Name: Victoria Leandra
Homebase: New York City, but I’m traveling and working remote at the moment
Tu país: Puerto Rico ¡Boricua aunque naciera en la luna!
Describe your professional role(s):
EL ADN Podcast, Creator and Host
EL ADN interview series first began as an Instagram LIVE show during the pandemic.Some guests included Sky Rompiendo, Brytiago, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Miky Woodz, etc. Instagram recognized this show on their official account and dubbed me a “Creator to Keep an Eye On.”
Today, EL ADN exists as a podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts with new episodes every Monday morning with guests such as Julissa Prado, Alicia Menendez, Cyndi Ramirez, and Dee Nasty. In each conversation, I sit down with the movers and shakers of culture for honest and intimate conversations about challenges overcome to reach their current success.
We ask guests about the concrete steps taken and habits adopted in the journey to their achievement. We talk about what in their ADN (DNA in English) makes them the extraordinary and unstoppable people they’ve become today.
I’m the Latino Content Editorial Director for a start-up media company focused on delivering a mix of cultural + political news to a young Latina audience in the US exclusively on social media. My day-to-day includes managing a newsroom of 6 journalists covering the Puerto Rican community in FL and developing and implementing the content strategy for a newsroom focused on reaching Arizona’s Mexican-American audience.
As an independent multimedia journalist, I work with US media outlets such as Refinery29, Oprah Magazine, Bustle, Mic, VICE, Remezcla, CBS Puerto Rico, etc. as a host, producer, and writer covering the Latinx community. Some topics I’ve covered: uprisings in the Dominican Republic and Chile, the current energy crisis in Puerto Rico, and interviews with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Alexandra Lúgaro, and J Balvin.
Content Creator (I’m not a fan of the word “influencer”!)
Over the years, I’ve grown my Instagram presence into a 17K+ community of people who want to reach their highest potential in their professional and personal lives. Past partnerships include HBO Max, Adidas, Bumble, Facebook, and Maybelline.
What’s been your journey to your current profession?
I left Puerto Rico when I was 17 years old to pursue a career in journalism. I did not know a soul when I landed in NYC, one of the most humbling and challenging experiences in my life. Today, I’m an award-winning journalist and multimedia host/producer/writer focused on socio-political issues and Latinx culture.
My first job was at Bloomberg as a social curator for their newly launched brand “QuickTake.” I went on to work at VICE News as a multimedia producer/reporter where I covered domestic and international stories in both English and Spanish. I also launched several video series, one of which introduced international artists to the US mainstream. Up until then, we had never featured Bad Bunny, Anuel AA, or Natti Natasha on VICE News!
The journey was worth it. I use my voice for something greater than myself. I tell the stories of nuestra gente to an audience that rarely understands us and the nuances within our cultura.
What excites and stimulates you in your career? What draws you into the work you do?
As a journalist, I’m [a product] of the stories I tell, the people I meet, the places I visit. Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes draws me into this work. I feel grateful when someone opens their heart and shares with me their inner dialogue. We often go about our lives too focused on ourselves that we forget to look next to us and ask, “How did you overcome that phase that was challenging in your life? What keeps you up at night? How do you want to be remembered?” All of those questions are important because the answers bring the human side [to the forefront] and strip away someone’s titles, roles, and status.
What did you used to believe that you now see was completely misguided?
That you can only do one thing. That you need to pick and choose from all your skills, talents, ideas, and dreams and select just one thing that you’ll end up pursuing. That you can only have one career or one passion. That era is long gone.
I live every moment in the day as my last one. I’m hyper-aware that the clock is always ticking. I want to make sure that when my time comes, I can look back at my life and say, “I did everything I wanted to do. I became what I wanted to be. I explored all my talents and ideas.”
What are some ways that you continue to stay inspired and motivated in your career?
Whenever I feel too comfortable, I embark on a new journey to purposefully feel uncomfortable. This is how my podcast, EL ADN, was started. [I have always been impressed by] the craft of telling a story with no visual component, as it happens with audio. [This medium] allows you to focus on someone’s message without being distracted by anything else.
I’m always seeking the excitement that “something new” provides in my personal and professional life. I thrive on it. I can sometimes be too hard on myself, so it’s not often that I feel accomplished. I had a special moment recently when I had just finished editing the 6th episode of this season and suddenly started crying. I felt fulfilled because I had completed something I once thought impossible: developing, launching, hosting, and producing my podcast.
Who are people you connected with in your journey that empowered you in your career? How did they empower you?
There’s a long list of individuals, especially women of color, who have paved the way for me. Marsha Cooke, Cristy Marrero, Arianna Davis, Raquel Reichard, Cristina Novo, Lissette Rios, Shanté Cosme, Youyoung Lee, Milena Mikael-Debass, and many others!
They’ve all impacted me during different [but pivotal] parts of my career. Some gave me my first opportunity, others showed me the ropes, some were connectors, and others reminded me of my potential.
A journalist I deeply admire, Alicia Menendez, told me in a podcast interview: “You need sponsors, as opposed to mentors, people that use their network to push you forward.” These mujeres have been that for me. Now I want to become a sponsor for the next generation of Latina journalists in the US media.
What does Latine culture mean to you on your home turf?
Mí cultura is everything to me. I didn’t grow up with the concept of being “Latina” as I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. At the time, I simply called myself Puertorriqueña. If anyone asked me locally, I’d say I was from my hometown of Bayamón. It wasn’t until I landed in the US that I encountered terms like “Hispanic” and “Latina/x/e.”
Being Boricua is at the crux of everything I do as a journalist. From my reels explaining the history of protest music in Puerto Rico to shedding light that Viequenses still don’t have a hospital, four years after Hurricane Maria. I see storytelling as a way to give back to my community and represent mí patria (homeland) wherever I go.
What’s next for you?
I’m excited about growing EL ADN Podcast. We just launched a month ago. The amount of positive feedback and love I have received is overwhelming in the best of ways. I want to continue highlighting people of color and their journeys to success to inspire others to [pursue] their ambitions, no matter their circumstances.
There is also a new project I can’t announce just yet, but I know people will resonate with it. 15-year-old Victoria would be proud of this one.
On a more personal level, I’m training to run my second half-marathon, this time in Miami. I’m one step closer to running the full one, hopefully in 2022. Still not ready to run 26.2 miles!
For Las Mujeres Doin’ the Work, Latina has partnered with La Nueva Link, a digital and IRL community for Latinx creatives and media professionals in every intersection of the culture. LNL’s mission is to shift the understanding of US Latinxs from a monolith to micro-communities. They are a network fostering visibility and facilitating connections for Latinx professionals and creatives. Not only does their work empower a new generation of culture-makers, but also LNL pushes institutions to think critically about how they engage with Latinx communities.