By  on February 10, 2012

"Buenas noches!” trilled Colombian actress Sofia Vergara, as she bounded on stage with the cast of her hit show, Modern Family, to accept the Golden Globe award for Best TV Series, Comedy or Musical.

"Muchas gracias Antonio! Muchos gracias Salma!" She beamed, addressing presenters Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek in the native language they all share. Vergara then delivered the entirety of the show's acceptance speech in Spanish, rolling every R as crisply as a toreador waves his red cape, while beside her stood the show's co-creator, Steven Levitan, humorously translating her remarks into English as she finished each sentence.

Vergara’s speech did more than cement Modern Family’s status as must-see TV. It also affirmed the starring role that Latin culture is assuming in the United States as the Hispanic community moves from minority to mainstream.

The numbers tell the story. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are roughly 50.5 million Hispanics in the U.S., about 16.3 percent of the total population. That number is expected to grow to 66.3 million people by 2020. Moreover, the Hispanic population is younger than the total population, with a median age of 27.7 versus 36.8. Over the next 10 years, the number of Latinas in the 18-to-49 age range is projected to grow by another 3.2 million, while the number of non-Hispanic women in that age group will actually decline by more than one million. In terms of buying power, Hispanics currently control about $1.2 trillion.

Separating out women, the numbers are equally as impressive. “By 2020, we are going to have 23.8 million Hispanic women in this country,” says Ricardo Quintero, senior vice president, global general manager, market development at Clinique. “There will be 10.3 million in the 15-to-34 age range and 9.4 million in the 35-to-59 bracket, and these are the most important groups in terms of consumption. Any company who wants to grow needs to look at the numbers.”

“We have critical mass inside of the United States” agrees Graciela Eleta, senior vice president of the client development group at Univision. “The Hispanic population has grown 40 percent over the last 10 years. For companies looking to grow, it’s going to be difficult to do so in the absence of a focused and targeted plan to reach Latinos.”

These numbers are significant enough to quicken the heartbeat of almost any marketer. But for beauty marketers, the numbers are especially arresting: Not only are there a lot of Latina women in the U.S., but they are extremely involved in beauty. For Latina women, beauty is a cultural imperative that transcends age and income level. “When it comes to spending on yourself, there is no limit, because we consider it an investment. Somehow, we are born with it, the idea of looking good,” says Kika Rocha, the beauty and fashion director of People En Espanol.

Like Vergara, Rocha is from Colombia, where the word chispa encompasses the beauty ideal. “The first thing you see is the attitude of a woman—how she carries herself, the confidence she exudes from the inside. That confidence is tied to the outside,” says Rocha. “We call it chispa, the little sparkle we have, the joy of being Latin, of enjoying our curves, of being beautiful and sexy. It’s a natural thing.”

“From the time I can remember, I would see my mother wearing makeup and taking care of her skin,” agrees Daisy Olivera, editor in chief of TheDaisyColumn.com, a Web site and blog covering society, style and culture in Miami and Palm Beach that has developed a broad appeal among affluent Latina readers across the country. “It is an integral part of an Hispanic woman’s day-to-day life. It’s not like you save it for a special occasion.

“Do you know how some grandmothers tell you to wear clean underwear every day because you never know when you may end up in the hospital?” Olivera continues. “The Cuban version is to wear good makeup because you never know who you’re going to run into!”

Attitudinally, it’s a world away from Anglo culture. “In English, the word vanity tends to have a somewhat negative connotation in the culture,” says Eleta. “In Spanish, vanidad is a positive attribute. It means taking care of yourself and presenting your best self to the world.”

The numbers back this up. According to a Univision study, 69 percent of Latinas agree that it’s very important to wear makeup to look good, versus 46 percent of non-Latinas. Sixty-five percent are heavy users of fragrance, meaning they spritz it on at least four times a week.

“We are significantly more biased towards beauty and less concerned about price,” says Eleta. “We don’t mind doing and as opposed to or. I want the lipstick and the lip gloss. I wear the eye shadow and the eyeliner and the mascara. We are not afraid of layering and piling on and the same goes with fashion.”

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