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The Scholastic Kids Press Corps is a team of about 50 Kid Reporters around the nation.  The interactive site brings daily news to life with reporting for kids, by kids.
Kid Reporter Grace Choi, Selena Gomez and Joey King Kid Reporter Grace Choi (left) on the set of the movie Ramona and Beezus with actress Selena Gomez (center), who plays Beezus, and Joey King (right), who plays little sister Ramona. (Photo Courtesy Grace Choi)

Selena Gomez The Role Model

Young Latina entertainer realizes the importance of her Hispanic heritage

By Grace Choi | September 15 , 2009

It was the very last day on the set. Actress and singer Selena Gomez was finishing up her role as Beezus in the upcoming feature movie Ramona and Beezus when she sat down to talk to this Scholastic Kid Reporter.

The set in Vancouver, Canada, was extremely busy, with crewmembers scurrying back and forth carrying (and dropping) camera equipment and scenery. Everyone was in a hurry and seemed to be shouting. The background noise was extremely loud when this reporter and Gomez sat down in the middle of the chaos to have a quiet conversation about Hispanic Heritage Month.

Gomez had to listen carefully to hear the questions. She considered each question thoughtfully before answering. She said her Hispanic heritage is very important to her and she wanted to be sure to give good answers.

"I have adults and parents who are of [Hispanic] heritage come up to me, saying how really wonderful it is to have a Hispanic role model for their kids on TV," she said. "That's when I really realized what an honor it is."

Acting and More

Gomez grew up in Grand Prairie, Texas. Her mother is of Italian descent, while her father is Hispanic.

She landed her first acting job when she was only seven years old as a regular on Barney & Friends. She currently stars on the hit Disney TV show Wizards of Waverly Place.

She recently starred in TV movies Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie and Princess Protection Program. She starred in the direct-to-DVD movie Another Cinderella Story as well. Ramona and Beezus is slated for the big screen on August 10, 2010.

Gomez is an accomplished 17-year-old actress, but that's not all. She is also a budding young pop star with a new album coming out this month. Kiss and Tell is set for release on September 29. Gomez said she was named after the Tejana star Selena and has always wanted to have her own band.

Cultural Importance

The young entertainer said she didn't at first appreciate that her success could be an inspiration to others of her heritage. Being nominated for an ALMA award helped her see the encouragement it provides. Alma is the Spanish word for "spirit" or "soul." The ALMA awards were established in 1995 by the National Council of La Raza to promote positive portrayals of Latinos in the entertainment industry.

"I realized it [the importance of being a role model] when I got nominated for an ALMA award, because that's a really big deal," Gomez said. "I realized how wonderful it is to be Latina, to be Hispanic."

One of the favorite aspects of her heritage is celebrating her culture with her family.

"I love to go home and be a part of my dad's family, and I love cooking the food," she said. "I love my grandma's rice, and she makes amazing tamales and empanadas."

Gomez offered some advice for anyone of any culture struggling to succeed in life.

"You are going to go through [tough times], but there is a saying I like to repeat to myself that a fan told me once: 'tough times don't last, tough people do,'" She said. "So think about that, repeat that to yourself, and focus on the things that are positive in your life—like your great family, your great friends—and it all just kind of dissolves."

To read more Hispanic Heritage Month stories, click here.

About the Author

Grace Choi is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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