John Leguizamo’s plan to grow Latinx presence in entertainment

Actor John Leguizamo has starred in a variety of films, including Romeo + Juliet, Collateral Damage, and even as the legendary plumber Luigi in Super Mario Bros. But even he can’t break Hollywood’s glass ceiling.

“It’s Plexiglas and it’s bulletproof, and you can’t get past it,” Leguizamo said in an interview.

Over the years, he said, studio execs have turned down his offers for stories, telling Leguizamo — who is of Colombian descent — that Latinos don’t seem to want to see “feel-good movies,” he said.

“Until we start seeing executives who look like us, like a brown Latino, I think it’s going to be very difficult for them to give us the appropriate space,” he added.

To solve the problem, he is merging his own New York-based digital media company, NGL Collective, with mitú of GoDigital Media Group, an LA-based digital media company that creates stories and videos for Latin American audiences. Mitú also runs a 14,000-square-foot studio on LA’s Eastside.

GoDigital’s acquisition of NGL is valued at more than $60 million and will create what the companies are calling “the largest digital first Latinx media powerhouse” in the United States. The combined company of mitú and NGL will have more than 90 employees, 92% of whom are Latin.

Leguizamo co-founded NGL Collective with entrepreneur and co-founder David Chitel in 2012. The company creates content targeted at NGL’s – new generation Latinx – audiences. It works with influencers and produces non-scripted television programs and documentaries, stories on topics such as fashion, parenting and recipes, and videos that help promote brands like Amtrak and Lexus.

“David and I have always tried to push Latin content and create a space for Latin content so that Latin people are reflected in our content and have the opportunity to have a medium that includes them when they are excluded in every other medium . ‘ said Leguizamo. “We want to change things”

The merger with mitú will give NGL Collective more reach to attract additional advertisers and content for Latinx audiences, NGL executives said.

“This merger will provide consumers and advertisers alike with an unmatched opportunity to benefit from the sum of these parts,” said Chitel, CEO of NGL Collective, in an interview.

According to the US Census, Latinos make up about 19% of the US population, accounting for much of the country’s population growth over the past decade. The group is also a large consumer of entertainment, spending 34% of their time streaming video, according to Nielsen data, compared to whites who spend 25% of their time in this activity.

This growth is a key reason companies like NGL are attractive to buyers.

“Latinx media consumption is exploding,” Jason Peterson, chairman and CEO of GoDigital Media Group, said in a statement. “This acquisition solidifies our position in the US Latino media space.”

Maribel Lopez, founder and chief analyst at Lopez Research, said the pairing of the companies makes sense, adding that more advertising dollars would allow the company to increase content production and reach a wider audience.

“Anyone serious about being in the new media world needs to have Latinx content and not just Latinx content but a broader portfolio of Latinx content,” Lopez said.

However, Hollywood has remained predominantly white and male on screen and in leadership positions. According to UCLA’s 2020 Hollywood Diversity Report, Latinos accounted for just 6.3% of scripted TV roles aired in the 2019-2020 season and only 4.9% of roles in 1,300 popular films in 2019.

“It’s hard for old Hollywood and streamers to give up the power, to give up the space they’ve had for so long,” Leguizamo said. “I mean, if we’re looking at the box office – 30% of it – we should be 30% of the stories, 30% of the actors in movies, 30% of the executives in streamers and Hollywood.”

Leguizamo, who won a Tony Award for his solo show Latin History for Morons, hopes the deal will create a company that can offer more opportunities to Latinx creators.

He pointed out that Latinx consumers accounted for about 30% of box office sales for Thor: Love and Thunder, “yet we are virtually invisible in the media, in publishing, and in business. It’s crazy,” Leguizamo said.

“It’s almost like cultural apartheid that we live in, with such a prevalent culture in most major cities, and yet we’re practically invisible, and yet, and we’re online, we live and we create content,” Leguizamo said. “All these young people are creating such great, fun and powerful content and we want to leverage that a lot more and welcome a lot more content of this nature.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2022-08-01/lat-et-ct-digital-media-john-leguizamo-mitu-ngl-collective John Leguizamo’s plan to grow Latinx presence in entertainment

Sarah Ridley

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