Eva Longoria’s Next Role: Hispanic Activist in Washington

Monica Langley, Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2013

When Barack Obama takes the presidential oath of office on Monday, he will be joined on the platform by Supreme Court justices, former presidents—and one of the “Desperate Housewives.”

Actress Eva Longoria, the 37-year-old star of the hit television show and twice Maxim magazine’s Hottest Woman of the Year, is taking on a challenging new role as a Hispanic activist and power player in Washington, D.C. One of her primary aims is to make the case that “Latinos aren’t a drain on the economy or criminals crossing the border,” she says. “Most are hardworking people who are America’s emerging market.”

Eva Longoria

Eva Longoria

Ms. Longoria is the most prominent among Latino leaders who are gaining political sway from the 2012 election, in which the Hispanic vote was a critical force in delivering victory to Mr. Obama. A co-chair of his campaign, she stumped for him at rallies across the country and was one of the largest “bundlers,” or fundraisers, while hosting star-studded events raising millions of dollars.

Her role reaches beyond fundraising and speechmaking, however, and into policy and strategy. She helped urge Mr. Obama to make a key change in immigration policy last year, and she is teaming with business to explore investments in housing and retail developments in Hispanic communities.

Along the way she has developed a rapport with the president and his advisers. She is now planning meetings this weekend with the capital’s elite, including private receptions at the White House and vice president’s residence and a bipartisan brunch she is co-hosting at a Georgetown eatery this weekend with Mark McKinnon, a former strategist for George W. Bush and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain. There, she plans to begin a Republican outreach by meeting with Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, and other attendees including Grover Norquist.

It is part of a broader strategy to build her personal brand within the nation’s fastest-growing market. Ms. Longoria is modeling it on Bono’s celebrity-to-political-activist transformation, and has hired one of the singer’s advisers.


She has had a few missteps along the way. In the heat of the presidential campaign, Ms. Longoria angered some of her Republican fans on Twitter. In October, she re-tweeted, or re-sent, someone else’s message describing GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney as “racist/misogynistic” and calling people who would vote for him “stupid.”

She tried to delete it, but some of her nearly five million followers saw the message and objected. She followed up with apologies. “Sorry if people were offended by retweet. Obviously not my words or my personal view. I respect all Americans #FreedomOfSpeech,” she wrote.


In their occasional meetings over the past two years, Ms. Longoria and Mr. Obama have developed a rapport. Last spring, in a private meeting with Hispanic bigwigs, she pressed the president to move unilaterally to protect Latino undocumented youth at risk of deportation. According to Ms. Longoria and two others present, Mr. Obama first blamed Congress for failing to pass the Dream Act, a bill designed to address the problem.

To the surprise of several people present, Ms. Longoria persisted. “But Mr. President, you have to do something,” she said. As the conversation continued, she said: “With all due respect, sir, it needs to be delivered by you in an emotional manner.”

“What do you mean?” he replied, after suggesting that the executive branch was already working on a plan.

“Show your connection to us,” Ms. Longoria said. “You were raised in an environment similar to many Latinos. Talk to us like you’re talking to family.”


About two months later, on June 15, Mr. Obama announced a directive in the Rose Garden designed to help illegal immigrants who had been brought to the U.S. as children. They are “Americans in their hearts, their minds and every single way but on paper,” he said.


After Mr. Obama’s election in 2008, Ms. Longoria was named to a commission studying a possible Latino-American museum in Washington, D.C. {snip}

Around the time her marriage ended in 2010, Ms. Longoria launched her own production company, perfume line, her Los Angeles restaurant called Beso (“kiss” in Spanish) and a cookbook filled with her Tex-Mex favorites. She also enrolled in a master’s program in Chicano studies and political science at Cal State-Northridge, for which she is writing a dissertation. She says she didn’t want to be one of “the rich celebrities who don’t know what they’re talking about.”


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