Love Letters to a Creative Heritage From Latino Leaders in Entertainment Marketing

8 stories of their rich multicultural journeys

As an owner of a design agency that's 60 percent Latin, I have witnessed the power of diversity, and admire these amazing talents. I appreciate daily that our process is not a reflection of my Italian/Irish heritage alone, but consists of a team that have diverse backgrounds, different interpretations and interact with the world in a manner that is unique to their identities, proud cultures and personal experiences.

I truly believe that the more varied your workforce, the more extensive your brainstorming and your solutions, and ultimately the more impactful your results. Embracing true creativity means embracing diversity.

Hispanic Heritage Month honors the contributions of Hispanic Americans in the U.S. To close out the month, we celebrate Latin marketers in entertainment marketing as they share their backgrounds and the creative perspective they contribute to the entertainment community throughout the year.


Annie Bravo

Manager, Global Creative Content
Sony Pictures Entertainment – Motion Picture Group

Where were you raised and where did you fine-tune your creativity?

I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and for a good part of my life, my family moved quite often (from Caracas to Aruba, to Miami, back to Venezuela, changed schools, homes, friends). The latest and hardest move was 13 years ago, when we moved to Miami. It wasn't easy leaving behind the world I knew, but meeting people from so many different countries and cultures ignited my curiosity and opened my mind to what was possible.

Constant change and having to adapt to new environments and circumstances have helped me become more open and creative in all aspects of my life. Entertainment marketing is so fast paced and ever-changing that being able to shift campaign direction or target content to a specific audience has been something I embrace.

What makes you passionate about your work?

I love creating, and I love telling stories. I see marketing as telling stories within the world of a film. Part of what I love about my job is to be able to see behind the curtain and let the world in on it. Crafting stories from a behind-the-scenes perspective has always been something I've been curious about. I remember spending hours watching the special features of all my DVDs growing up and watching the cast and filmmakers talk about what it was like to work on the sets.

What are the advantages of being multicultural?

In my experience, being multicultural has made me more empathetic to others and open to multiple points of view. In a creative environment, it is so important to be exposed to different ways to problem-solve challenges that come our way.

When discussing marketing ideas, it is always fascinating—and so much fun!—to learn my multicultural colleagues' perspectives. It gives us opportunities not only to be more creative but to learn from each other and connect in an authentic way.

Do you consider the multicultural voice when hiring vendors/agencies?

Yes! It is so important to have multicultural voices speaking to a multicultural world. Now more than ever I believe there is a need for culturally relevant and authentic stories. And the beautiful thing about it is that those stories appeal to everyone!

No matter their background, people want to be seen. They want to see a reflection of the diversity of their lives. Our content and campaigns benefit greatly from having multicultural voices be part of those creative conversations.


Deb Renteria

Executive Director, Inclusive Creative and Marketing Strategy 
Lionsgate

Co-Founder
La Nueva Link

Where were you raised and where did you fine-tune your creativity?

I was raised in Long Beach, California, and summers were spent in Mexicali with my grandma and aunties. I think those humble beginnings are where my creativity was honed. In Long Beach I was one of four daughters in a small two-bedroom home. We didn't have much, but we created worlds in our backyard. I poured myself into school, excelling in the take-home projects from English class. In Mexico, my world opened up. I was meeting new kids who had less than me and who were filled with joy. I played in dirt with busted bikes, but I had the freedom to dream. I was encouraged by my grandma to do, to dance, to sing, to believe in all my abilities. That's the beauty in my heritage and upbringing. It really cultivated an ingenuity I carry to this day.

What makes you passionate about your work?

Stories on TV helped shape my view of the world and myself, and I can't imagine who I could have become sooner if I felt like I belonged more—if my experience and identity were normalized on screens big and small. I think storytelling humanizes people, and I want to be a part of telling more inclusive stories.

How does your heritage influence your work?

It influences it on every level, but mainly it affects how I show up to a task. I pour myself into it because of the hardwiring and tenacity to NOT be mediocre. I think I carry the burden of ensuring the sacrifices of those who came before me were not in vain, and that maybe if I lead an extraordinary life it would all be worth it. Secondly, I desire to see my people as complex, nuanced and beautiful on screen as they are in real life. It's because I know my heritage that I want to share that with the world so we can be fully and truly seen.

What's the most successful marketing campaign you've implemented?

I had the honor of leading the campaign for HBO's I May Destroy You called "Gathering the Pieces." It's an award winner, sure. But it was successful because Michaela Coel loved it. We were able to build a community-focused campaign so aligned strategically with the story but filled with so much love and care for the core Black and LGBTQ audiences, and survivors everywhere. It felt less like a marketing campaign and more like a love letter accompanying the story Michaela created. This campaign reminded me about the intersection I thrive in: community x storytelling. That's my brand. That's what excites me.

What are the advantages of being multicultural?

My perspective. There is no one I've met that has my perspective, my background, anything. So there's so much power in it. Impostor syndrome used to creep in, but now my perspective and my empathy, which is also due to my biculturalism, is my superpower, and what gives me my edge.

Do you consider the multicultural voice when hiring vendors/agencies?

I can't do any work with non-inclusive or non-multicultural vendor/agencies. Those days are over. I know I won't get the most creative work when the team is homogenous. I crave different experience and perspectives. It make the work better. My mission in my care, in all areas, is to be a gate-opener, and know that I have to do my part to change the industry, step by step.


Ileanna Sawyer

Senior Writer and Producer 
FX Networks

Co-President
Soapbox Women

Where were you raised and where did you fine-tune your creativity?

I was raised in various Southern California (Huntington Park, West Covina and Riverside) by supportive, hard-working Mexican parents. Really early on I caught an interest in creative writing, and I went on to get an MFA in poetry. This comes in handy at work when we're looking for the most salient moments to tell a story, and in having an eye and ear for the magic to be found in a moment between characters, a piece of dialogue, a glance, or a beautiful shot that becomes that amazing breakthrough moment in a piece. Fine-tuning creativity is all about staying curious, seeking inspiration in all different mediums, finding mentorship, and appreciating the creative work our colleagues in the industry are producing.

What makes you passionate about your work?

Knowing I can open the door to others who don't have easy access to this industry gives my work purpose. Coming out of school, I didn't know being a producer was an option until someone showed me the way. I was definitely headed for a career in academia were it not for Jaime Gamboa at Soda Creative. Now it's my turn to show other people of color the way into our industry. It's a responsibility I'm very passionate about.

At work, my passion is driven by collaborating with editors to find ways of positioning a TV show or film through creative editorial. I've been lucky to partner with some editors who are totally lit up with their own creative vision. It's inspiring to watch, and it's with our combined forces that we weather the ups and downs of the creative process.

What are the advantages of being multicultural?

Being multicultural affords me empathy for the experiences and circumstances that have shaped who people are. This is an advantage in life, on the job, and in creative work. In the desire to make sense of the world, people sometimes want to fit you in a box of assumptions based on your race. It can be isolating when you're one of the only people of color in the room. The antidote to this isolation is community, and I've been lucky to be a part of forming a very special one with some powerful women of our industry. Soapbox Women of Color arose from Soapbox Women as a space for women of color to meet, support and inspire each other. The group celebrates its one-year anniversary on Jan. 30, 2022.

It's exciting to be working in this industry at this specific moment in time, where, due to the collective wild ride of the last two years, we've all gotten a chance to change the face of our industry. We all have to keep the momentum going to see lasting change.


Luz Mendoza

Senior Designer
Greenlight Creative

Where were you raised and where did you fine-tune your creativity?

I was raised in a small rural town at the border of the mountains of Puebla, Mexico. The quiet town is about three and a half hours from the ever-growing Mexico City. The mountains divide the town from the beautiful beaches of Veracruz, another three hours to the east. Aljojuca is a town where each house is painted a different color. Where there is always a fiesta celebrating a patron saint that involves every citizen. Church bells ring early at 6 in the morning as the smell of sweet and spicy mole fills the homes of sleepy children. At a young age I learned to use my hands to play and create in order to keep busy.

Greenlight Creative definitely gave me a home to unleash my creative side. What was meant to be a summer job answering calls became an unexpected surprise. Initially I was studying to become an early childhood educator with a minor in photography. Not sure what Tami Shelly (partner and creative director at Greenlight Creative) saw in me, but she said, "Here is Photoshop, play with it." I immediately fell in love with it. At the time I was already playing with PPT and Word docs to create greeting cards for my friends. Photoshop blew my mind. Under Tami's wing, I was given structure, attention to detail and lots of patience. Creativity was already within me, and I think Tami saw the potential and allowed me to imagine with no limits.

What makes you passionate about your work?

Each project is different and unique. I have found that a designer is forever evolving. As an artist it requires me to constantly keep growing and learning something new. I love it! If there is a project where it requires me to learn how to sketch, I welcome it with open arms. I'll sit in front of the computer and teach my hand to create seamless brush strokes. It is exhilarating to be handed two or three elements and the liberty to create a piece of art that will connect you to the rest of the world.

How does your heritage influence your work?

Growing up in such a picturesque culture definitely influences my work. My heritage exposed me to vibrant colors, textures and beautiful, elaborate designs. But that is not all my heritage gifted me; it placed in my hands the world. As a descendant of the Nahua peoples, I am connected with nature and curiosity. Curiosity has allowed me to learn and appreciate different cultures and their art. It is important to me that I am able to create art for the world, not just for one group of people.

What's the most successful marketing strategy you've implemented?

The most memorable project was Manhattan Beach Studio's MBS Equipment Co. It was my first experience that really taught me how far a marketing strategy could go. I got my feet wet creating logos, standees, webpages, flags, flyers and even restaurant menus. It was the most rewarding project because I was able to really understand that the world of design has no limits.

What are the advantages of being multicultural?

Acceptance. You learn to accept that not one thing is the same. Everything and everyone is unique in its own way, and it is beautiful! Being multicultural has given me the ability to see different perspectives in people and in art. Growing up in Los Angeles as a teenager, it was inevitable to be exposed to different cultures. Through friends I learned about their own culture through food, celebrations and art. Being multicultural has given me the ability to view projects with a different lens, and to me that's magic! Not only are you able to empathize but you also make a connection with your audience.


Danilo Estrada

Production Design, Manager
ViacomCBS

Where were you raised and where did you fine-tune your creativity?

I was born and raised in Los Angeles (now you know an L.A. native). Technically speaking, I was fortunate to cut my teeth, so to speak, at some top-tier agencies and more recently at some high-profile networks. However, it wasn't until I connected the dots between creativity and marketing that it all clicked for me. Understanding intent is what separates effective design from self-indulgent visuals.

How does your heritage influence your work?

I'm influenced by my heritage in how I use colors, music and photography. It's subtle but it's there. Latin America is rich in textures and creative flavors that permeate landscapes and creative spaces—from architecture to artisanal crafts to street art. Some of that work is absolutely mind-blowing. I prefer to use photography and tones that feel heavy, rich and full of character—like a classic car in Cuba or a rum bar in Puerto Rico. There's something about humidity, water and sun that speaks to me, and it's no surprise that this type of scenery is ubiquitous in Latin America.

What are the advantages of being multicultural?

In my case, being Latino is an advantage in the creative industry because these days authenticity is highly sought after. Being a first-generation American, I learned to speak Spanish first because my parents didn't speak English. This helped me become fluent in the language. I'm a linguist at heart, and I love the nuances of regional Spanish. This is what I tap into when I write a script or a creative brief that is inteded for a Spanish-speaking market. I can always tell when a spot was written by a non-Spanish speaker or someone from another country. This level of attention to detail and nuance provides authenticity to the consumer.

Do you consider the multicultural voice when hiring vendors/agencies?

It depends on the project, but if an agency has a propensity to think outside the demographic box, then that's who I want as a partner. This is harder than it sounds, though, because it's not simply about having Spanish speakers in the team. The Latino community is so diverse that it's possible to miss the mark if you have Latinos from outside the target country or region. There are so many nuances in language alone that it makes it challenging to get it right. This goes back to the value of authenticity—if the research is done well, it can be a home run. But the reverse is also true.


Andrew Lerma

Designer | Original Series | UCAN Product Creative Studio
Netflix

Where were you raised and where did you fine-tune your creativity?

I was born and raised in Canoga Park in the San Fernando Valley. In high school, I really enjoyed the different art classes that encouraged my creativity. After high school, I went to Pasadena City College and studied film and television. Not too long after I graduated, I started my creative career as an intern for the print department at New Wave Entertainment. My passion for art was ignited when I was introduced to their entertainment marketing team. That jump-started my design career, and I did everything I could to learn as much as possible from them. After navigating the freelance world, I landed a position at BLT, where I got to work on film marketing campaigns for blockbuster movies such as The Soloist, Public Enemies and Monsters vs. Aliens.

What makes you passionate about your work?

They say 10,000 hours makes you a master at your craft. That concept is what inspired me to work long hours and toil over my projects until they were perfect. To this day I still put time, effort and practice into refining my craft. I take pride in having skills like communication, organization and empathy, which helps with my other passion of helping people access their creativity.

How does your heritage influence your work?

My Latino heritage helped shape my identity. My heritage is a part of who I am. I have examined my family's history and traditions and developed an awareness about myself as a man and an artist. Knowing where I come from helps me stay authentic in how I show up in all of my creative spaces.

What's the most successful marketing strategy you've implemented?

Being a humble part of the Creative Studio Team at Netflix, I took part in the masterful campaign for The Queen's Gambit. The key art, wild postings, OOH billboards, mural, social campaign and the product suite—all led to the inevitable success of that award-winning show.

What are the advantages of being multicultural?

Being of mixed race myself, I uniquely understand the importance of creating a community and culture that not only respects and supports the different viewpoints but also encourages and sets a very high bar for other companies in this industry to follow suit.

Do you consider the multicultural voice when hiring vendors/agencies?

When working on any project, being mindful of aligning the different cultures is always taken into consideration.


Matt Hernandez

SVP, Head of Design
ViacomCBS Digital

Where were you raised and where did you fine- tune your creativity?

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, specifically the San Fernando Valley; total valley kid. I always loved to draw and design ships and cars. Honestly, anything I saw in the movies I would try to sketch. My dad was my real motivation. He was a creative director for KCBS in Los Angeles. He is an avid painter and always creating. I was influenced by him from drawing to learning Adobe After Effects as a young designer.

What makes you passionate about your work?

I love what I do and especially the people I work with. Creating a collaborative environment where we all can throw around ideas, talk about design directions and pull inspiration to motivate the upcoming project is the best part of my job. It's a lot like painting; you can throw some paint up, take a step back and decide to go in a different direction. But I love that process—and sometimes having multiple brushes going at the same time. It always opens new ideas.

How does your heritage influence your work?

I think it is always important to know where you come from and appreciate the road that was paved before. My parents were both hard-working Hispanic people working in the television design business for a very long time. My father has always talked about respecting others and valuing relationships in this business. I think Hispanic people have a strong connection to family and develop that mentality when working with team members. I love bringing people together and I think having that authenticity and relationships is what makes the team and each of us stronger in the end.

What's the most successful marketing campaign you've implemented?

That's a hard one, like picking a favorite child. One of my favorite campaigns was the relaunch of The Twilight Zone with Jordan Peele for CBS All Access (now Paramount+.) I was a huge fan of The Twilight Zone as a kid. So having the opportunity to work on a key campaign to be aired during the Super Bowl was a special moment.

What are the advantages of being multicultural?

I think it's having multiple points of view. I think in design it is wonderful to look at work that comes from everywhere. We're so fortunate to see designs from Japan, Brazil and Germany in a few minutes on Google. Amazing.

Do you consider the multicultural voice when hiring vendors/agencies?

This is always top of mind. I've been fortunate to have the amazing support of the Paramount+ leadership team. I'm so excited about the growth of our internal teams with so many new voices and backgrounds as well as meeting new vendors and agencies with unique perspectives.


Tatiana Villegas

Associate Producer
Apple TV

Where were you raised and where did you fine-tune your creativity?

I was born and raised in Inglewood, California. I feel very fortunate to have had parents that encouraged creativity at home from a very young age. Whether I was directing home videos with my cousins or painting murals inside of my house—which I still can't believe my parents let me do—I was always encouraged to express myself creatively. I'd like to think I'm constantly fine-tuning and challenging myself creatively, but I really started learning how I could apply these skills in this industry at my first post-college job at a creative agency. I was really able to learn all about all facets of the industry, dabbling in AV, print, digital and social, and eventually found my passion for trailers and AV marketing while sitting in the edit bays and learning from editors and producers.

What makes you passionate about your work?

The power to evoke emotion in others through creative makes me passionate about my work. There's no better feeling than knowing your work made someone laugh, gave them chills, intrigued them, made them feel seen—whatever the emotion may be, it's incredible to know the stories I take part in telling can have an impact on others.

How does your heritage influence your work?

My heritage has completely shaped the lens through which I view the world, so it has a huge influence on my work and everything that I do. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, and brought with them so much of their culture, their traditions and their values, all of which they instilled in me. I'm so grateful to have had such a diverse upbringing, as it's given me a unique perspective that informs the all of the work I do.

What are the advantages of being multicultural?

I think the biggest advantage of being multicultural is that it gives you diverse perspectives and unique viewpoints which inspire innovation and creativity.

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