Mamis Making a Difference

Before they were famous, celebrities like actor John Leguizamo, Olympic wrestler Henry Cejudo and writer Leila Cobo-Hanlon looked up to Mami for guidance. And since we know that raising accomplished and disciplined individuals is no easy feat, we applaud these moms’ countless acts of faith and persistent nudges that undeniably ignited their kids’ ambitions. Here, a dose of inspiration from three stellar mothers’ wise lessons:

For Luz Leguizamo, it was all about creating an artistic environment for her sons to thrive in New York City. “I truly believe that John was profoundly affected as a boy by watching my talented musician friends give extraordinary performances. My two sons always saw how hard their father and I worked. As immigrants, we studied English, which was difficult to do while we worked full-time. When John told me that he was going to be an actor and study drama on his own without going to college, I said firmly, ‘You must go to college. I won’t accept any excuses.’ I stood by my decision.” John Leguizamo eventually attended New York University and later enrolled in the prestigious Actors Studio. The rest is Hollywood history.

Nelly Rico came to the United States from Mexico seeking better opportunities for herself and her family. For decades, she worked multiple jobs to provide for her seven children. She consistently gave her family the resources and encouragement they needed to succeed. After raising four sons, three daughters and more than one wrestling champ, including Cejudo, the youngest American wrestler to ever bring home Olympic gold, Rico won the American Heritage Award in 2010, which is given to immigrants for their unique contributions to the U.S. “My mom is an amazing woman,” Cejudo once said. “She has influenced and encouraged me my entire life. She is my hero.”

Olga Sefair de Cobo raised four children in Cali, Colombia, with the belief that if her family always dined together and discussed what was on their minds at the table, the world could be their oyster. For her daughter Cobo-Hanlon, the executive director of Latin content at Billboard magazine and author of the critically acclaimed novel Tell Me Something True, having her mother close by made a difference. “Aside from dinner conversation, the most important thing was putting them to bed,” says Cobo. “Every night, les daba la bendición and listened to their secrets. The biggest secrets always came out at night,” she adds with a wink.

by Adriana López