A new era begins!

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When I started my career as an entertainment journalist (and resident reggaeton queen) at VIBE magazine in 2003, I never would have imagined I’d end up here. My dream was to one day be an editor-in-chief (of a print magazine, obviously). Eventually, I’d earn that title, but in the digital era, where instead of worrying about selling newsstand copies and upping subscriptions I would obsess over site analytics. And what I do now simply didn’t exist back then, so I couldn’t have possibly known that it would be the culmination of everything I’ve worked for. But here I am, feeling incredibly blessed to have joined Spotify’s global content programming team as a Senior Editor. In this role, I now curate and program playlists specifically for the US Latin market, as well as create exclusive, multi-platform editorial content that amplifies the streaming service’s role as the undisputed choice for Latin music lovers. In other words: I. Love. My. Job.

Here’s to the dreams you can imagine — and to the ones you can’t even picture yet, but are waiting in the wings.

The Best of the 2015 Billboard Latin Music Conference

Ivy Queen

I recently joined the extended Billboard family as a contributor and went down to Miami to cover the 2015 Billboard Latin Music Conference and Awards (April 27 – 30). I’ve greatly enjoyed collaborating with the inimitable Leila Cobo, who, quite simply, knows more about Latin music than anyone on the planet. She’s a pro, and definitely someone I look up to.

You’ll be seeing my byline on billboard.com/latin quite a bit this year, as I join Leila and the Billboard team in building the ultimate digital destination for all things Latin music.

Click below to see Billboard’s beautiful spread with exclusive portraits from the conference.

Billboard Latin Music Conference Exclusive Portraits  

And click here to view all of our great online coverage from this year’s conference & awards, including exclusive interviews with Carlos Santana, Daddy Yankee, Natalia Jimenez, Nicky Jam, Luis Fonsi, Wisin, Carlos Vives, Ivy Queen, and many more.

See Also: Highlights From the 2015 Billboard Latin Music Conference & Awards

#AllYouNeedIsEcuador: Everything You Need to Know About That Epic SuperBowl Ad

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Amidst all the celebrity-laden ads on Super Bowl Sunday, there was one that stood out: Ecuador’s 30-second spot highlighting the stunning natural beauty of the small Andean country containing a world within itself — the Galapagos Islands, the Pacific Coast, the Andes mountains and the Amazon rainforest — to the familiar tune of a certain Beatles classic.

A three-part tagline anchored the memorable “All You Need is Ecuador” spot: “Like Nowhere Else, All in One Place, So Close.” The first two points are undeniably true (this coming from a proud Ecuadorian), but I’m going to have to talk to the airlines about that third one, because getting there from Los Angeles is never less than a full-day ordeal.

If those few seconds weren’t enough to make you want to make the trip, maybe these interesting tidbits will.

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The Problem With a Token Latina Princess

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There was a great deal of excitement, understandably so, around Disney’s announcement of a new princess, Elena of Avalor, this week. An olive-skinned, gorgeous babe who looks like she goes to Jasmine’s same hair salon to get blow-outs, Elena was widely celebrated in the media because, well, it’s crazy that there still hasn’t been a Latina royal in the Disney family.

We came close about a year ago with Sofia The First, whom many also assumed was Latina. But it wasn’t long before the backlash started, mostly consisting of “She’s too white!” comments. All of which caused Disney to clarify — or perhaps backpedal — and state that Sofia was “a mixed-heritage princess in a fairy-tale world. Her mother is originally from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Spain (Galdiz) and her birth father hailed from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Scandinavia.”

Disney Junior’s VP Nancy Kanter further clarified: “What’s important to know is that Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world. All our characters come from fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities but none are meant to specifically represent those real world cultures. The writers have wisely chosen to write stories that include elements that will be familiar and relatable to kids from many different backgrounds including Spain and Latin America.”

Following that uncomfortable PR moment for Disney, Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, had a direct conversation with Kanter in which he apparently pressed, “When are we going to have a real Latina, not a counterfeit?’”

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Behold: Variety Latino’s ‘Power of Latinos: 20 Most Beloved & Influential Stars’ List

*I’m extremely proud of how Variety Latino’s first curated list came out. I really wanted to do something different than the usual lists and so we commissioned celebrity branding authority Jeetendr Sehdev to conduct this national survey for us. The celebrities really responded to it and shared it on their own Twitter, Facebook pages, which made me so happy. It was a big hit! And hopefully the first of many lists to come…

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, Variety and Variety Latino have joined forces to launch the “POWER OF LATINOS: 20 MOST INFLUENTIAL STARS LIST, spotlighting the most successful Latino film and TV actors in Hollywood (10 men and 10 women). The special appears in the September 30th issue of print Variety.

But rather than focus solely on their professional accomplishments, we went one step further, and looked at how influential and appealing they are within their own community.

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Gina Rodriguez is our Rising Star of the Year at Young Hollywood Awards (VIDEO)

Known as the “Oscars of Young Hollywood,” the Young Hollywood Awards on July 27 toasted the brightest trailblazing stars in music, TV, and film at The Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles.

It was a who’s who of young Hollywood – from Vanessa Hudgens to Ansel Elgort to Justin Bieber –  but the one I was most excited about was Gina Rodriguez, our Variety Latino Rising Star of the Year honoree.

This fall, Gina makes history as the first Latina lead on the CW with her very own show, “Jane The Virgin,” a heartwarming new comedy about a 23-year-old girl with big dreams who gets pregnant after being artificially inseminated – accidentally!

We are so excited about the work Gina Rodriguez is doing in Hollywood and want to recognize that with this honor. She is smart, driven, uplifting, and empowering, and so are the characters she plays on the big and small screen, sending a clear message to Latina girls everywhere that they, too, are represented, and their stories are worth telling, too. Her being the first Latina lead on the CW with “Jane The Virgin” is groundbreaking, but it’s only the beginning. She is someone we’ll be talking about for years to come.

Congrats, Gina!

Don’t miss “Jane The Virgin” premiering October 13 on the CW.

Christy Haubegger profiled by Makers: Women Who Make America

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How did I not know this existed?!

Makers: Women Who Make America is a historic video initiative developed by AOL and PBS. It aims to “be the largest and most dynamic collection of women’s stories ever assembled.” And so far, it’s on the right track.

Some of the extraordinary women profiled include Madeleine Albreight, Christiane Amanpour, Sandra Cisneros, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, Tavi Gevinson, Oprah, Sheryl Sandberg and tons more.

Among them is Christy Haubegger, Founder of Latina magazine and a personal she-ro. Every day that I worked there from about 2007 to 2011 (a dream come true, for sure) I wanted to make her proud. And that’ll never change, no matter where I go.

What she’s built is incredible — and she’s nowhere near done. As big of a power player as she is in Hollywood (she transitioned from publishing to the agency life in 2005 and joined CAA, where she continues to create opportunities for Latinas), Christy always has time to listen, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. This only reaffirms the importance of mentorship for Latinas in any field.

Take a minute to watch her profile at Makers.com and I promise you’ll walk away newly inspired!

Becky G profile for Rolling Stone’s New Latin Hot List Issue

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FOTO (Fresh Out The Oven)!

Yours truly wrote a profile on 16-year-old Becky G for Rolling Stone‘s new #LatinHotList issue, on stands November 8. I saw something special in her when I first met her two years ago in the RCA offices. She told me about her musical idols growing up (Left Eye, Selena), how her ‘Lita (grandma) taught her Spanish and always reminded her how important it is to honor her Mexican heritage, her plans to build a movement and take over the world, among other things. Somehow it didn’t come across as over-confident; I always believed she’d make it. Ask Dr. Luke what it is that he first noticed about her and he’ll say the same thing: her confidence and charisma. Because if you don’t believe in yourself, who will?

Then I collaborated with her on her blog, “Being Becky G,” for Fusion (ABC/Univision) late last year and that was super fun. It’s great to see how far she’s come in that short amount of time. She’s now CoverGirl’s youngest spokesperson and her #Beaster following on social media just keeps growing. In other words, she’s a marketer’s dream.

The RS cover line says it all and this is only the beginning…read the article here.

Calle 13 & Julian Assange: A love story

You gotta admire how Calle 13 stay true to their hasta la victoria siempre M.O. Their newest act of rebellion? A collabo with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, their buddy Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Palestinian musician Kamilya Jubran. Apparently Rene Perez, one half of C13, visited Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London this past summer. Their #JulianAssangeCalle13 campaign has been mounting since then, when they engaged their loyal Twitter followers on various themes and received thousands of responses, which they plan to incorporate into this new song. “We’re going to take their voice, what they’re saying, their idea, and we’re going to manipulate their idea and construct a song about the media…to talk against the bad media but using their voices,” says Perez in the teaser. Watch below:

The full “Multi_Viral” single will be released November 13. As for their next album, C13 has opted not to renew their contract with Sony and will be releasing their next album independently in March 2014. “We’re looking at different platforms,” C13’s Eduardo Cabra told Billboard last week. “Maybe we will give it away for free.”

That’s a cause I can get behind.