Interview with Chief of Staff for Norsan Media Denise Coleman On Representation, Radio, and Responsibility

Have you ever thought about working in radio? Wondered who opens up all these stations? Who’s behind the scenes deciding where they go? Well, look no further than Denise Coleman, Chief of Staff and Community Affairs for Norsan Media. Coleman works directly with Norsan Media’s CEO, Natalia Sanchez Alvarez, on all sorts of topics, ranging from recruiting and marketing to strategic partnerships and nonprofit sponsorships. As impressive as she is, Coleman is also wildly humble. Brushing off our compliments with modesty, always aiming the conversation away from herself to the more important aspects of her job such as representation and diversity. 

As someone who also works in media, I was in awe at Coleman’s kindness and candor. As I looked at her, cooly dressed in a stylish pink and purple set (the pants from J-Crew, just so you know!), I wondered how she got to be where she is in her career, but Coleman was quick to explain it wasn’t a linear path, “I think it was by luck. It just happened. And I can be honest that it’s not easy. So I can sympathize with young people when they say that it’s really not easy. So you graduated from college and then you’re like, Well, that’s great, that’s fabulous. But then how do I actually get a job? And you can be the top of your class and you still don’t have access to a job and you can fill out hundreds or maybe a thousand applications and you still won’t get a job, right? I’ve gone through all of that.”

After Coleman graduated from A&M in Kingsville, she was stuck in that boat for a while, but everything changed when she was encouraged to start volunteering to boost her resume. Her first step was volunteering at an up-and-coming Magazine, “Once I was in the business and exposed to the business, I’m like, my goodness, I love this. I got to meet graphic designers, people in fashion, event planning. And I was like, in love.” But knowing where you want to work is only half the battle because then you have to find a position that pays. Fortunately for Coleman, she had a few imperative mentors on her side, “When I got my first job in a magazine, I did not have transportation at the time and I was living in Fort Worth. My car was breaking down like every other week. I did not have the funds to pay for that. And [my mentor] said, Denise, you need to take that opportunity in media because it sounds like you really like it… and she went with me and cosigned my loan.”

Having a mentor, someone in the industry who believed in her, not only helped Coleman, but it held her responsible, “She’s like, you have to do this. You have to do this for me…It’s like it comes with the responsibility that you cannot fail. Because not only do you have your family that sacrificed so much to send you to college, you have people that are really investing in your success.” From there on Coleman grinded, honing in on her skills and developing a deep love for media. Now a certified Latina Leader, I just had to ask, were there many Latinas in leadership roles when she was growing up? Her response was a bolstering infectious laugh. When she was done, she collected herself, “No, there was not. And that was in Texas.” 

Denise Coleman with Latinitas Staff

In fact, it wasn’t until her mid-twenties that she even saw another Latina in a leadership position, “I remember at the time I was working at the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. It was later on in my professional life. I was still very young back then, but I remember in those events and networking and things, I got to meet a female executive that at [the] time was the general manager of a local, very influential media station in Dallas. I saw somebody that looked like me and I was like, I want to be her. But before then, it wasn’t even something that I could fathom could happen to me.” 

That lived experience inspired another one of Coleman’s core values, “That’s why for me now, representation really matters. Having young women see themselves in whatever field they want to be in, in the future, seeing somebody that looks and talks like them. It could be somebody that has an accent like me, somebody that comes from a humble beginning and saying, see,  my goodness, I can be somebody like her. Or better. Much better.” Coleman says, adding her signature humble twist. Coleman’s work extends beyond media, as she’s also a Board Member for the American Heart Association in Charlotte, another place where representation is, unfortunately, sorely lacking. 

“I’m the only Hispanic at the table, and I’m thinking that I might be the first Hispanic Board Member in that organization in Charlotte. And is one of the biggest boards over there. As you know, heart disease is one of the issues that really affects Hispanics, right? It runs in my family. So I think amplifying the message is important. So that’s one of the reasons why I decided to give my time to that organization.” Philanthropy has a special place in Coleman’s heart, and is actually one of the key things that drew her to Norsan Media, “So in the beginning it’s like, where can I work, right? Who’s going to give me a job? And then after that is, okay, do I really want to work for a company that does not do anything for minorities or communities? Yeah, maybe not. So I am so lucky to work for a company that really wants to be involved in the Hispanic community and wants to support in whichever way it is…as you’re navigating your professional life, just keep in mind who you work for because that’s important.” 

A message I really resonated with. As someone who works for Latinitas, I see day in and day out the positive effects we have on our community. It instills in you a feeling of fulfillment I hope everyone can experience. And if you’re interested in following in Coleman’s footsteps, she has a few tips and tricks for navigating the Media Industry, “I would say stay current, always continue to learn, because that industry, just like many other industries, is constantly evolving and changing. So there’s always new things happening…Be open to [learning] different aspects of the business. So in my case, for example, in radio, I can tell you that, of course, I learned traffic, which is the back end of the admin work. So I’ve done traffic, I’ve done sales, I’ve been an assistant to a sales rep. I mean you name it, back end, and front end…So just be willing to learn everything.” 

Coleman truly is a ray of sunshine. I learned so much just in our short conversation, and the way she runs her life with humility, intelligence, and above all else kindness is so inspiring. It thrills me to know there are people like her in leadership positions, and I look forward to the day that’s the norm in the Media Industry.


  • Camila Dejesus

    Magazine & Media Editor, Camila Dejesus has been writing since she was a child and enjoys all forms from creative writing down to narrative analysis. She graduated from Brooklyn College with a bachelor's in Television and Radio Production and works full-time at Latinitas Magazine. In her free time, she loves writing stories, water coloring, or playing songs on her Baritone Ukulele. Now, her greatest passion is finding new topics that will engage and inspire Latinx youth.

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