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Jenny Lorenzo, AKA Abuela, Lends Her Voice to Latino Series Victor & Valentino

Jenny LorenzoEXPAND
Jenny Lorenzo
JD Renes
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Miami’s most famous abuela is lending her voice to a new Cartoon Network animated series.

You already know Jenny Lorenzo as her Abuela character on YouTube and the media site Mitú. Now, the Cuban-American and Miami native has nabbed a recurring role in the upcoming show Victor & Valentino.

Premiering on Cartoon Network Saturday, March 30, the show centers on two half-brothers, Victor and Valentino, who sell vegan tacos out of their little street cart in the fictional city of Monte Macabre, where all sorts of Latin-American folklore comes to life. The brothers are very different, but it's their differences that make their dynamic hilarious, Lorenzo says.

Although she can’t share many details about her character on the show, she does confirm the role is very different from those she portrays on her channel. “Let’s just say she looks very different from me, but she’s a fun, fun role to play.”

A content creator by trade, Lorenzo spoke to New Times from her Los Angeles home earlier this month. She had two video shoots that same day, including one for her online channel. “You hope that when you do these [videos] that other people can relate,” she says. “I write from my own experiences growing up Cuban in Miami, but my content goes beyond Miami and it resonates with people all over.”

Victor & Valentino is Lorenzo’s first professional voice-over work. Aside from the videos she’s produced, the Miami native has a short list of professional credits. When it came time for casting, the series creator — fellow Miamian and Cuban-Colombian-Mexican Diego Molano — fought to get Lorenzo on the roster.

Victor & Valentino.EXPAND
Victor & Valentino.
Cartoon Network

“I met Diego through a mutual friend, Kiki Valdes of Abuela Mami,” Lorenzo explains. “He watched a bunch of my videos and said he’d keep me in mind if there was a role that popped up he thought I would be a good fit for.” Not expecting much, Lorenzo received a call from Molano months later asking her to audition.

“He really vouched for me,” says Lorenzo softly, “and I will forever be grateful.”

Victor & Valentino is a series created by a Latino, stars a nearly exclusively Latino cast, and is telling authentic Latino stories.

“I believe this is the first-ever Latino animated series for Cartoon Network,” Lorenzo says. She applauds the network for doing its part to bring more diversity to Hollywood. “It’s not just the creators who are behind the scenes at Cartoon Network, but it’s also the content that is very diverse… They’re breaking barriers with their animated series and I know that so many little kids out there are going to feel so represented with Victor & Valentino.

The show is made for both kids and adults, and Lorenzo all but guarantees viewers are going to “laugh their asses off as to how funny and how relatable these characters are.”

The actor recalls her first day on set: “I was overcome with emotion on the first day of recording... I remember walking in and seeing all of these Latino actors — many of whom I recognized or worked with before — and all I could think was just, Wow.”

The premise behind Victor & Valentino is to showcase Latino traditions and stories. While kids who grew up in a primarily Hispanic household know the stories of la chupacabra and la llorona, the rest of the world might not. “You always hear about Greek mythology, and you don’t have to be Greek to know these stories,” Lorenzo says. “Few non-Latino people in America can tell you about the legends and tales from Latin American culture… That’s what’s going to be so great about this show. It’s almost like a little sneak peek as to how weird we Latinos can be.”

Lorenzo as her popular Abuela character.EXPAND
Lorenzo as her popular Abuela character.
Heubner Headshots

There are many traditions known to the Cuban community, but one memory from her Miami childhood that stands out to Lorenzo is the azabache. A small black bead or pearl is to be worn to protect the wearer from the evil eye. Lorenzo says she had a little black bead pinned to every piece of clothing she wore as a kid. According to her mother, even though Lorenzo was wearing her azabache at her baptism, someone gave her the mal ojo and that caused her to cry excessively. “It sounded like I had gas, but no — my mom insists that so-and-so was looking at me weird.”

As an adult, Lorenzo doesn’t wear her azabache anymore, but the stories about el mal ojo haunted her so much that she still finds herself questioning the accuracy of it all. “I can still hear my grandma in my head saying, 'La genteestaembidiosa, tengacuidado!'” she says, emphasizing the Spanish in her now-recognizable classic abuela accent.

After graduating with a degree in film and theater studies from the University of Miami, Lorenzo says she was struck hard by the realization that Miami didn’t offer the opportunities she craved. In 2015, at age 28, she decided to move to the West Coast and in the four years since has accomplished a lot: She cofounded Pero Like over at Buzzfeed, started her own YouTube channel, and created a handful of recognizable characters that has helped her carve a name for herself. And that name is about to get brighter.

In addition to creating content for her channel, Lorenzo is pitching some original series to various networks in California. “Light all the saint candles,” she says with a laugh. “I’m trying to get there and tell more authentic stories about the Latino experience.

“Latinos are kicking ass right now and this is just the beginning.”

You can catch the first episode of Victor & Valentino online before it premieres Saturday, March 30. Lorenzo’s character will appear later in the series around the 22nd episode.

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