Although Latinxs according to a. make up 19% of the US population 2021 study by the Pew Research Center, we are consistently underrepresented in the media, which comes with their misinterpretations of our culture. That said, we’re a passionate group of storytellers, and a Latina is making strides in the podcast world to ensure our stories are told properly.
POPSUGAR met with Giselle Bances, SVP of iHeartMedia’s My Cultura Podcast Network, a podcast network owned by iHeartRadio that is home to more than 60 original Latinx shows. Much like the changes we’re seeing in the music industry with the popularization of Latin music, and reggaeton in particular, Latinx communities are also significantly influencing and reshaping the podcast landscape.
“Latinos are the fastest growing audience in podcasting, so this is the perfect time for us to bring these stories to life.”
“Latinos are the fastest growing audience in podcasting, so this is the perfect time for us to bring these stories to life,” says Bances. To understand her mission, let’s look back at how a San Fernando Valley girl with Peruvian roots helped create, nurture, and uplift Latinx voices. Early in her career, Bances dreamed of breaking the news in a way she had never seen before. “I wanted to be the first news reporter to bring you the news on Spanglish,” Bances said. Though that dream is yet to come, she reflects on her love of entertainment, news, pop culture, music and movies.
As a journalism student at California State University, Bances got her first job at local news station KTLA. “I’ve learned that I really love writing and producing content [and] that I didn’t necessarily have to be in front of the camera to do it,” she says. “All the magic really happened behind the scenes.” But without a connection to the media or the news world, getting her foot in the door wasn’t easy. For Latinxs starting or pursuing a career in entertainment, Bances recommends using resources like LinkedIn and finding the person who has your dream job and reaching out to them with an email.
“If they have any advice, tell them how passionate you are about things and what you want to do. I have a feeling they’ll answer you 100 percent,” she says, while admitting she did it herself I emailed my favorite entertainment reporter and told her about Tom Cruise, my favorite star at the time. She replied, invited me to the premiere of Vanilla Sky, and I met him. She helped me find an internship and I owe her so much.”
Bances then became part of the Mundos team at NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises. After learning how to interview and preparing for the red carpet, she interviewed stars like Daddy Yankee during the height of the reggaeton era. Her live entertainment work consisted of interviews and video packages, which then led her to sign up for E! to focus on digital video. News.
For the next 10 years as Head of Digital Production at E! News, she’s been able to create a variety of shows with bilingual content. But it wasn’t until they got Yahoo! In 2017, her passion for Latinx actors and Latinx content increased. “I just wanted to make stories about our culture [and] our community and Yahoo! did they allow me to do that,” she says. “I was able to start her first bilingual video series, [Yahoo Entertainment’s] la list.”
2020, Bances spoke to John Leguizamo about the Emmys not having a Latinx nominee that year. “John Leguizamo has always been so passionate about what he talks about but he’s responded so brilliantly that we’re just not represented. That enlightened me so much,” she says. “On this occasion [with] iHeart came along, which was exactly where I wanted to be: represent Latinos and create a platform for our stories to be told and for everyone to hear.”
Within iHeartMedia, My Cultura features stories from Latinx creators such as Eva Longoria, Wilmer Valderrama, Roselyn Sanchezand Amara la Negra. The Latinx Network includes stories of a trans latina woman looking for love (crumbs) to an American Latino who is “too white” for his home country (Life as a gringo). For history buffs, there are shows like “out of the shadows‘, which addresses the Reagan Reform Act that gave immigrants a chance at citizenship. There is literally a podcast for everyone. In addition to interviewing and writing stories about these Latinx hosts in the past, Bances has learned over the years how to best choose her subjects.
“I also knew who would be a good storyteller and who would have the right voice,” she says. Bances makes sure to incorporate the most authentic Latinx stories for podcasts, while also recognizing that not every Latinx is fluent in Spanish. She grew up watching telenovelas with her family, so a podcast touching on this genre for My Cultura seemed like a good fit. My culture is “Princess of South Beach,” contains episodes in English and Spanish.
“If you don’t speak Spanish, that’s perfectly fine. You’re welcome, not all Latinos speak Spanish.”
“It takes the kind of over-the-top dramatic telenovela aspects infused with some comedy and brings in some great talent,” says Bances. “We’re trying to create that cross-generational experience, so we’re offering it in both languages.” The main goal of Bances is to speak to the Latinx culture without making Spanish a requirement. “If you don’t speak Spanish, that’s perfectly fine. You’re welcome, not all Latinos speak Spanish…it shouldn’t determine how Latino you are.” Through her collaborations and partnerships at iHeart, she is able to create content for everyone, not just Latinxs. Some shows feature stories from past generations to enlighten audiences about a part of history that you won’t find in most textbooks.
“Sisters of the Underground” highlights, as described by Bances, “the history of the Mirabal sisters, which is not taught in history classes. It’s in English because it’s an important story that everyone should listen to.” My Cultura is also ready for its World Cup fans. In collaboration with Exile Content Studio, the 12 episode series, “The best football podcast in the world,” highlights some of the most iconic moments in its 92-year competition. With executive producer and host Nando Vila are the episodes available in Spanish and English with new releases on Tuesdays through January 31st.
One of the key components in creating these projects is trust. Despite not having a podcast background, Bances was given the opportunity to showcase her storytelling and talent scouting skills to iHeartMedia. Will Pearson, President of iHeartPodcasts and Chief Operating Officer of iHeart Podcast Network, believed in Bances’ abilities and, as Bances said, believes that she is a fine storyteller who is more than up for the task.
With that, she was able to launch iHeart’s first Latino podcast network, and she hopes to continue creating amazing content and providing a safe environment for other storytellers to produce their own artwork.
But being put in a box labeled “Latinx” isn’t good enough. Not all Latinxs are the same. Bances doesn’t think she’s an expert on other Latinx communities that aren’t her own, rather she fosters a space where they can come and share their own experiences. “It’s our responsibility to hold the door open and make sure other people have seats,” she says. “We can’t represent every Latino, that’s way too much pressure. I only know my experience, but I can’t speak for every Latina.”
Her tenacity and passion for promoting the mix that is Latinidad has not gone unnoticed. Bances’ mission is to share and maintain quality content in English, Spanish, and Spanglish, not just for Latinxs, but for everyone. “I’m so proud that iHeart has supported us so much in building this incredible network where we can tell some great stories. We can celebrate our culture. We can celebrate our voices.”
Image source: iHeartMedia