Mexican actress and comedian Selene Luna talks about lending her voice to 'tía Rosita' in the new animated movie Coco and how she is defying stereotypes about little people.
Selene Luna
Credit: Steven C. De La Cruz

Playing tía Rosita in Disney Pixar’s new animated gem Coco was a dream come true for Selene Luna. “For me it’s very personal. I’m a Mexican immigrant and it’s an opportunity to show the world what a beautiful culture the Mexican culture is,” she tells PEOPLE CHICA of the all Latino cast. “In this political climate, it’s important to show what is positive about different cultures and how they contribute to America.”

Her role in the new flick hit close to home, she says: “She reminds me of the older women in my family. She is very loving and nurturing, but at the same time she is nervous all the time,” she says. “It’s my first experience playing a cartoon character. It forces you to use your imagination, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it. It was very exciting.”

The 46-year old actress and comedian says she’s hit the sweet spot in her career and personal life. She will soon be touring the United States with other stand up comedians for the show United Colors of Comedy and is enjoying life as a newlywed. She tied the knot with sommelier Adam Leemon in May. “He is my rock,” she says, “in show business there is an unbelievable amount of pressure and rejection, but he is always there for me. He makes it all better.”

At the duo’s wedding actress Margaret Cho was her maid of honor. “We have a very sisterly relationship, a great bond. She has taught me everything I know about stand up comedy, which is my passion,” says Luna, who has been Cho’s opening act. “She is my comedy jedi, but we also have a loving friendship. We know each other’s families.”

Premiere Of Disney Pixar's "Coco" - Red Carpet
Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty

The actress, who is 3’10, opened up about the challenges of being a little person and defying stereotypes in the entertainment industry. “For the most part, we are just considered an accessory. It’s always the Christmas elf, the mythical creature. It’s never a human role,” she says, calling Game of Throne‘s Peter Dinklage a trailblazer.

“Little people are rarely portrayed as having real thoughts and feelings. It’s always as some prop. Let’s put you in a costume and have you run around like an idiot,” she says. “The way I have fought against that misconception and attempted to create a different standard has been through stand up comedy. On stage, doing stand up comedy, people don’t care what you look like or where you come from. If you can make them laugh, they will listen to you. That has been an empowering outlet for me.”

Luna, who began her comic career over two decades ago, says, ironically, that facing a crowd of strangers in comedy clubs has never made her flinch. “I have faced so much adversity in my life that it prepared me for stand up comedy,” she reflects. “It takes a lot to make me nervous.”

Luna says her father, a Mexican immigrant who worked three jobs to support the family, taught her perseverance. “He instilled in us that if you have a goal in life, you have to make the sacrifice it takes to make it happen. That value was instilled in me: ‘Don’t complain and take care of business.'”

Another inspiration was Mexican American actor Edward James Olmos, who plays Chicharrón in a short, but crucial scene in Coco. As a girl growing up in East Los Angeles, she says he was a role model and feels proud to share a screen credit with the Oscar nominee. “If you work hard and have the tenacity and believe in what you are doing”, she emphasizes, “it does pay off in the most fulfilling manner.”