Hosted by Angelique Hechavarria
Editor’s Note: This is a transcription of Latinitas Magazine’s SoundCloud podcast “20 Questions With,” where we invite bold and creative individuals to discuss their experiences and background. Listen along by clicking the link!
Hola Chicas! Welcome to 20 Questions With, a podcast in conjunction with Latinitas Magazine. Latinitas Magazine is a strong voice for Latina and POC Youth, which is why the hosts of 20 Questions With are all young Latinas who are looking to gain experience in innovative and creative fields just like you!
In each episode, you’ll hear from striking individuals who are inspiring today’s youth with their passion, motivation, and grit.
Today, join Angelique Hechavarria as she sits down and asks 20 Questions With Michelle Olvera from BoldLatina Digital Group.
Before we get started, here’s what you should know:
For nearly 20 years, Michelle has worked the front and back lines of startups. Michelle was an early employee of StarMedia Network, the first Latinx Spanish-speaking digital media brand to initial public offering. Michelle felt inspired and, in turn, built BoldLatina Digital Group in 2016.
According to BoldLatina’s website, they are a pioneering Latina-owned independent media platform. Their storytelling aims to empower Latina readers to make sense of the modern world and its future. BoldLatina covers a range of topics such as Culture, Politics, Wellness, Wealth, and you can tune into the BoldLatina Podcast as well.
Let’s get started with the show.
ANGELIQUE: Hey, everyone, thanks for joining us on this episode of 20 Questions With. I’m Angelique Hechavarria, and I’m here with today’s guest Michelle Olvera, and she is the founder and CEO of BoldLatina, an online publication dedicated to Latinx stories. Thank you for joining us today.
MICHELLE: Thank you for having me, Angelique.
ANGELIQUE: It’s a pleasure. Our first question, what inspired you to be the founder and CEO of BoldLatina?
MICHELLE: It’s always a great question to ask because every year I’m with BoldLatina, it’s a year that I enjoy, and was made to do this. I started BoldLatina a couple of years ago, but it grew from another brand called Supa Daily. My inspiration has always been about elevating Latina voices to the mainstream, sharing our stories, and gaining visibility. Because when I was 20, when I was 30, I didn’t see our stories out there. If our stories were out there, they were stereotyped. They were very nuanced. They didn’t paint the whole picture of what today’s U.S. Latina is like. My inspiration has always been to share and tell stories and relay the news as it’s important for us to have a point of view and an angle on how we deliver the news.
ANGELIQUE: This is my first time hearing about BoldLatina. For those who haven’t heard of BoldLatina, what is it about?
MICHELLE: BoldLatina is a digital media platform. We’re mainly editorial. We provide news and Latinx and Latina stories to today’s U.S. Latina. And we’re going global, as we notice, many of our readers are in Latin America, especially in South America. We’re about sharing news, and stories, and also perspectives of Latinas today and of the modern Latina.
ANGELIQUE: That’s something I love about your articles is that they often come in Spanglish.
MICHELLE: A select number of our editorial articles are in Spanglish because there is a movement of many of us English dominant Latinas who want to speak more Spanish. We want to reclaim our identity and culture, and reclaim language as part of that culture. We feel like a lot of the content we’ve provided, which has been in Spanish and the Spanish translation of the English, has taken off, and we hope to provide more.
ANGELIQUE: As the founder and CEO of BoldLatina. What does a typical day look like for you?
MICHELLE: As a CEO and founder, it can vary. Building a media startup, an early-stage company, a young company has its ups and downs. I usually share with those who are aspiring to grow their own company, whether it’s a media or a direct-to-consumer product brand, to be ready for the ups and downs of the variables in our day. Most of my work is centered around leading the team, ensuring that I’m empowering my team, and leaving it to execute. I don’t like micromanaging. I love trusting my team to execute on work, and also ensuring that our vision, mission, and values are in place along with each article that we publish, along with each social media post, along with each interview like today, and just ensuring that everything stays aligned with our original core mission, vision and values.
ANGELIQUE: Yes, I have a couple of friends who aspire to become a CEO. So I was wondering, what advice would you give to them?
MICHELLE: I would say that when you become a founder, and eventually a CEO, where you’re running a team, where you’re leading your company into a market, understand that this is a people role. You’re going to have to deal with all kinds of personality types. Understanding how to manage your team is important. I know I haven’t been perfect. I’ve had failures, and then have understood and had lessons learned that I need to be better at CEO-ing. One of the things I usually say is this is a people’s role. Understand that, and everything else will fall into place.
ANGELIQUE: Are you specifically involved with any other organizations or industries, or does BoldLatina have any specific partnerships? And if so, which ones?
MICHELLE: Oh, absolutely. I believe for short-term projects, we’ve been involved with a number of nonprofit organizations, like Latinitas. And also, out of Texas, Austin, the Forte Foundation, we were involved with them on a great campaign to push more Latinas into MBA programs. The industry that we’re in is the Hispanic, or Latino, or Latinx market. We have a lot of like-minded organizations and partners that we hope and plan to work with more deeply.
ANGELIQUE: Yes. May I ask, what is your favorite part of your career?
MICHELLE: I believe I’m a creator at heart like many of us. I love creating, I love building, I love making and pushing our ideas out there, and then receiving feedback and engagement. I would say the favorite part of my career is the creation part. I have to put my hat on for it because remember —I’m also a CEO. I run a team. I oversee mission, vision and values. But I also have another hat. I have this greater side to me.
ANGELIQUE: When you’re younger, what do you envision yourself doing?
MICHELLE: When I was younger, I felt there were so many things open to me, which was amazing because I know that many Latinas don’t grow up having exposure to a lot of places, spaces and industries. But I had dreams of being in advertising. I wanted to be an advertising executive. I wanted to be behind commercials. I wanted to be behind print magazine ads. I also wanted to be an architect. I don’t know where that came from. Maybe it had something to do with me as a Latina, playing with Legos when I was very young. I loved building things. I also wanted to be in the gaming industry. Believe it or not, I was huge on gaming. I had an Atari. I’m probably out-dating myself here, but I had an Atari set. I later had a PS2. I was totally infatuated and obsessed with the gaming world. And it’s funny because life comes full circle. I’m sort of doing a little bit of all those things.
ANGELIQUE: Yeah, growing up, I loved having my Nintendo.
MICHELLE: Yes, a Nintendo too!
ANGELIQUE: I felt so cool with it. Oh my gosh.
MICHELLE: Believe it or not, even before game consoles came out, I was at the arcade. I used to slam down quarters in front of all the guys and challenge them and say, ‘I’m up next, here are my quarters.’ This goes way back!
ANGELIQUE: Switching gears now. Have you faced any challenges to get to where you are now?
MICHELLE: I have been doing what I’ve been doing as an entrepreneur, not just in the digital media space. But I’ve also launched other types of products, projects, and business failures, ups and downs, and some successes along the way. I faced a ton of challenges. I think no path is linear. You have to be ready for what things get thrown your way. As a Latina, I know that there are challenges and access issues for many Latinas and small business owners. The challenges are there. It’s just how you handle them, and how you handle those setbacks.
ANGELIQUE: Yes, and do you have a personal philosophy that has helped you and guided your way through these challenges?
MICHELLE: Yes, and it’s come from checking my own values and understanding what makes my soul sing. Always go back to what makes you feel good. What makes you feel right, what aligns your values? What makes you feel connected in terms of your soul?
ANGELIQUE: Yes, and this is something that I also wonder about. What are your thoughts on Latinx representation in media and the progress towards diversity and inclusion?
MICHELLE: There are so many thoughts I have here. But I can think of why I started BoldLatina, to begin with, was because of the lack of representation media, in particular, digital media. In many online magazines, you didn’t see Afro-Latinas. You didn’t see Indigenous Latinas that were very much lacking in my day —today, where we see a lot more representation. I still feel that there’s a need for improvement across the board, especially when owning and writing the stories out there. I would love to see more production companies owned and operated by Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Latinx, and Afro-Latinas. I would also like to see more ownership of media platforms out there. I know I am not the only Latina-owned digital media company. I see others coming up along the way behind me. I encourage anyone who wants to launch an online magazine or any type of media venture to go for it.
ANGELIQUE: How do you combat anxiety in your personal and or workplace?
MICHELLE: Well, I think anxiety can come from generational trauma, but also our fears, our possible challenges with imposter syndrome. Many factors can contribute to anxiety today that we know of. How I deal with anxiety, and I do deal with it, is I set up practices. Best practices for myself personally involve mental calmness. I am a daily yoga practitioner. I practice meditation and yoga, but it also goes hand-in-hand with taking care of myself —self-care with my diet. I’m a plant-based eater. I stay away from foods that might trigger depression and anxiety. When it comes to the workplace, I encourage my staff to take care of themselves. We’re in a space in media where there’s a constant overload of information, disinformation, and misinformation that we have to filter through. A lot of social media and media can be toxic to you, too. I always encourage my staff, my team, and myself to detox from social media, from media. It’s kind of counter because we want engagement from our readers, our audience and ourselves. But we also need to take much-needed breaks. Taking a weekend off, doing off the grid, not looking at your phone and TV at the same time, every couple of weeks. Just have a week of no social media. I know it’s hard to do because it’s embedded in our lives. But, it’s also necessary for our mental health.
ANGELIQUE: Yes, and I was wondering, what’s the first and or weirdest job you’ve ever had?
MICHELLE: This goes way back. I started as a childcare caretaker. I was a babysitter and was pretty popular among the families. My first earnings through childcare, my first real payroll job, where I had an employer that was paying me with checks, and I had to pay taxes. I had a dream job from my junior and senior years in high school, and that was as an ice cream scooper at Baskin Robbins. It was the best job, and it made me pretty popular too.
ANGELIQUE: I also had a job in high school, which I appreciated because it gives you that first experience and your first earnings.
MICHELLE: I learned responsibility. I’ve learned a lot of discipline and responsibility from having my first job, but I also have role models. I have my mother and my father, who were hard-working. We were built up on work ethic. Weirdest job? I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve had a weird job. I enjoyed all my jobs.
ANGELIQUE: My first job was from my high school; I’m a senior now. When I was a freshman in high school, I worked at the school store that had snacks, and food, like pizza, like little stuff like that. I was a cashier, but we live in New England, and there are rats. There would be rats, we would see rats, and sometimes the boss would make us set up traps or clean up after the rats. For me, that was the weirdest one. Switching gears now, what resources would you recommend to girls or communities from the organization that you are a part of?
MICHELLE: Compared to when I was younger, there wasn’t much. Today there’s a different story, and it’s promising. There’s so much available out there. I would say, first of all, Latinitas is one of the magazines. I think there’s so much to come out of digital media companies today that are targeting and want you to come to their sites today. Resources, it depends, are you looking for a job? Or are you looking for entrepreneurial advice? You could come over and jump over to BoldLatina, of course. I think it’s easy to find resources on social media. So, it depends on what you’re looking for.
ANGELIQUE: Yeah, I agree. And definitely, LinkedIn is something I found to be useful in terms of social media.
MICHELLE: Absolutely. LinkedIn is a great source. I happen to think that LinkedIn is like Facebook, on steroids!
ANGELIQUE: What does true leadership mean to you?
MICHELLE: I’ve mentioned the importance of people. People come first. And it’s not something that I gravitated to in the beginning. I thought I could launch a product, launch a platform, launch articles, or publish articles. It goes beyond that. You have to be willing to lead a group of people, a team. You have to build a culture top-down. Today, a lot of diversity and inclusion issues are from a lack of leadership, having a top downward approach. Leaders and CEOs, and founders today need to have transparency. They need to be willing to talk about hard issues and envision better workplaces today for diversity and inclusion efforts. Leaders today need to have empathy. I believe some of the best leaders that I’ve known have always been women, because we have this built-in empathy and sympathy for people already. Just remember, leadership’s about people.
ANGELIQUE: Do you have a favorite story or article from BoldLatina?
MICHELLE: I have a handful of them. I think the one that stands out to me is one that was written for us by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez, and it was titled My Mami’s Hands or Mi Mami’s Manos. It’s an essay about the appreciation she had for her mother and her hard-working mother and how her mother’s hands were strong. And how you don’t see a manicured hand, you see a hand has carried three sisters and brothers has worked hard. I resonated with that piece from Prisca’s point of view because my mother was a laborer. She worked in a candy factory, and her hands were gentle yet hard-working hands.
ANGELIQUE: My grandma worked hard her whole life, and her hands are the same way. I admire them so much. I’ve also noticed on your LinkedIn that you mentioned that you’re a book lover. Do you have a favorite book or author?
MICHELLE: Absolutely. I think it’s coincidental that you asked that today because BoldLatina has partnered with HBO Max to push a documentary movie-style on Isabel Allende. The very first novel that I read that I was of age to read was Isabel Allende’s “House of the Spirits.” It’s a magical realism, a wonderful story about people-power. Believe it or not- in Chile. Isabel Allende and her words just flew off the page for me. And ever since I’ve been a fan. I’ve read maybe three or four of her novels.
ANGELIQUE: I should check that out.
MICHELLE: Yeah, If you’re into magic realism, brujería (witchcraft), Isabel Allende definitely paints beautifully with her words.
ANGELIQUE: Yeah, I’ve also been wanting to read more of the Spanish language, but I know a novel that is Colombian, that is called, “100 Years of Solitude.”
MICHELLE: Oh, yes. I haven’t read that. That’s on my list actually.
ANGELIQUE: Yeah, me too. What do you like to do in your free time?
MICHELLE: Free-time! I was looking at this question and was like, ‘Do I get free time?’
Sometimes you don’t. But, when I do, again, going back to my suggestion to everyone to take a weekend off, don’t be on the computer, don’t be on your laptop, don’t be on your mobile phone. I like to explore. I like to take long walks. Because I live in wonderful San Francisco, I have so many sightseeing opportunities here. I was born and raised here. So, I know where to go. I like to walk along long stretches of road, hike, really get outdoors and in touch with nature because so much of our world today is indoors or digital that getting outside in nature is a must.
ANGELIQUE: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
MICHELLE: I will probably be, I’m hoping —retired.
We’ll see where that goes! I hope to have BoldLatina make a huge impact. We’re already a player in the digital media space. But I hope that we continue to grow, that we continue to have a global reach, and that I am happy. And my mental health and my physical state are in good shape.
ANGELIQUE: What is one thing you hope BoldLatina accomplishes?
MICHELLE: My biggest goal is if we can just impact one person with an article, an editorial piece, an essay, a bit of news that we’ve pushed out there. I’m happy about that. And, I think we’ve accomplished that.
ANGELIQUE: I would say that too. And, did you have a mentor or someone who inspired you growing up?
MICHELLE: I have thought about this a lot over the past couple of years. Mentors and champions of what I do, that have gone in and out of my life, but not someone consistent. I think it’s important to build relationships and keep those relationships going. One of the things I tend to see as I was my own mentor, I was my own champion, and you have to be. Everyone should consider themselves their own mentor and champion first, have that courage, and have that perseverance cultivated within yourself. Then I would say when it comes to work ethics, when it comes to perseverance, I think the one person I looked up to or was inspired by was my mom. I think that’s for everyone, right!
ANGELIQUE: Yes, but it’s so true. It’s so true. The strong women from generations back, stories of my own grandmother, my great grandmother, who were strong women from el campo (the countryside) are so amazing. Thank you, Michelle, for taking the time to chat with us today.
MICHELLE: Thank you, Angelique
ANGELIQUE: It’s been a pleasure.
MICHELLE: It’s been a pleasure.
If you’re interested in pursuing a media career, make sure to visit us at latinitasmagazine.org for more information. Thank you guys so much for tuning in to this episode of “20 Questions With,” we’ll see you next time!
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