By Rhashad R. Pittman
When Lisa Vela became general manager of a Spanish radio station here in the Central Valley, she was a twenty five-year-old single mother and the only Latina in the room. Often mistaken as the secretary, Vela would be asked to get coffee for everyone before meetings started.
But those experiences didn’t deter her.
Armed with an unshakable faith in God, Vela rose to become a senior executive at one of the most influential media companies in the Spanish broadcasting industry. In the process, she became a trailblazer in the San Joaquin Valley as the first Latina in the region to serve as general manager of a Spanish radio station.
She credits her mentor Jeffrey Liberman, President and COO of Entravision, as helping guide her along the way. He told her: “Work hard, and if you feel defeated, work harder.”
Vela is now senior vice president of Integrated Marketing Solutions for the Central Valley office of Entravision Communications Corp. The media company serves Latino audiences and communities across the United States and Latin America. It has 49 radio stations and 58 television stations, including stations in 20 of the nation’s top 50 Latino markets.
In addition to her professional role, Vela continues to be active and engaged in community initiatives. She has been involved in numerous efforts to support Spanish language communities through many non-profit organizations in the San Joaquin Valley such as El Concilio.
She has also sponsored migrant farm worker support groups, the Women’s Shelter, various education and sports nonprofit organizations, the National Catholic Charities and Children’s Miracle Network, among others. For her efforts, she was recognized as El Concilio’s Amiga of the Year.
“I was born and raised in a migrant family,” Vela said. “I’ve never forgotten my roots.”
Born in Fresno, Vela has lived in the San Joaquin Valley for 25 years. She is the proud mother of six children who range in ages from 11 to 32, and enjoys six grandchildren.
Vela has worked in Spanish language radio broadcasting since 1990 in the San Joaquin Valley as one of the only Latina, female general managers in the valley. She was awarded the position of senior vice president after Entravision Communications purchased the radio stations La Tricolor, KMIX/100.9fm, Radio Jose KTSE/97.1fm & ESPN Deportes KCVR am and Maria KCVR fm.
Throughout her professional career, Vela has led local radio stations through significant changes in the broadcasting industry, particularly due to digital media technology. She has seen the radio broadcasting industry go from analog to digital and from broadcast to Internet Radio throughout her two decade broadcasting career.
“It’s transcended throughout the years,” she said. “People are consuming media differently.”
The technological advances have led to stations playing a much broader, more significant role in the local Latino community. In her 19 years at Entravision, Vela noted, she has seen the media company’s outlets become more than just entertainment. It also serves as a major source of information and a way to connect local residents with their Mexican roots.
“We have an obligation to provide good, honest, truthful information,” Vela said. “It’s a big responsibility for the station to honor that trust.”
Vela was recently one of a handful of women selected to participate in a panel discussion made up of “Inspiring Latinas” during the San Joaquin County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Latina Luncheon.
“It’s important for others to realize that there are others just like them with the same challenges who can persevere,” she said. “Don’t give up!”
Vela said that she would like to mentor other up and coming professionals. For young Latinas who aspire to be successful in their careers, Vela offers this piece of advice: “Stay true to yourself and your convictions. Don’t apologize for your success. Own it and give thanks.”
By Rhashad R. Pittman