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Conversations with Atlanta's Movers and Shakers, Denise Santos

Actress, and Advocate for Latina Talent in Media, Denise P. Santos

A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to connect with Actress and advocate for inclusion and representation of Latinx talent in media, Denise Santos. Denise is best known for starring alongside flag football star, Diana Flores as her Mamá in this year's groundbreaking NFL Super Bowl commercial. She can also be seen on Long Slow Exhale, MacGyver, The Resident, and Family Blood.

Atlanta Film and TV: We gave you a brief introduction. Could you share with us about who you are and what you do in the Atlanta Film and TV


Denise Santos: "I am an actress, co-founder, and producer of Latinas in Media Atlanta, and most recently Latinx Filmmakers Atlanta. I began acting in high school, but almost 10 years ago my career took another level. Since coming to Atlanta, I have realized that there are people like me, but there is not enough visibility and platforms to showcase Latinas. So, I got together with two friends, and co-founded LIMA (Latinas in Media Atlanta,) where we showcase actors, directors, and writers and allow them to perform their original works through live performances and showcase them to the industry and community. Latinas in Media Atlanta took everything to another level. We were featured in Atlanta Magazine and photographed by Ben Rollins, then made the cover of Oz Magazine highlighting Latinos in a piece titled, “Interrupting The Narrative” written by Daniela Cintron. These experiences have led to more opportunities, and I am proud to represent our Latin talent. The Latin community in Atlanta may be small but very much intertwined with the rest of the industry. As such, I wanted to create a platform to advocate for, speak on behalf of, and highlight the Latin talent in Atlanta."

Atlanta Film and TV: Can you take us on your journey about how you started, to where you are now?

Denise Santos: "As an only child, I always loved acting. As a kid, I would stand in front of the mirror with a brush for a microphone, talking to myself and doing my own thing! Because I was a shy child, my mom enrolled me in modeling schools which pushed me to want to study acting more, which actually took my mom by surprise. Traditionally, Latin families do not encourage creative outlets because they fear you will struggle."

"In high school, I took drama classes, did background work, and worked on short films. My journey began in Miami, Florida, and when I moved to Atlanta in 2009, I took a break from acting. I got remarried and focused on my children and family. With their encouragement, they pushed me back into acting. I got into classes, booked short films, and did some background work to familiarize myself with the Atlanta film industry. I would not be where I am today without my family and the people I have worked and collaborated with on projects. It's been a blessing to work with the people I have had in my life. "

Atlanta Film and TV: Growing up, did your parents recognize your love of the arts? And, if so, how did they nourish your gift to facilitate growth?

Denise Santos: My love for acting wasn’t encouraged, which often happens to actors (or people) in the industry, particularly those from traditional upbringings, where parents may want their children to become doctors or lawyers to avoid struggles. Or they may want their children to have a degree or a license to secure a career and title. My mom, as a single mother, wanted the best for me. However, I didn’t want what she wanted for me. Although she didn’t necessarily encourage my dream of acting, she was supportive and will celebrate my achievements. I also encouraged myself by learning to find my voice. I took drama classes. In college and pursued acting behind my mom’s back. Despite my mom’s wishes, acting was calling me! Now, she sees me on TV and when I received my first paycheck, I let her know it’s legitimate and that I can make a living from acting.

"My hope for those reading this interview is to find their path, even if it’s contrary to what others may advise. If you want to pursue your dream, do what you need to do to make it happen."

- Denise Santos

Atlanta Film and TV: You are fluent in Spanish and English. Can you talk about how your being bilingual created opportunities for you?

Denise Santos: "Spanish is my first language, and I am fluently bilingual. My mother would tell me to speak Spanish at home. I didn’t learn English until I started school. Being bilingual has given me tremendous opportunities to work on diverse projects, whether it’s commercials, industrials, film projects, or network bookings. I’m lucky to speak both languages - including a little Portuguese!

I’ve recently worked on two short films that will be released sometime soon. They are Spanglish productions, and because I am bilingual it really pushed me to work on those projects. The most recent Super Bowl commercial required I speak both English and Spanish. Speaking both languages has been nothing but beneficial for me, and I consider myself lucky! "

Denise Santos with Flag Football Star, on the set of a commercial for Super Bowl LVII3

Atlanta Film and TV: How do you advocate for inclusion and representation of Latinx talent in the media?

Denise Santos: "My advocacy began with Latinas in Media Atlanta and now Latinx Filmmakers Atlanta. We aim to create a platform to showcase the work of Latin people of all colors, shapes, and sizes in our community, industry, and the world. We’ve hosted two live showcases and a virtual showcase during the pandemic. We also have active social media platforms where we share resources, links, and opportunities for other Latin people to reach out to the rest of the nation and the world.

We share opportunities for auditions by the Casting Directors Society of America looking for Latin actors by reposting and sharing to our Latinas in Media Atlanta page. We lend our voice and platform to highlight our people’s achievements in Atlanta and beyond. We come from many nationalities and backgrounds and