According to LaCosmopolatina.com "Being a Latina in the US is fabulous, but it comes with its own set of challenges. Sure we rock the best of both worlds, but it's not always easy striking the right balance between traditional, church-going, family-oriented good girl life and sexy, independent working woman. We love Jimmy Choos and we love maduros.
"We love our mamis even when they nag in Spanish about our gringo boyfriends; and we rely on la Virgencita as much as we do on our iPhones. Sometimes, though, it's still hard battling stereotypes. For example, we are not all Mexican (there are like 20 other nationalities, people!) and we don't all break out into dance the minute we hear the sound of congas and an electronic keyboard (thanks, Dave Chapelle, for that one).
"And it's annoying being constantly referred to as 'spicy' or 'caliente.' There are many non-food related adjectives I'd rather be described as. Overall, though, it's pretty fantastic being bicultural. www.LaCosmopolatina.com understands and celebrates that, challenges and all. That's why you'll always find everything you need to know this minute on LaCosmo to continue being your fabulous self."
www.LatinoLA.com Contributing Editor; Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez, through an introduction by Filmmaker David Mendez last year, finally had a chance to talk to Website co-founders, Lizabeth Cardozo and Tanya Alvarez:
AC: What is LaCosmopolatina all about? Purpose, goals, mission?
Liz: LaCosmopolatina offers daily tips for Latinas who think in American but love in Spanish. We tap into the wisdom of our mothers, tias and abuelas for generations-old info and marry it with the latest trends. We deliver tips written from a Latin perspective to Latinas across the nation, with the voice of your amiga who is sassy and opinionated, but you don't mind because she's funny. It was created to fill the existing void of content directed to US Hispanic females whose dominant language is English, but who embrace their heritage and wish to stay in touch with their roots.
Our message is about enhancing a Latina's life and inspiring her by covering important lifestyle topics and amazing Latinas in a way that relates to her own personal experiences. Latinas in the US aren't consuming their media on Telemundo, Univision or El Diario/La Prensa. They're reading the New York Times, Real Simple magazine, Daily Candy and The Economist. They're listening to the BBC, NPR, and CNBC. They're watching Desperate Housewives, Modern Family or Grey's Anatomy. I ask who is reaching them? Where is a lifestyle site on the Internet that is specifically for them? There aren't that many. We're the answer.
AC: Tell us a little about yourselves, Lizbeth and Tanya.
Liz: Made in Colombia. Born in the USA. One Size Fits All. La Colombiana has a PhD in teaching extranjeros how to perfectly roll their "rrrr"s. A true jet-setter, Lizbeth has roamed the world, from Chicago, Orlando, Colombia, Miami, New York, Italy and finally ending back in New York. With an arepa in one hand and the Colombian flag in the other, she will talk up a storm with anyone who is willing to listen. And who can stop her?! By the end of the conversation, you too will be saying, "Viva Colombia!" If she's not in the kitchen cooking up a sancocho that will make you forget all about watching your carb-intake, you can find her in the center of the dance floor proving that Latinos are born knowing how to shake what our mama's gave us!
Tanya Alvarez: A gringa who wears bright colors, loves empanadas, and has Shakira hips that definitely don't lie. Finally! Every gringo's dream of finding just the right amount of sabor has come true! Colombian at heart, but gringa to the core. Don't let her dark hair and dark eyes fool you, try speaking to her in Spanish and be ready to hear, "Huh?! I mean, que?" You would think that growing up as a first generation Colombian in Miami has taught her how to lose the "glish" in Spanglish, but with no luck. La Gringa uses her expert skills to move between both worlds with ease. Be ready to keep up with this fast paced, marathon-running gringa-Latina who brings home the bacon and can fry it up with sazon too!
AC: What was it in your childhood that inspired you to become a media person? Did you have an epiphany? When did you know you could do it and chose it as a career?
Tanya: I have always wanted to be an inventor since I was five years old. I was fascinated with creating things. One of my first entrepreneurial experiences was as a six year old at a typical Colombian party that my mom was throwing for family and friends. I parked myself at the entrance of my home armed with a cash box, big brown eyes, two pigtails and a business-minded determination. I charged people $5 upon entering. How could people say no? They didn't. They paid. My mom later found out through friends what I was doing and doubled over with laughter. She loves telling that story over and over again. Through these types of experiences I realized I wanted to be an entrepreneur and more specifically in a digital capacity where one can positively impact others instantaneously.
Liz: Since I was a child I had a wild imagination. One of the things my mom instilled in my sister and I was the love of books and words. We were sort of book geeks. My sister and I would scour the kid's summer book lists, pack lunch for the day, and speed over to the public library on our bikes to stock up. We'd stay all day and get lost in imaginary worlds that later we would recreate in a forest or field close to where we lived. I was also fascinated with dragons, fairies and elves. I would draw these beautiful characters in my sketchpad and would create character profiles and fantastical story lines. I continued to develop these skills not knowing that I could one day make it a profession. I also learned about sales and relationships through osmosis by a man I considered the "Greatest Salesman in the World" when I was younger: my stepfather.
AC: What where your college experiences like, both good and bad? Did you have a socio cultural awareness?
Tanya: Wellesley College is an all-female school and a culturally homogeneous institution. I went through quite a culture shock coming from Miami, which has a very eclectic and colorful Latin culture. For example, I was used to being much more affectionate in social situations. Kissing on the cheek was commonly practiced upon first meeting someone. I learned pretty quickly, after a couple of uncomfortable encounters, that a handshake is more customary among Northeastern society. Many times, I found myself longing for Latin-based sounds, bright colors, rice and beans, and the warmth of the Miami sun. I soon realized that Latin people express themselves in a much livelier way through colors, hand gestures, physical affection, words and food. I was a part of that world. Massachusetts was the first place I lived where the people did not go back and forth with languages; it took some getting used to. Upon experiencing this new paradigm, I decided to embrace my Latin culture. Before I had avoided it altogether when I desired to be more American and less Latin.
Liz: University was pretty homogeneous. I already was exposed to my Colombian culture via my parents' ways and trips every summer to Colombia to be with my huge family. Also, we ate Colombian food on special occasions, we'd listen to cumbias and bambucos, and we spoke Spanish at home. My father insisted on this. What really jolted me into an appreciation of my heritage was living in Colombia for one year after college. Those were my Che Guevara days and while living there, I decided I wanted to be a reporter and a photographer/activist. I wanted to showcase the dichotomy between the social inequality and atrocities with the beauty and resilience of Colombian people and culture. I would travel to remote villages in 98 Fahrenheit degree weather or high in the cold mountains to photograph the beauty of the people, the rundown but beautiful Spanish colonial homes, the artesanias, their daily lives and simple ways. These people really knew how to live despite the ongoing 40-year civil war.
Even though I wanted to stay in Colombia, circumstances did not allow this and, upon returning to the states with a dogged determination, I decided I wanted to serve the US Hispanic and Latin American markets. Somehow I wanted to make an impact on my beautiful Colombia and its people.
AC: Were there any obstacles for Latinas at the time trying to get into advertising and media?
Tanya: I did not personally experience any obstacles but I am certain that many others have, and will continue to, in the future. I realized two things: the more connected you were (or the people your parents knew were) the more this helped you out. I did not have that. Since I did not have that kind of network at my disposal, I had to be creative and find other ways to get interviews and internships. It all comes down to how badly you want to succeed. I encountered obstacles and challenges early on in life and faced them head on.
Liz: I always knew I wanted to work in advertising or the media. I was going to make it happen no matter the circumstances. After interviewing somewhere, I'd skim the kiosk and locate media and advertising companies. I'd then walk in and present them my resume and ask to see the HR Manager, the Director of Account Services or the News Director. Sometimes it worked! And if it didn't, I'd return, follow up with a call, or ask somebody who knew them to connect me with them until they'd see me. I admit, it was tough getting in, but once I realized the power of networking with the right people and just believing in myself, the more the opportunities came my way. If you're sincere and you show genuine interest and a passion to succeed, people will have the desire to help you. You just have to ask for it.
AC: Tell us about your first break in the corporate world? Who believed in you? Who didn't?
Tanya: Upon graduating college, the Internet bubble had just burst. Therefore, while many of my classmates chose Management Consulting or Investment Banking, I refused to go down that path regardless if it paid much more. I took my chances and went the start-up route and was paid peanuts and worked crazy hours. My family did not have money to support me so I had to live on the small wage I was making in New York. It all paid off because it gave me the foundation and understanding to start my own venture at 25 years old. I was fortunate to have a family who always believed in me and encouraged me to take risks. When I thought I couldn't take anymore or I doubted myself, they encouraged me to push forward. There were a number of people who told me I should take a job at a Fortune 500 Company and that what I was doing was too risky. I'm glad I never listened to them.
Liz: I had many first breaks. I am deeply indebted to the many people I have crossed paths with throughout my career. There are too many to mention, but the ones that stand out are: Tom at KEZA FM Radio in Arkansas who gave me a break, at 21 years old, to produce the morning news for three months alongside the radio personality, The Rotund One, while he recovered from brain surgery (sounds unbelievable but it's true. Tom trained me in a day), a News Director at Miavision who hired me as a Spanish/English TV reporter with little on-camera experience, Bruno Martinez who believed in my Spanish Ad copywriting skills, Linda Gonzalez of The Viva Partnership, and Lisa Vasquez, a Corbis Images director at the time, whom I met while working in Miami and was convinced that I'd be perfect for sales.
Eventually, I took the leap into sales. You know that statistic that says a professional will change their careers up to seven times in their professional lifetime? Well, I hit that number while in my 20's. I had no fear. I was just extremely curious of what I was capable of. I wanted to test-run my talents and hidden skills to truly understand my passion. And I had angels along the way who believed in me.
AC: Do you think there is a glass ceiling that limits American Latinas from major corporate success in the ad world?
Tanya: No. I think that glass ceiling idea is a farce; one just needs to be persistent and hang in longer. Of course there could be more programs to aid in the assistance of reaching success, but the timing is perfect for Latinas to get into media now. Most media companies are trying to figure out how to tap into the Hispanic market that is growing exponentially. To know the language is one thing but to understand the culture is an asset most companies need now.
AC: What are some of the positive campaigns and experiences you have had working in the advertising industry?
Tanya: I started in online advertising in the early 2000's. I got to see the quick changes including new marketing strategies like pops, banners, email and social media. It was exciting since you could see results in real-time and there weren't any rules; it was like the Wild Wild West. The only limit was how creative your mind was. If you dreamt it, you could most likely execute it in this industry. The best part is you can change the message to improve the ROI ("Return on Investment") quickly. As the years went by, technology improved and the way to target consumers became more sophisticated. Therefore, I would say all of my experiences have been positive ones. You're constantly learning and really have to understand each company business model to effectively market them.
AC: What were some of the experiences that made you decide to strike out on your own?
Liz: I was tired of working for "the man." I was fired from my corporate job, aka my daily hell, in the spring of 2007. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I went to Italy for six months to do the whole "Eat, Pray, Love" thing before it was commercialized and sold in a book on the New York Times Bestsellers list. I wanted to decompress and re-evaluate what I wanted to do next. I had many ideas but I needed to stick to one and then execute. My time in Italy served its purpose. I returned refreshed and ready to serve the US Hispanic market and launch a website for Latinas. And then along came Tanya Alvarez, my doppelganger and business partner, only more Americanized and two inches taller than me.
AC: How did the advent of postmodern New Media change the way you perceived the future and your view towards future opportunity?
Tanya: We are no longer sitting back and just swallowing what is being spoon-fed to us; we are in the driver's seat now. We are telling advertisers how we want to be depicted and how to grab our attention. Social media has made a big difference in this instance, giving people a platform to speak up and command attention from brands - brands who now have to be careful how to craft their marketing message. It's all about changing people's perceptions and reaching out to people who would have not necessarily had access to the information or able to give input.
Liz: I realized years ago that we were just seeing the tip of the iceberg with the power of Internet. I still feel the possibilities are infinite and many more ideas are ripe for the picking.
AC: How has extensive international travel colored your perspective regarding the global community and your idea for a website for Latinas?
Liz: I think my travels have shown me we're all more alike than we think. LaCosmopolatina's tips are geared towards the modern, acculturated Latina that references her culture, but that doesn't mean that somebody from Italy or Switzerland couldn't read and enjoy them as well. They might not understand the cultural references, but they should get the humor. Humor is universal.
AC: What is LaCosmopolatina all about? Purpose, goals, mission?
Liz: LaCosmopolatina offers daily tips for Latinas who think in American but love in Spanish. We tap into the wisdom of our mothers, tias and abuelas for generations-old info and marry it with the latest trends. We deliver tips written from a Latin perspective to Latinas across the nation, with the voice of your amiga who is sassy and opinionated, but you don't mind because she's funny. It was created to fill the existing void of content directed to US Hispanic females whose dominant language is English, but who embrace their heritage and wish to stay in touch with their roots. Our message is about enhancing a Latina's life and inspiring her by covering important lifestyle topics and amazing Latinas in a way that relates to her own personal experiences.
Latinas in the US aren't consuming their media on Telemundo, Univision or El Diario/La Prensa. They're reading the New York Times, Real Simple magazine, Daily Candy and The Economist. They're listening to the BBC, NPR, and CNBC. They're watching Desperate Housewives, Modern Family or Grey's Anatomy. I ask who is reaching them? Where is a lifestyle site on the Internet that is specifically for them? There aren't that many. We're the answer.
AC: Who do you perceive the competition to be? How are you different and more competitive?
Tanya: We don't have direct competition because there isn't anyone targeting Latinas like we are. Most content for Latinas out there is about celebrities and gossip. Our message is about enhancing a Latina's life and inspiring her. Also, our site is not some crazy Spanglish mix; we understand how to speak to our Latinas no matter how much, or how little, Spanish they might know.
AC: How do you define "powerful" when you speak of Latinas?
Tanya: "We don't die we multiply." Ha, that is power! We have influences and value word of mouth like no other! Have you ever seen a Latina tell a chisme?
Liz: Powerful is a Latina with confidence. Powerful is having a passion for something. Powerful is about inspiring. Powerful doesn't mean you have to be a bitch and step all over others to get what you want. It's about truly believing in what you are doing and having the gift to influence others to jump on board in helping you move your vision forward.
AC: How can your demographic benefit from visiting your website?
Tanya: We enhance our reader's lives by giving them tips that will make everything from getting perfect skin to organizing their finances easier. We scour the web and travel all over to get the low down. And then we present the freshest and most interesting information our readers just have to know. All with a Latin twist, of course, that a Latina can appreciate.
AC: What kinds of advertisers are you trying to attract and how do you plan to interface your website with other media platforms to generate interest and revenue?
Tanya: We are attempting to attract advertisers who understand the Hispanic culture and understand the power of this market. Ones that don't assume we dress risqu?® and that portray us as only sexual creatures. In other words, those who know there is more to a Latina than the stereotype that has been portrayed in the media for decades. We work with all media platforms to spread our message: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. You name it, we are on it.
Liz: Advertisers who would like to reach the ever elusive English-dominant Latina market. It's a 300 billion dollar market. It's time they put their dollars where their mouth is.
AC: What's the best thing that can happen for your website?
Tanya: For now we would like to positively influence Latina culture and grow a successful online community of users. When that goal has been achieved we would most likely look to sell to a larger media conglomerate.
Liz: That we grow it to unfathomable proportions, cross international borders, translate it into Spanish and continue to entertain and touch the hearts of Latinas around the globe. Is that too much to ask? I don't think so.
AC: What are your personal career goals?
Tanya: To continue to build a company that I and my family are proud of, and to mentor younger females to stay true to their passion and conquer the insurmountable challenges ahead of them.
Liz: Ditto. She took the words right out of my mouth! Ha-ha!!
AC: How should history remember LaCosmopolatina?
Tanya: As the first site who understood the uniqueness of being an American Latina: the pitfalls and joys of being bi-cultural and bi-lingual in the 21st century, all while struggling to strike the perfect balance between the two worlds. We want to be pioneers for the women who always felt they were never fully the All-American Girl Next Door or La Chica Latina, but fell somewhere in between.