As she waited in the wings of the stage for the cue to take her place as co-host of the ALMA Awards taping Sunday, a smiling and stunningly beautiful Eva Longoria couldn’t escape the thought that someone—she couldn’t even recall who—had planted in her head.
The spot where she would stand for the opening monologue with co-host George Lopez was the exact location on the stage of the Pasadena Civic Auditorium where 29 years earlier Michael Jackson had first unveiled his Moonwalk dance move that would catapult him to superstar status.
“I’ll count my blessings,” she said to one of the assistants on Team Eva helping with last second touches on the first of 10 gowns—each by a different designer—she wore during the show that was broadcasted on NBC at 8 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. CDT Sept. 21..
Then, at the sound of a drum roll, it was voila! A dazzling Eva emerged diva-fresh to a capacity crowd, fittingly perhaps on diez y seis de septiembre, the day marking the start of traditionally celebrated Mexican Independence from Spain.
“There is not one empty chair and if there was, Clint Eastwood would be talking about it!” joked Longoria in her opening, taking a dig at the legendary “Dirty Harry” star’s recent address at the Republican National Convention.
On an early evening filled with triumphant celebration, the ALMA Awards show recognized both Hispanic entertainers in America and an important date in Mexican and Central American history—“nuestra historia,” as Lopez said.
Although this was the third time Longoria and Lopez have co-hosted the ALMAS, there was still a refreshing charm in how the two stars moved the show along and still made the patience-tiring breaks caused by taping requirements seem less trying.
The unusually long ovation, perhaps punctuating the end of her “Desperate Housewives” run or possibly her presidential year yeoman crusade on behalf of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, appeared to move the diminutive actress.
“With the ALMAs we are not second best celebrities,” Longoria said in an interview just days before the show. ‘“Our celebrities are on the level of everyone else. Latinos are wildly successful and globally successful. We want everybody to see that.”
Her glowing heart shaped face resplendently set off by 2.44 diamond stud earrings by celebrity jeweler Martin Katz, Longoria quickly settled into a comfort zone with Lopez you only see in longtime friends, which they are.
They have set the bar high for hosting the ALMAs, and the pair were funny, chummy, lovable and better than most of the predictable hit sitcoms on commercial television today. Are you listening, NBC? How ’bout Longoria and Lopez in a Hispanic Cliff Huxtable-like family sitcom?
Lopez had some lighthearted fun with Olympic swimming champion Ryan Lochte, a Red Carpet hit whose mother was born and raised in Havana.
“Your mom is Cuban?” he asked Lochte. “Now the swimming makes sense.”
On Sunday, Longoria and Lopez had great help, of course, from fellow entertainers: country idol Martina McBride performing with Latin Grammy-winner Luis Fonsi; pop star Christina Aguilera receiving a special achievement award for her career and philanthropy; and a slew of presenters, including actresses Zoe Saldana, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Saldana and America Ferrera.
“This is pretty much where I got my start, here on the ALMA stage,” said Aguilera in accepting her award, “so thank you all for being on this incredible journey with me.”
Aguilera said she was humbled at being honored especially for using her influence to try to change the world for the better in causes she has assisted—from improving women’s rights to ending world hunger.
“I learned early on,” she said, “that having a voice isn’t as powerful as actually using the voice that you have. And throughout my career I’ve tried to drive that point home… I’ve seen how using my voice to raise the voice of others can create change…”
The show also paused to remember the life and work of the late actress Lupe Ontiveros who died at the age of 69 this summer.
The ALMA Awards were created in 1995 by the National Council of La Raza to help promote diverse and fair portrayals of Hispanics in the media.
For her part, Longoria handled her role of hostess even out in the Red Carpet where, wearing a Monique Lhuillier leg-showing dress, she welcomed and posed for paparazzi with several Olympic champions and medalists: Swimmers Ryan Lochte and Conor Dwyer, gymnist Danell Leyva and middle-distance runner Leo Manzano.
Those Olympic heroes were honored at the awards show along with water polo champions Brenda Villa and Jessica Steffens.
Meanwhile, comedian Erik Rivera brought down the house in his moment on stage—that Lopez, back stage, said was indicative of his future in comedy.
Just as amazing was the performance going on behind-the-scenes as Longoria made what seemed like lightning-quick wardrobe changes, looking unfettered despite the obvious time pressure.
She even made time to Tweet and post photos about her back stage rush to change from one dress to another.
— Eva Longoria (@EvaLongoria) September 17, 2012
Just as earlier in the evening she had tweeted about a wardrobe malfunction:
Red carpet emergency!On the red carpet! say.ly/adn4bvq
— Eva Longoria (@EvaLongoria) September 17, 2012
The show marked the end of a long weekend for the actress who had hosted a celebrity studded Pre-ALMA awards fundraiser for her foundation Saturday night at her Hollywood restaurant Beso where she entertained guests with her mother.
“Latinos are the fastest growing population in the United States and if we fail to resolve the problem of the education we are going to have serious problems with our future generations,” she told her audience there to support her work on behalf of Hispanic women.
And in her own way, too, Sunday, Longoria showed the magnanimity that makes her so beloved.
“I love being George’s sidekick for the night,” said Longoria. “I set up the jokes and he knocks them out of the park. He’s the funniest guy around.”