'Frida,' Hayek Top Hispanic Imagen Awards

Los Angeles (THR) -- Awards came in twos and threes at the 18th annual Imagen Awards dinner gala, with Salma Hayek, Robert Rodriguez and George Lopez each receiving a pair of awards and Hayek's film "Frida" three.

The Imagen Foundation, established in 1984 by Helen Hernandez and Norman Lear, celebrates positive portrayals of Hispanics and promotes the advancement of Hispanics within the entertainment industry.

"Frida" earned a best picture win, and Hayek and Alfred Molina were named best actress and actor. Hayek was also the recipient of the Imagen Foundation's Creative Achievement Award. Rodriguez was named best director and was honored with the Norman Lear Writer's Award.

On the television side, Lopez received both the best primetime comedy series award for his ABC series "The George Lopez Show" and the foundation's Vision Award. He also drew the evening's biggest laughs as he accepted his prizes.

"I'm proud that (Hispanics are) the largest minority," he said told the Beverly Hilton crowd Thursday night. "We have pride in who we are. But I don't know how the census can count us -- we hide when we hear them coming."

On a more serious note, Lopez asserted that "we only succeed when we support each other" and he credited "Lopez" executive producers Sandra Bullock and Bruce Helford and co-star Constance Marie.

"I don't feel like I deserve (this award), but I'll take it," he said. "Then, one day, when I feel like I do deserve it, I'll already have it."

Many of the night's winners expressed optimism that more and better roles were becoming available to the Hispanic community in Hollywood.

Said Wanda de Jesus, who earned the television actress award for her portrayal of Mami in PBS' "Almost a Woman," which was also named best television movie: "We're starting to see more three-dimensional (Latina) characters." She added that her role was that of "a complex, courageous, full-fleshed woman in every sense of the word. I never had the opportunity to do a role like that before."

Hayek, who accepted her creative achievement award via videotape, said she valued her award because she was receiving it at a time when there are many worthy actresses to consider for such an honor. "I hope that next year the competition is tougher and there are even more projects (to nominate),"she said.

And referring to the number of agencies around town opening separate Latin divisions to address this burgeoning segment of the industry, Lopez quipped, "It's almost like sitting at the card table at Thanksgiving dinner, but we'll take it."

Other winners included Luis Guzman (supporting film actor, "Punch Drunk Love"); Lupe Ontiveros (supporting film actress, "Real Women Have Curves"); ABC's "NYPD Blue," which took home the primetime series drama award for the third time; and Nickelodeon's "The Brothers Garcia," which earned its second Imagen Award.

Talk show host Cristina accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of Cuban singer Celia Cruz, who was home in Miami recuperating from an illness.