Living The Future American Dream: Nickelodeon’s Lilimar Hernandez, Lilimar Hernandez, Bella and The Bulldogs, Nickelodeon

The national observance Hispanic heritage began in 1968 under the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, at the time it was recognized as Hispanic Heritage Week. Then under President Reagan it was expended it to cover a 30-day period, and enacted into law on August 17, 1988.

“Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.” – Library of Congress.

And, while it is vitally important to remember the struggles, sacrifices and advancements of Hispanic pioneers past and present, one must recognize that the future of diversity and acceptance for all American people comes from those who are still quite young. Many times younger generations simply don’t have the hang-ups or prejudices of older generations, and that can lead to progress.

Case in point, Lilimar Hernandez, one of the young stars on Nickelodeon’s “Bella and The Bulldogs.” At just 15 years old she exhibits a kind self confidence that can elude many adults. She naturally embraces both her Latin American roots and her upbringing in the U.S. with equal passion and without conflict. That is a refreshing sensibility, especially in a political climate when some feel that the two cultures are mutually exclusive. So, as Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close the spotlight in on Lilimar Hernandez, for honoring her family and their Hispanic heritage and living the future of the American Dream.

She was born in Nueva Esparta, Venezuela to Cuban parents, and lived there until the age of six when her family moved to the U.S. Like many Cubans they settled in Miami to be close to friends and family.

Most of Lilimar’s family work in the medical field, but the women on her mother’s side all studied ballet and there is a long line of musicians on her father’s side, so her mother enthusiastically nurtured her performance energy early on. “It took a couple of years to get used to the new country, and the new language,” Lilmar said. But, when she was about 9 years old she began acting classes.

By the time she was 11 years old, Lilimar was playing a 9-year-old on the international Spanish language soap opera “Rosario” (Univision, Venevision). The script required that her character cry nearly everyday of filming. She didn’t love that aspect of the job, but said that the accelerated pace of filming a soap opera taught her the mechanics of production very quickly. “It was like a film school.”

Nickelodeon brought her to Los Angeles, and the second season of “Bella and The Bulldogs” premiered in late September. On the show, her character “Sophie” has nearly a dozen siblings, but in reality Lilimar is an only child and lives in Los Angeles with her grandmother and mother. The three are extremely close, and Lilimar attributes her grounded and positive outlook to that closeness.

She said that some people who have grown up in Los Angeles in the entertainment business “might not have had that connection like I have with my family, then once this [career] happens it either goes to their head or they break apart.” Watching how that has played out for other performers has given her an example of what to stay away from, she said. “Here you have to be very smart about everything,” but she adds, as long as you have your family to confide in and help you, everything will be alright.

In many ways Lilimar is just a normal teenage girl. She loves fashion, especially in a pastel color. She loves to read teen fiction. She loves Starbucks Frappuccinos. And, she loves One Direction.

But, she also admires those who challenge popular ideas of feminine beauty and behavior. One of her favorite musicians is Melanie Martinez, whose song “Mrs. Potato Head” addresses the societal pressures that young women face regarding sexuality and plastic surgery.

For her Quinceañera (a Latin American right of passage for girls when they turn 15 years old), Lilimar chose a very bright pastel purple floor length number, but opted out of the customary layers and layers of poof. And, instead of heels she wore Converse high-tops. A choice her mother was not into, but supported. In what may be one of the wisest decisions ever made regarding a Quinceañera, Lilimar said, “I didn’t do a big party. I went to Italy.” She said, her parents asked her “‘Do you want a party or do you want to travel?’ I said, ‘Let’s go travel!'” Since a very young age she had wanted to travel to Italy, and that’s where she got to celebrate her 15th birthday.

Lilimar recently won an Imagen Award in 2015 for “Best Young Actress” in a Television Series. When her name was called she said she was shaking and forgot to thank many people because she hadn’t prepared anything. “I got there and I didn’t expect to win,” she said. “I was really happy. It was a nice night. It was something to remember.”

Lilimar’s mother, Mayte was equally shaken, surprised and thrilled. She said, “I didn’t expect it. It was a huge surprise, but a happy one!”

Mayte, is a quiet and reserved lady. Though fluent in English, she prefers to speak in Spanish when possible because she feels self conscious about her English abilities and accent. That’s a sentiment shared by many immigrants, whether they have been in the U.S. for just a short time or several years. What Mayte is not reserved about, is her admiration for her daughter. Every time her daughter speaks her face lights up.

Having the love and support of family can make all the difference for a teenager, no matter how talented of fortunate. But, having a family that also celebrates family history and cultural heritage can inspire a dynamic future for anyone.

“Family always keep you grounded because they’ve been there since the beginning, so they’re constantly there as a reminder of who you were and should be. It’s nice.”

Bella and The Bulldogs” airs on Wednesdays at 8 PM on Nickelodeon. You can follow Lilimar Hernandez on Instagram @Iamlilimar & Twitter @Iamlilimar.

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

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