Photo by David Shankbone, courtesy Flickr
John Alberto Leguizamo first gained attention and acclaim for his small solo stage shows, in which the actor transformed himself into a wide array of characters to confront Latino stereotypes. Born in Bogota, Colombia, he immigrated to New York at age four. It was in high school that he took his first acting courses, working at Kentucky Fried Chicken in order to pay the tuition. Though he began to land small parts in major films, Leguizamo was frustrated by the stereotypical nature of his roles, which were often drug dealers and thugs. However, his 1998 show Freak made him the first Latino to star in a solo show on Broadway, and his film breakthrough came in Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam. Since then, he has played a diversity of roles in films such as Moulin Rouge!, Ice Age, and The Lincoln Lawyer. He has also produced and directed films—and continues to write and perform in stage shows.