Monica Herrera has always been willing to go that extra-mile to make her dreams come true. Whether she was taking on extra writing assignments at Billboard or Rolling Stone, or writing about the things that interested her most, like music. “I took on the American Idol beat while working at Billboard…I've found that the best way to build my portfolio is by pursuing opportunities that I'm very instinctively passionate about—it can only lead to good things,” says Herrera, who's Cuban and Costa Rican.
Read on to find out how this driven Latina from New Jersey became not only a Senior Editor of Rollingstone.com, but also one of the first Latina staffers in the history of the magazine...period!
Where did you go to college and what did you study?
I went to Brown University in Rhode Island, and I studied Modern Culture and Media with a focus in film and media theory. I was also in four dance companies!
Tell us about your job!
Currently, I'm the Senior Editor at RollingStone.com. I assign all news content for the site across music, TV and movies and manage a team of editors and writers. We're always pursuing the next big entertainment story and brainstorming angles to push those stories forward, whether it's an in-depth Q & A with Green Day about their new album, a feature on how the music industry was affected by Hurricane Sandy or an exclusive scoop about the new season of Arrested Development.
What steps did you take to get to where you are now?
During high school, I did creative writing in my spare time and read anything I could get my hands on. (I kept folders of news articles and reviews that I cut out from The New York Times and other magazines—the 1996 version of a Tumblr blog)! I think that kind of extra-mile work ethic luckily carried over into my career.
Rolling Stone magazine just published a Latino issue with Pitbull on the cover. What role did you play in making that happen? Did you work on it?
I work primarily online, but at Rolling Stone we have a core team of music editors that collaborates regularly on big feature ideas. So when the opportunity came to us to do our first Latin section, my background and experience really came in handy. I pitched the lineup, assigned the stories to writers who were experts in those subjects, and then worked with them on honing the pieces.
What advice do you have for other Latinas that want to follow in your footsteps?
Seek wisdom from mentors that inspire you and can help nurture your career—I think it's important for any career, but it's especially crucial in journalism and has made all the difference for me and so many others I know. And be your own advocate, which can sometimes be harder than it sounds. It takes knowing what your strengths are and finding authentic opportunities to let those strengths shine.
What is the most interesting interview you have conducted in your career?
This is a bit morbid, but many of my best interviews came from covering the deaths of iconic music stars, like Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston and the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch. I spoke to close collaborators of all these artists and they had incredible, humanizing stories about what they were like behind the scenes. One that stands out was Salaam Remi, a producer who worked closely with Amy Winehouse and had talked to her just a few days before she passed. He had so many fascinating stories about their friendship and the music they were hoping to make next. Aside from learning about stories that haven't been told before and having the chance to share them with the world, I've learned that these kinds of interviews can really help you master the keys to all interviews: respecting your subject, doing your research to make sure you ask the right questions, and keeping the conversation as honest and open as possible.
When you were a young girl, did you read Rolling Stone? Did they already have Latina bylines or are you one of the first Latina staffers?
I definitely read Rolling Stone growing up and actually dreamed of working there one day. Realizing a goal that I had at such a young age is so gratifying. I believe I am one of the first Latina staffers!