LOS ANGELES -- Ana Martinez is the Latina powerhouse behind every 300-pound, black and coral terrazzo marble star placed on and around the world-famous 15-block stretch of Hollywood Boulevard.
Wielding the power of the stars and affectionately known as "Stargirl," Martinez is the vice president of media relations for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the producer of the famed Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremonies. This year she'll celebrate 30 years in that position.
Half-Mexican and half-Peruvian, she moved her way up at the chamber from receptionist to vice president, despite initially being considered too shy for the gig.
"I would wake up in the middle of the night because I didn't know what I was doing. I had to create a different persona. I had to be firmer with the media and at the ceremonies. I became Johnny Grant's protégé. I learned the 'tell it like it is' attitude, and according to the Latin media, I'm still known for being a little tough," she said.
Grant was considered by many to be the unofficial "mayor" of Hollywood. A radio and television personality, he hosted several hundred Walk of Fame ceremonies until his death in 2008 at 84-years-old.
Martinez, known for being photographed wearing black sunglasses, said she is proud to hold such a power position in Tinseltown.
"I was from a little town in Baldwin Park, 30 miles east of Hollywood. My parents were immigrants," said Martinez, who is thankful her parents taught her Spanish. "It helps me in my job. I do a lot of interviews in Spanish," she said.
There are five categories for getting a star on the boulevard: Radio, TV, Motion Pictures, Recording and Live Performance. Sponsorship for a star is $40,000, and every celebrity is vetted and approved by an all-Walk of Famer member committee. Anyone can nominate a celebrity and they're chosen based on their longevity in the field of entertainment, the awards they've won and their philanthropic work.
This year 33 people were selected out of about 300 nominations, Martinez said. "We turn away a lot of people. It's the worst part of my job," she said. "But, it is a tourist attraction, so we'd like people who are well-known."
Mariachi singer Vicente Fernández's star ceremony was held on Veteran's Day 1998. "Everyone was off of work. There were 4,000 crazy Latinos there," she said laughing, saying it was the biggest crowd to date. "The gatherings for Latin stars are always the biggest," she said.
Singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez may get her star this year, but the date hasn't been set yet. "That's going to be crazy (if she gets the star) … People love her."
"It's a very unique job and this Latin girl's doing it. It's kind of crazy. When I got married, my boss told me to keep my last name because he said they wanted people to know we have a Spanish-speaking person the media can talk to. He was old-school, but he knew it was important," Martinez said. Martinez has been divorced for 13 years. She is raising her two daughters.
She said she's consider writing a book, after she leaves the chamber. She certainly has the stories for it.
One of her favorites is the day Johnny Grant was giving a star to actress and comedian Joan Rivers, but accidentally called her Joan Collins. Rivers stepped up and said, "It's ok Johnny. I've been called a bitch before."
She said Sean "Diddy" Combs was late to his ceremony and brought a slew of people. "He was gracious and nice, but he brought a bunch of people," she said laughing.
One of the most beautiful ceremonies, Martinez recalled, was for Andrea Bocelli. "He brought a choir of kids to sing to him, and then this little girl starts singing a solo, then he starts singing with her - all the police and firemen and all these big macho guys were all crying. It was really special."
She said that Muhammad Ali's star is on a wall and not the sidewalk because the boxer told her that since he's named after the Prophet Muhammad, the star could not be on the ground and stepped on.
When Michael Jackson died, Martinez said, a barricade had to be built because so many people came with flowers and they started piling up, causing traffic on the sidewalk. It went on for several days.
The most popular stars are Johnny Depp and Marilyn Monroe. "If I had a dollar for every photo taken of Depp's star, I'd be a millionaire," Martinez said.
Prince doesn't have a star. So when he passed away, people went crazy, she said.
"He wasn't nominated (while alive), but we can take nominations five years after his death. When he died someone drew a picture of the singer on a blank star. People were worried it was vandalizing a star, but I said let them grieve," Martinez said.
To date, President Donald Trump's star is the most vandalized.
Martinez says she'd like to see Adele, Pink, Gwen Stefani, and Clint Eastwood get stars, simply because the fans love them.
Martinez herself was gifted with a star five years ago. For her tireless work, after 25 years at the job, someone was able to get permission from the chamber (the stars are trademarked) to have a star made with her name on it. She displays the star in her living room.