Lilliana Vazquez: Opening doors for Latinx in the media industry
The host of E! News and Pop of the Morning serves as a beacon to those who share her heritage and want to enter the media world.
In a day and age when Latinx communities remain underrepresented in the media, individuals like Lilliana Vazquez serve as a reflection of that much-needed representation in the industry.
Long before she took on her current role as host of E! News and Pop of the Morning, Vazquez knew she wanted to pursue a creative career.
Originally from Fort Worth, TX, Vazquez was one of the first in her family to attend college.
Her mother always pushed her to take a more traditional career path in the event that the economy tanked, which prompted her to pursue a business track in college.
A full academic scholarship led her to attend George Washington University, where she double-majored in international business and entrepreneurship.
“At the end of the day, it ended up being the best fit,” Vazquez said during an interview.
While in college, Vazquez was heavily involved in extracurriculars, which included writing for the school newspaper, launching a radio station, as well as producing and hosting a radio show.
“I was able to balance out what I thought I probably really wanted to do, which was work in broadcast journalism and be a storyteller, with a more traditional route in college,” she added.
Latinos in the United States are starting businesses at three times the national average.
When asked what makes the Latino community so entrepreneurial, Vazquez said it’s conducive to “an immigrant mindset.”
“I think when you come to this country, no matter where you come from… your family comes here with little to nothing. They’re starting over, they’re building from scratch,” she said.
As a first-generation Latinx born to a Puerto Rican father and Mexican mother, Vazquez saw firsthand her parents building from scratch and being “entrepreneurs in their own way,” even if they may not have seen themselves that way.
“I think she always saw herself as a scrappy hard worker because that is the immigrant mentality,” Vazquez said of her mother.
“Very early on as a little girl, I saw her do it in many different fields and I saw her wear a lot of hats and I think that’s one of the things that entrepreneurs have to be very comfortable doing,” she added.
Those experiences helped Vazquez understand what it means to work hard for very little, which instilled a sense of hard work and tenacity that she continues to hold with her to this day.
As one of the few Latinas in the media industry, Vazquez understands that she has a big platform — one she doesn’t take for granted.
“I wish I could say that I worked this hard to get here so that I can celebrate my success, but I didn’t,” said Vazquez. “I worked this hard to get here so that other people behind me can celebrate the success and feel like they have a path to achieve a dream that I never thought was possible for me.”
She’s often asked why she didn’t change her last name after getting married in 2007, a decision she points to as she reflected on not seeing many Latinx sounding names in media and journalism as a little girl, aside from longtime broadcast journalist Gloria Campos.
“I remember how incredible it felt to see her on the news being so incredibly poised delivering the news that my family watched every single night,” she said of Campos. “She was a voice in our community, for our community and she was like me. She looked like me, she came from Mexico, but at the same time, she represented this other world to me that I thought I could never, ever achieve.”
Today, when people turn on their television, she hopes young Latinas will see the last name “Vazquez” on the screen and use it as proof that they can do it too.
“The more of us that exist, the easier that opportunity becomes,” said Vazquez.
“Not just because if you can see it, you can be it. But we're there to shepherd and champion other people into these roles and not just the roles that you have on television,” she added, noting that she’s also made it a point of emphasis to add people to her team who also represent her heritage and culture.
For example, her makeup artist and stylist are both of Mexican descent, while her assistant of seven years is Dominican.
“It's really important to me that I don't just open the door on television, but that I open the door to the entire industry.”