Last week, Latinitas celebrated its twentieth anniversary at the Latinitas Purple Party for Chica Power Gala. As part of the annual fundraiser, Latinitas chooses six courageous female leaders to honor. The women that were chosen all have incredible stories and immense accolades, but what sets them apart is the passion they bring to their field. I got the opportunity to sit down with four of our honorees, and this is what I learned from our Media Honoree, Gloria Pennington. Gloria was the first Hispanic woman in Austin to host her own news show. She launched her long career, working on behalf of the elderly after serving on the board of the Lakeside Senior Activity Center and from then on went to host her own show titled ‘Positive Aging’. When speaking to Gloria the first thing I noticed was how ‘on’ she was. This was a seasoned professional, who’d been on the air for almost as long as I’d been alive. The minute I pressed record I was entranced by her professionalism and quickness. She never used filler words like “um” or “uh” and chose every word she was going to use carefully.
How she got into television is a story in and of itself. It all started as she was doing the high school play in Galveston, Texas. Coincidentally that same year Galveston had opened its first television station and they were strapped for content. The station wanted to do a piece advertising the local school play and tasked one of the nuns that worked at the school with choosing two of the performers. Of course, Gloria was chosen. “After it was over, the director came up to me and he said, ‘you’ve never done this before, have you?’ And I said, ‘no’. He said ‘you are a natural.’” Despite this interaction, it wouldn’t be until many years later that Gloria got the chance to be on television again. Later on, Gloria’s husband ended up becoming a sports director on a local television station. Every year the station had its annual Christmas show, and every year it was hosted by the general manager and his wife. Well, one year the wife, Peggy, got sick, and Gloria was asked to take her place. She was impeccable, and from then on people in the station started to take note of Gloria.
As a person who’s always been interested in the media field, I couldn’t help but ask Gloria what advice she had for any other Latinas looking to break into the scene. It was here that Gloria preached the importance of educating oneself, “The best advice I could give them is to read. Read a lot, read about local events, read about national events. Get yourself into a position where you can understand what’s going on around you in the world and if you open your mouth to make a suggestion that it makes sense because you have read and you are familiar with what the issues are and therefore you can express an opinion with more confidence.” Suddenly I could see just how Gloria had become so successful. As much as she attributed her career to luck and fate, all fate did was give her the opportunity. It was up to her to be prepared, so when the moment struck they had no choice but to hire her.
Considering Gloria spent the bulk of her career working in television, she had a lot of advice when it came to specifically selling yourself for the screen. Namely, be authentic. “I also know that sometimes women who go on the air think that they must have to be very glamorous. I think they have to be very natural. I think they have to be very believable. And I think that there is a certain something in a Latina’s personality that just says I care and that means an awful lot because the people that are watching…A. They have to have trust in you and B. They have to like you enough to listen to what you were saying.” I was honored to be privy to such sage advice. The knowledge Gloria was so casually dishing out is something colleges would pay top dollar for, and here I was getting it for free.
Gloria inspired me. It wasn’t just the advice she gave, but the way in which she carried herself. She had a quick wit, but also took her time to think before she spoke. It was as if she knew I, and presumably, the other people she spoke to, were going to wait to hear what she had to say because it was just that great. And it was. Gloria knew her worth, and that is something I want to see in myself.
If you’re curious to learn more about Gloria’s story, or even the honorees I didn’t get the chance to meet such as Entrepreneurship Honoree Angela Angulo and Education Honoree Dr. Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, you can learn more about them and how to get involved with the Purple Party Gala at https://www.latinitaspurpleparty.com/. If you’d like to listen to my full conversations with the incredible women I did get to meet, check out our podcast Unrepresented on Spotify and all other podcast services right now.