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Posted: 2012-08-27
Categories: Projekt NewSpeak

The Mexi-Asian Perspective: A Mexican’s Guide to All Things Latin, Asian, or Both by David A. Romero

Sometimes it’s hard being a journalist. Especially when you’re juggling the most serious of topics with what could essentially be considered “fluff” pieces (I can assure you, dear readers, that you receive only the most hard-hitting journalism here!). Journalists must find a tone that is relatable to their audiences while telling the stories they feel are important.

My next guest knows a lot about being a journalist. Gabriela Fresquez is the new co-host of LatiNation, a nationally syndicated,  half-hour program that is broadcast to over 90 markets across the  United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Every week, she takes an entertaining and in-depth look at the impact of the Latino experience on American culture.

Fresquez is also a co-host of Inspira, a web series discovering inspiring Latino leaders who are shaping their communities and influencing the economy across America. As a journalist, Fresquez has interviewed Latino figures such as legendary activist Dolores Huerta, underground rapper 2MEX and actor Jon Huertas (Detective Esposito, ABC’s Castle). Inspira was recently nominated for Best Web Series at the 2012 Imagen Awards!

Fresquez graduated from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism as a Presidential Scholar and has found many ways to fuse her love of acting and reporting. Fresquez has appeared in numerous national commercial campaigns for everything from Bing to McDonalds to T.G.I. Fridays.

I first met Fresquez at the University of Southern California, with the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation (SCALE); an offshoot of the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS). She was a committed activist working to ensure the rights of workers all over the globe. She has carried that love of social justice into her career and has dedicated her work as a journalist to having a postive impact on society.

I had a chance to meet with Fresquez recently at the Greenway Court Theatre in Hollywood for the weekly Da Poetry Lounge spoken word open mic. While engaging in that most Hollywood of traditions (standing in line), we had a chance to talk about her career and motivations.

You’ve recently become the co-host of LatiNation, one of the most widely viewed programs focusing on Latinos in the country. Are you still a little awestruck by your new position, or have you settled into the job with confidence and ease?

My team at LATV has been extremely supportive of me as their new host and I think that has made it easier for me to feel confident and comfortable.  My co-host Humberto Guida and I joke that we have a kind of brother-sister relationship and a very similar sense of humor. We just express it in different ways – which makes for an interesting dynamic.

What have been some of your favorite segments you have worked on thus far?

I got to interview some of the performers from Barnum and Bailey & Ringling Bros. They are pretty amazing. I can’t even do a cartwheel so anyone who can do any kind of acrobatic stunt is pretty impressive to me. They have an incredible work ethic and are extremely dedicated to their craft.

I also got to ride on the back of a motorcycle with a world-record-holding motocross performer who rides around the inside of a metal sphere with 7 other motorcyclists at a time during the show.

Who are some of your dream interviews for the program?

I would love to interview Marlen Esparza. She recently competed at the Olympics in women’s boxing. I think she would be an amazing inspiration to young women in male-dominated careers. I’d also like to ask her for a few tips – I recently picked up the sport.

Louis C.K. would be an amazing person to interview also.  I find him to be hilarious and he’s also incredibly ambitious. He takes being a comedian to another level. Did you know he’s Mexican and that his first language was Spanish by the way?

LatiNation, with its display of a wide spectrum of Latino professionals and distribution over ninety stations and affiliates across the country, is a major victory for Latino media representation in America. Still, there is much to be done to get our stories out there. Where do you see the major battlegrounds for Latino media representation?

With regard to TV and film specifically, there aren’t enough major Latino screenwriters and studio executives.  It is the perspective and worldview of our writers combined with the financial power and influence of studio heads that dictate what goes on the air. I think there will be a gradual transition over time but it needs happen from every corner of the industry. We can continue to cast Latino actors on major TV programs to fill the “Latino quota” and call it a victory for diversity, but the incorporation of the Latino or mixed race perspective needs to happen on ALL levels. I think the demand for it is there and Hollywood wields so much influence on how we view each other so this is an especially significant battleground.

 Do you see any points of unity between Latino media and the media from other often underrepresented groups?

Absolutely.  We are all striving to get our voices heard and searching for media representation that reflects the truly diverse nature of our communities.  If anything, Latinos have the advantage of being such a large group of people that I tend to want to chuckle when people call us “minorities.” Underrepresented? Sure, but not a minority group in the literal sense of the word.

In addition to hosting LatiNation, you are also involved in the Inspira web series. How did your hosting duties with Inspira prepare you for LatiNation? What are some of the differences in the format and the experience of recording the two programs?

I owe A LOT to Inspira. It wasn’t until I started working on Inspira that I started to get in touch with my roots and to take advantage of all the amazing networks that exist among the Latino community. Growing up, I never felt that I “belonged” to any particular group, whether it was social or ethnic. I think that, to a certain extent, that’s part of what comes with being mixed race or bicultural.

The formats of each show are definitely different – Inspira is a little bit more formal and documentary-like whereas LatiNation is slightly more lighthearted and quicker-paced. Also, don’t forget who my co-hosts are: on Inspira, my co-host is Emmanuel Pletiez, currently a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles, and on LatiNation, it’s Humberto Guida, writer and comedian. They are both incredibly intelligent and talented and yet kind of opposites.

What advice do you have for aspiring journalists?

Be persistent and learn how to take criticism. Also, find a mentor and surround yourself with positive people. This probably applies to being successful in any career in general.

In your bio it says that you are of Mexican, Italian and Spanish descent. Being of mixed heritage can often prove difficult in a world where many want to place you in one column or the other. Have you encountered prejudice from one side of your lineage against another (Europeans disapproving of Mexican lineage, Mexicans disapproving of European lineage)? If so, how have you managed it? What message can you share with others of mixed ancestry?

I haven’t experienced it as much as my parent’s generation but I find this kind of prejudice to be fascinating and incredibly disappointing at the same time. It’s 2012! We are all mutts!  When my parents married, certain members of my mother’s family in Mexico felt that my father (a Tex-Mex) was too dark-skinned for them to approve of the marriage. This still infuriates me. Ignorance will always exist and the only thing you can do about it is try to educate people and hope that they will open up their minds. Before Angelina Jolie stole my idea, I wanted to adopt a child of every race (ok maybe 4 or 5 races) and create a microcosm of a harmonious little world in which people of all races were accepted and loved.  I’m dead serious.

How do you juggle being both an actress and an activist-journalist? What are the upsides and downsides of each passion and profession?

I’ve become so accustomed to dividing my time among many different interests throughout my life that the fact that I have narrowed it down to two is actually pretty amazing. Acting is exhilarating and it’s always a treat to discover a new character and find commonalties. Hosting is fun because you get to be you and you get to meet incredible people and share their stories. Downside? Nothing really comes to mind. The good outweighs the bad for both.

I often hate to ask questions like this, but due to your unbridled ambition, sublime poise and biting wit, I may as well as ask… Where do you see yourself in five years?

Working on some kind of Indie flick in Ecuador or a documentary in China. It would be great to have a recurring role on a cable TV show but working in film consistently is the dream. I saw the movie A Better Life and it reminded me of why I want to be an actor. And then I watch Rachel Maddow or John Stewart, and remember why I love hosting.  It’s healthy to allow yourself to be inspired. I hope I still feel inspired five years from now.

Asian Latin fusion food has become a veritable phenomenon. Do you think that Asian Latin fusion food is just a passing trend, or the future?

For everyone’s sake, I truly hope it’s the future. My two favorite cuisines, together? Can one ask for a more perfect union?

Who is your favorite Asian celebrity, historical figure, or fictional character?

Chairman Mao. He has dictated the coarse of almost 100 years of Chinese history and is probably one of the most controversial and fascinating historical figures of all time.

Would you rather date an Asian or someone of Latin descent?

Funny you should ask. I am currently dating someone of Latin descent but my very first boyfriend in junior high was a Mexican-Filipino mix. I prefer French-Canadians, really.

Any last words or shout outs?

George Carlin is my hero.

THANK YOU GABRIELA

David A. Romero is a cheese enchilada-making spoken word artist who knows something about Mexicans. A lover of boba and a citizen of Diamond Bar, CA, he also knows a thing or two about Asians. http://www.davidaromero.com/

Have any ideas for the blog? Questions? Comments? Hit me up below! Or email me: davidaromero@projektnewspeak.com