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How Gaby Natale’s Immigrant Perspective Empowers Her to Be a Pioneer

Photos: Courtesy of Joel Pares

Gaby Natale is a pioneer. As the first Latina to win three Daytime Emmys in two years, the TV host and bestselling author is on a mission to empower other Latino immigrants to follow their dreams and pursue every opportunity they’re given.

To what degree has your success allowed you to be a proponent for more Latino inclusion in the arts?

Influence, success, and visibility go hand in hand, but it’s difficult to trace which comes first. I’ve lost count of the times I found myself to be the only — and more often than not first — Latina in the room, whether it was a business meeting, a negotiating table, or a stage. 

This helped me develop a ”pioneer mentality;” I had to trust my vision even before I had the results to validate it. In a way, I had to be my own mentor because way too often nobody like me had done it before. 

A good example of this ”pioneer mentality” is my career as an author. After a successful run of my bestselling book in Spanish ”El Circulo Virtuoso,” I just officially became the first Latina to be signed by HarperCollins Leadership division, joining the ranks of John C. Maxwell and Rachel Hollis. I am sure that by sharing my journey as a proud Latina immigrant in an authentic way, others too will realize that “calladita no te ves más bonita” (you do not look prettier when you are silent). 

It was only after breaking this wall or that glass ceiling that I realized I wasn’t alone. Others were trying to figure it out as well and that’s how I define success — not so much as a measure of my personal achievements but as a reflection of my impact on my peers’ perception of what’s possible. 

Every time you pioneer, you expand what is possible not just for you, but for people like you. Your experience is not only your experience, it is a case study — a living proof of what is possible for everyone else that will come after you. 

Media can be a complex and tumultuous space. How have you used your career to improve how Hispanics and Hispanic culture are viewed?

I know one thing for sure: Every time you pioneer, you move the world forward. When I started my media career, all I saw were stereotypical descriptions of women and it made me very uncomfortable. 

Changing the narrative around Latinas was my motivation to quit the comfort of a job as a news anchor and start producing my own content. I wanted to portray Latinas with the dignity and respect they deserve. 

Along the way, I learned that visibility breeds hope. I know for a fact — because many women have told me so over the years — that seeing a woman like me on the screen was an “A-ha!” moment for them. I became their “If she can do it, so can I!”realization.

When you travel a path not many people have travelled before, there is no map. You need to let your intuition, your purpose, and your higher self guide you. And that’s what we did.

We pioneer first by speaking of topics that were taboo, like LGBT issues in 2009 when our special ”Gay and Latino” was nominated to receive a national GLAAD Media Award for our portrayal of LGBTQ+ Latinx. 

And we kept pushing the envelope as independent content producers until we became the first independently produced, nationally syndicated TV show to win three Daytime Emmys in two years. I had the pleasure of winning two EMMYs as best TV host and one as executive producer. 

I now use my platform to collaborate with wonderful organizations advocating for our community in one way or another, from Voto Latino to St. Jude’s #ThisShirtSavesLives campaign to the United Nations’ Annual Hispanic Leadership Summit hosted by We Are All Human.  

How has your culture affected your life in a positive way?

I am, first and foremost, a Latina immigrant. This fact of life gives me a perspective different from most people.

In many areas of my life, being an immigrant has made me a risk-taker. I know what real poverty is and I know what lack of access to opportunities really feels like. 

When I quit my job as a news anchor for Univision to start my own production company, my colleagues thought — and told me! — that I was a lunatic. But my thought process was completely different. I kept thinking, “If the worst that can happen to me is that I’ll have to find another job and move on, I would be insane not to try it!”

At the same time, being an immigrant has made me risk-averse when it comes to making financial decisions about my company or even my personal life. I’ve probably waited a bit longer than most people to ask for a loan to start a new venture because I’m not a fan of debt-fueled growth. At the same time, doing things the old-fashioned way, with more savings than debt, has allowed me to play the long game, build a solid foundation, and come out winning from several economic downturns. 

I live within my means, have my home and car paid, and own zero designer bags. I don’t care about spending money to impress anyone. All of this would be impossible without my Latina immigrant perspective. Acquiring it is tough, but having it is a daily blessing.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received came from my mom Cristina. I like to call her the Erin Brockovich of Argentina. She is a tough-as-nails lawyer who has spent her career filing class-action lawsuits on behalf of retirees. 

Back in 2001, Argentina was in the middle of its worst financial crisis in a century. We are talking over 20 percent unemployment rate, food riots, five presidents in 10 days, the works. I was fresh out of college, with a master’s degree in journalism, zero callbacks from prospective employers, and one unpaid offer from a dear friend to go help her do some menial tasks at a political marketing convention her company was sponsoring. 

So here I am, having a pity party in my head, when my mom calls and I start whining about my “oh-so-sad” fate of being an unpaid helper at a convention lots of former classmates would be attending as guests. Of course, Mamá Cristina is not the type to commiserate. 

She asked, ”Do you have anything better to do?” Well, no. That’s the whole point of being unemployed. ”Then, m’ija” she said, “you are going to put on your best dress, get some nice-looking lipstick, and go there like they are paying you a million bucks. And you are going to do that because you never know when opportunity will knock on your door.”

As it turned out, she was right. That political convention opened a little door for me to start doing remote work for a lobbying firm out of Washington, D.C. that would eventually turn into a job offer to work for them here in the United States. Her advice literally changed the course of my life.

In times of uncertainty like now, I share her advice because I want to remind people that wonderful things can also happen in difficult times. Pioneers are not extraordinary people. They are ordinary people who made a conscious decision to see the world — and themselves — in an extraordinary way.

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