Texas, Lizzie grew up battling an unknown syndrome, which makes it difficult for her to gain weight. As a result, her body was subjected to other health challenges as well. At 5 ft. 2 in. and only 58 lbs., Lizzie is blind in her right eye and, throughout her life, has undergone eye surgery, ear surgery, complete foot reconstruction and bone density tests, among other procedures and examinations.

Recently, as shared in the documentary A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story, Lizzie was diagnosed with neonatal progeroid syndrome, which encompasses two main components – Marfan’s syndrome and lipodystrophy.

“I’m very thankful and very humbled to be honored by such an incredible community. I’m also very honored to be in such great company. My life’s goal is to help people realize that they are enough just being themselves. I hope I will be able to continue my work in hopes of helping as many people as I can,“ said Lizzie Velasquez.

At 17 years old, her life changed when she discovered a viral video on YouTube naming her the “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” This moment would serve as the catalyst for her becoming an anti-bully activist and motivational speaker.

Since then, she has done numerous speaking engagements around the world including Barcelona, Mexico City and Kuala Lampur and her TEDx talk, “How do YOU define yourself?” is one of the most watched TED talks of all time with more than 13 million views (combined English and Spanish versions). Additionally, her YouTube channel, where she shares her personal experiences and everyday improvement tips, has more than 400,000 subscribers.

This year, “A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story,” a documentary sharing her story and encouraging message, was screened at film festivals across the country. The film premiered and won the Audience Award at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival in addition to top honors at every festival it has participated in since then. Included among them are Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival and Geena Davis’ inaugural Bentonville Film Festival, which was founded to champion women and diversity. The film’s production was funded via a Kickstarter campaign and became one of the site’s most successful crowd-funded documentary projects of all time.

The film will be released in top markets across the U.S. by Cinedigm on September 25 and available Digital HD and On Demand the same day. The film, directed and produced by Sara Hirsh Bordo and her Women Rising banner, is also available now for pre-order to individuals, educators, communities and organizations that want to host their own screenings in schools or theaters via Tugg.com.

Lizzie, a graduate of Texas State University is the author of three books: ‘Lizzie Beautiful: The Lizzie Velasquez Story,’ ‘Be Beautiful, Be You,’ and ‘Choosing Happiness’. Her story has been featured on Today Show, Katie Couric, The View, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and Yahoo! among many other national and international media.


ROSARIO DAWSON

Rosario Dawson is an actress and co-founder of Voto Latino.

Dawson made her film debut in the movie, Kids, and has since appeared inMen In Black II, The 25th Hour, Sin City, Rent, Seven Pounds, Unstoppable,Trance, Gimme Shelter, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Chavez, and Top Five.

Rosario Dawson is not only an award-winning actress with a 20-year career, but an all around creative, out-of-the-box innovative powerhouse whose work ranges from film production to social activism to fashion, design and technology. Along with her work at Voto Latino, Dawson serves on the board of the Lower Eastside Girls Club in Manhattan, V-Day, and Operation USA.

Most notably, Dawson was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award for her valuable contributions to the community and encouragement in getting others involved. Dawson’s journey has also taken her to Africa where she is a creative director and designer at Studio One Eighty Nine, an online platform she co-founded to curate and showcase beautiful work celebrating craftsmanship, heritage, and design.


LELE PONS

Vine personality and entrepreneur Lele Pons has become one of the most recognizable names on social media. She was the first Vine user to reach 1 billion loops. Today, Lele has over 9 million followers on Vine, and her videos have tallied a staggering 7.2 billion loops, making her the #1 most watched person and the #1 female viner in the world.

Having grown into a true social media trendsetter, she also has 3.4 million loyal followers on Instagram, and over 380K followers on Twitter.

Lele got her start when she created a page on the video-sharing app Vine in December 2013. Originally intended as a fun outlet to showcase her creativity, her vines evolved into comedic sketches and pulling practical jokes on family and friends.

Her physical comedic skill and likability has garnered notice from top media outlets, including the TODAY show, TIME magazine where she was named one of the most influential teens of 2015, Vanity Fair’s New Establishment List recognizing her as an influencer shaking the foundation of their industry and Business Insider which named her as one of the most popular Vine stars in the world.

In October, Lele was invited to the White House by First Lady Michelle Obama to help launch her Better Make Room campaign by spreading the campaign’s key messages through social media. Currently, Lele is working on the release of her upcoming book titled “Surviving High School” debuting April 2016 in addition to TV and film projects.

Lele is a classically trained opera singer and resides in Los Angeles, CA


OZZIE AREU

As president, Ozzie oversees all facets of the studio including feature films, television shows, and stage play productions. In this role, Ozzie manages the Tyler Perry Studios vision “A Place Where Even Dreams Believe,” intertwining worlds through story telling and family friendly entertainment, while inspiring audiences with real-life and thought provoking issues.

In addition to Ozzie’s duties as president of Tyler Perry Studios, he has produced numerous films and hit television shows for Perry. Films produced include “For Colored Girls,” “Madea’s Big Happy Family,” “Good Deeds,” “Madea’s Witness Protection,” “Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor,” “Peeples,” “Single Mom’s Club”, “A Madea Christmas” and his first animation “Madea’s Tough Love.”

“For Colored Girls” received honors at the NAACP Image Awards including Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for Kimberly Elise, Out- standing Directing for a Motion Picture/Television Movie for Tyler Perry, and Outstanding Motion Picture. At the 2011 BET Awards “For Colored Girls” received top honors with Best Picture.

Ozzie is the executive producer of numerous hit television series under Perry, including “Tyler Perry’s For Better or Worse,” “Meet the Browns,” “The Tyler Perry Show,” and “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.” In 2012 and 2013, “House of Payne” received four NAACP Image Awards including Best Comedy Series. Most recently and under Perry, Ozzie is producing the two dramatic series “Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots” and “Tyler Perry’s If Loving You is Wrong” as well as a situational comedy “Tyler Perry’s Love Thy Neighbor,” all airing on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Ozzie also heads up 34th Street films, a Tyler Perry Production arm that discovered the film, “Precious” while at the Sundance Film Festival and produced the movie “For Colored Girls” and “Peeples” under this banner.

Prior to assuming duties for Perry, as president of Tyler Perry Studios, Ozzie began his career in 1995 with Warner Bros. in Burbank, California. He worked for Bright Kauffman Crane Productions on the sets of NBC’s “Veronica’s Closet” and “Jessie” along with one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, Emmy award winning “Friends.”

Then from 1999 to 2005, Ozzie worked professionally for two of the most successful entertainers from Hollywood’s A-list, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. Next, Areu worked with Daytime Emmy Award winner Ellen DeGeneres and then right into working for Perry in 2006.