During Hispanic Heritage Month, TODAY shares community history, pain, joy and pride. We shine a light on Hispanic pioneers and rising voices. TODAY will be posting personal essays, stories, videos and specials throughout September and October. Find out more here.
From race car driving to news anchor, here are four Latino pioneers leading the way in their fields:
In 2010, while a presenter on Telemundo, José Diaz-Balart made history when he took up his post on MSNBC, making him the first journalist to broadcast in two languages on two networks simultaneously. In 2016, he became the first reporter to feature in two languages on two separate networks when he took over the Sunday edition of NBC Nightly News.
Today, Díaz-Balart makes history again when he returns to MSNBC, this time as the host of a daily morning news show. He will be the only American journalist to present national cable news programs and broadcast television programs in English and Spanish.
“When I started television 37 years ago, there was no one like me,” said Díaz-Balart. “Representation matters. We each have a responsibility to make a difference and to serve in any way we can.”
Ozzie Areu used years of hard work as a personal assistant to celebrities to become CEO of his own film and television studio, Areu Bros. Studios – the only Latino owned and operated in the United States. His story reads like a Hollywood movie, starting as a security guard at Warner Brothers, then personal assistant to some high profile stars, including Tyler Perry, who ultimately promoted him to president of Tyler Perry Studios.
“Tyler defended me … [I] had a great career, learned almost everything I know from him… and I vowed to myself that I would do everything I can to never let him down. Now, as the owner of his own studio, Areu is taking it to the next level by introducing cost-effective cutting-edge technology that will help level the playing field for creatives and storytellers.
Karla Gallardo quit a lucrative banking job at Goldman Sachs to assert her rights in the highly competitive fashion industry by starting Cuyana. The company is based on a “less things, better things” philosophy, which stems from the experience of Gallardo who grew up in Ecuador. “Everything we bought in my house was neat… my dad changed the soles of his shoes. [He was] so proud they were 20 years old. So you would just invest in the items that you have and liked them.
The company offers affordable luxury items including clothing and accessories, but it’s their leather bags – and star drawers like Meghan Markle, Jessica Biel and Jessica Alba – that put them on the map. Now Gallardo aims to expand Cuyana into a full-fledged lifestyle brand.
Earlier this year, racing driver Helio Castroneves made history by winning the Indy 500 for the fourth time, a tied record, joining a very exclusive club of just three other drivers – and the only foreigner to do it. “Obviously it’s a very competitive world, but I wouldn’t be able to do it if this country didn’t open the door for me. “
Now Castroneves is on the hunt for a record fifth win. “I still have a lot to do and a lot of fuel to burn in me. Now is not the time to back down, this is the time to put on the overdrive. “