In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, TikTok announced it has partnered with two media companies, Macro and UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, to award $50,000 grants to 10 Latinx TikTok creators.
Recipients of the $50,000 TikTok Latinx Creatives Grant pitched their “dream creative project” ideas for books, movies, television shows, radio shows, or other media to TikTok, Macro, and Unbelievable Entertainment. Macro—a BIPOC-driven media company which finances film, television, and other digital media projects—and UnbeliEVAble Entertainment—a film and television production company founded by actor, director and Latina advocate Eva Longoria—will be providing the selected creators with “personalized coaching sessions” on their new projects.
This is one of multiple initiatives launched this month by TikTok in celebration of Latinx Heritage Month. In 1968, the United States government first officially recognized a week-long celebration of the histories and cultures of Hispanic and Latinx people living in the country. Today, the celebration has grown to be a full month from September 15 to October 15. While the month is recognized by the government as Hispanic Heritage Month, some organizations prefer to use Latino, Latinx, or Latine Heritage Month.
In celebration of the month, TikTok also shared its 2022 Latinx TikTok Trailblazers list. The list showcases 10 creators who will be spotlighted on the official @tiktokcreators, @tiktok and @casatiktok accounts. The company also announced a series of TikTok Live programming for the month, featuring a variety of Latinx creators, musicians, and businesses. The company will also host an in-person Latinx Heritage Month event in New York City, called the Visionary Voices Salon. The Visionary Voices event is the second of its kind which celebrates cultural communities on the platform, this time featuring a live panel with Latinx business leaders.
In October 2021, UnbeliEVAble Entertainment and Macro also partnered with TikTok to launch a 10-week gathering of 150 creators called the TikTok Latinx Creatives incubator program. The program brought together TikTok reps, media professionals, and its selected cohort of creators to participate in presentations, panels, workshops, town-halls, and community forums, according to TikTok.
Isabel Quinteros, director of artist partnerships at TikTok, told Passionfruit the grant application was opened up to the 150 creators in the Latinx Creative Program. She said the company is planning for the grants to support podcast, book, and television pilot projects from TikTok creators. She said the program will also provide project mentorship.
“MACRO and UnbeliEVAble are having initial conversations with all grant recipients to help streamline ideas and advise them on how to best bring their dream projects to life. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and we’re excited to provide an elevation opportunity to some of our talented Latinx Creatives,” Quinteros said.
When asked about the mentorship the company will provide the creators who receive these grants, Macro’s chief brand officer Stacy Walker King told Passionfruit: “Our experience working with this group of creators has been enlightening and inspiring. We are blown away by their unbridled creativity and their commitment to their craft.”
Actress Eva Longoria, founder of UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, also provided the following statement: “Our meetings with the creators have been really refreshing as we’ve gotten to learn more about their larger business goals and how they’re looking to push themselves to the next level.”
Grant recipients include wild food, mycology and permaculture creator Gabrielle Cerberville (@chaoticforager); physician and healthcare field educator Leslie Gonzalez (@drlesliegonzalez); comedy creator, writer and actor Francisco Cardozo (@franciscolikethecity); mental health advocate Jorge Alvarez (@ijorgealvarez); family storyteller and house cleaning tips creator Ileana Cabrera (@morethancleaning); comedian, podcaster, and writer Miguel “Che” Dalmau (@myundocumentedass); restaurant owner and food creator Jonathan Perez (@ollin.nyc); celebrity tattoo artist Herchell Carrasco (@rockrollg); car enthusiast creator Jose Luis Cisneros-Carlos (@username_af); and financial educator Giovanna Gonzalez (@thefirstgenmentor).
Gonzalez told Passionfruit that after she went viral on TikTok in 2021, she decided to quit her job in investment management to create financial literacy content for Latinx people and first-generation immigrants full-time. She’s since grown an audience of over 197,000 tuning in to hear her professional and financial advice. Using her new grant, she will finish an upcoming finance book geared towards first-gen readers.
“My dream project is writing a personal finance book for First Gen and Latinx. I’m excited to write this book because after reading over 50 money books myself, I have yet to find one that represents my money experience growing up in an immigrant household. The grant has given me the financial means to hire a book coach and will help cover publishing costs. I’m working on my manuscript and will be launching my book in September 2023,” Gonzalez said.
Another grant recipient, Miguel “Che” Dalmau, told Passionfruit he will be using his grant to work on a television series featuring a story about an undocumented teenager.
“I think my application stood out because it resonated with the trends we are seeing in society today. My story is about an undocumented teenager trying to find his way in a country that is hostile to him, and I think that TikTok, MACRO and UnbeliEVAble Entertainment saw my application as a project that needed to be made… I feel like the Latinx presence on TikTok is starting to make itself known. The US population is beginning to recognize the power of the Latinx community, and TikTok is helping amplify our voices!” Che said.
Another member of the grant cohort, Illeana Cabrera, told Passionfruit she uses her platform on TikTok as a way to share her mom’s story as a housekeeper and to teach people how to clean now that she works side-by-side with her mother. She said she plans to use the grant she received to create a podcast to continue to tell others’ stories that are like her mom’s.
“Immigrants come to the United States with the hope and dream of creating a better life filled with the pursuit of happiness. My mom was no exception to this. As a housekeeper and a single mother, my mom was able to make a living, raise three children on her own, two of which graduated with a bachelor’s degree, and become a US citizen… I love sharing my mom’s story with the community, but I’d love to continue doing that for others. I’ll be creating a podcast where I invite the audience to share their story, whether they be anonymous or not, so that I can continue to inspire and build a community!” Cabrera said.
Cabrera also said she thinks TikTok created a platform where the Latinx community could have a “big presence” unparalleled in the traditional media world.
“Growing up as a Latina, I did not identify or see many people in the entertainment space who looked like me,” Cabrera said. “It brings me so much joy that my kids can see people in the entertainment space that look like them.”
TikTok has faced criticism from marginalized groups in the past, with some saying its content moderation, community guidelines, and idea theft policies make it harder for non-white creators to succeed on the platform. However, many creators in the new program are hopeful and happy about TikTok’s latest initiatives and how they may amplify underrepresented experiences. Grant recipients say the program has changed their lives.
Gabrielle Cerberville, another grant recipient, told Passionfruit they appreciate TikTok for providing a space that they think supports Latinx creators.
“Casa TikTok is a lively, hip and happening place, and I’m so encouraged that TikTok has taken an interest in cultivating and supporting our vibrant group of creators in our individual pursuits. The support we have received is tremendous and has been utterly life-changing,” Cerberville said.
Cerberville, who has cultivated a TikTok account exploring foraging techniques, plans to create a docuseries project diving deeper into foraging’s return to mainstream interest, interviewing a diverse set of foragers based in the United States.
“In reality, many of the people currently foraging around our country, especially Indigenous, Black and brown people, are some of the fiercest and most radical voices for the protection and sustainability of our landscapes. We are doing our part to subvert wasteful norms and demonstrate a different and more harmonious way of living with the earth, not just on it. … We will explore [forager] ecosystems, the places where they nurture and collect food, and discuss their visions of the future while finding and making amazing food together. I hope to illuminate their stories and send a message of hope to the world through our connections,” Cerberville said.
Francisco Cardozo (@franciscolikethecity), who also received a grant, is a queer actor and writer based in New York City. His project is a fiction book focused on a gay Latino immigrant living in NYC.
“As a storyteller who deeply believe in representation, I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity,” he said. “Growing up, one of the things that confused me the most (looking back) was the lack of a positive role-model, or rather, the excess of negative ones. The characters on television that I could identify with had been created to make fun of me and people like me. So, I started to think that my life was also a joke. Things have changed in recent years but there’s still so much to do and as a content creator I want to be a part of that change. I want Latinx queer folks to see that you can be proudly out of the closet, that we have stories to tell, and we are worthy. I want to be a successful openly gay Latinx storyteller. TikTok, MACRO and unbeliEVAble are definitely making that dream come true.”
Another recipient of the grant, tattoo creator Herchell Carrasco, said he’s looking forward to working on a television pilot project about his work as an artist. He said this grant comes after being a part of the Latinx Creatives incubator, where he said he received a superlative title of “Most likely to get a TV show.”
“Fast forward to now, I’m one of 10 recipients [awarded] a grant by TikTok and Macro. I’m going to be working on a TV Pilot and begin to pitch my California lifestyle, celebrity tattoo sessions series. I’m excited to represent Mexican American people and I hope to inspire the youth to chase their dreams. Sí Se Puede,” Carrasco said.
Update Oct. 3 9:46am CT: This post has been updated with an additional comment from a grant recipient.
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