Dana Cortez: Against the Odds

We had the pleasure¬†to sit down with a Latina who really started with nothing and¬†has managed to become a national success in the radio business. This woman was a single teen mom who by accident got into the entertainment business in a small Texas town and now broadcasts from Texas to the Bay area. This Latina will out work you, out brand you, and without a doubt out talk you! Of course I’m talking about none other than Dana Cortez. Join us¬†as we talk business, work ethic, Hollywood, motivation, her favorite artists and more.

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LB: How long have you been in the radio business, and what markets are you in?

DC: I’ve been in radio for 13 years and currently I’m in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I am in San Antonio Texas, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jos√©, California.

LB: And your from Texas, correct?

DC: I’m from Texas, I’m a Texas girl and they still like me here in New Mexico (giggles.)

LB: A lot of times in this industry, its hard not only for women but even more for Latinas to break into the industry. Even more so 14 years ago. Tell me how you got your start.

DC: Ya know, I got my start by accident. It was kind of… ummm… I had no desire to get into entertainment, radio, anything, and I was approached by someone so I went ahead and did it. I went in for an interview and was hired on the spot on a Tejano station. Who remembers Tejano music? And now its been 13 years now. Tejano was kind of on its last leg so the format flipped and within 6 months i was feeling in for all of the ¬†full timers, within a year I was hired full time as a program director so things moved along really quickly. I’ve been very blessed to work alongside some of the best people in the industry. They saw something and they gave me a shot ya know.

LB: Being that you are a woman and you are Latina, do you feel that comes with added responsibility with the influence you have and the position that you’re in?

DC: I do! Ya know that’s a tough question because I don’t think often of myself being Latina because I just am. It’s just who I am, but I do know culturally there are certain differences and I also do know that I don’t have a lot of people in the industry whether it’s music or even radio or television, a movie, ya know Hollywood that I can kind of look at and say “Oh look, I can do that.” Selena¬†was a big influence and honestly I didn’t even know who she was until she did something where she was real sexy; I think it was “Amor Prohibido” and I was like: Who is this girl!? ¬†Jennifer Lopez is another person, ya know of course she’s Puertorriquena and she’s like wow, ¬†she’s doing all of this, but that’s kind of it. Ya know when you really think about it there’s Sofia Vergara but there is so few. Do i feel responsible? I don’t know if I feel responsible but I would hope that other women in general do because it’s tough for women, you don’t have to be a woman of color…

LB: Right, to be a role model

DC: Yeah to be a role model, I don’t know if I feel responsible but I hope that girls can look at me and say “hey, if she made it, I can do it to.”

LB: People look at you and think you have the funnest, most plush job of all time…

DC: You see me looking rougher than a mother trucker right now, right? (laughing)

LB: They don’t realize the hard work and dedication that you’ve put in. What you’ve had to do to put yourself in this position.

DC: Work! Constantly work. I compete against all these boys that don’t want these girls to make it. I work against the internet now, it’s the age of instant gratification. I wake up working, I get up about 3:55, 4 am. I go to sleep working, looking online to see whats going on because my audience wants that. Anybody, in any job you’re doing, if you don’t put in the work, you’re not going to be successful. It’s very difficult but I love it. ¬†Typically my work week is 65 to 70 hours, every week; So, it is not easy.

LB: That’s a long week. What is your motivation?

DC: Ya know, I would have to say… and anyone in this business that doesn’t admit this…. You are lying… It’s EGO! It is so ego! It evolves around… Its like politics or anything else: Do you like me? Can you like me? It’s like high school, it really is that. Than there’s the love, I love what I do. ¬†I love to help people, I don’t know, it just give me such great satisfaction to… in any market, to be somewhere and receive a message from a woman or even from a man that says, ” Oh my God, Dana I’ve heard you say that you’ve been through a tough relationship.” “How did you get through it?” or “Oh my God, Dana I heard you talk about this young child and that really touched me.” Ya know, for me it’s about having fun… and definitely ego. (laughing)

LB: So speaking of ego, you’ve dipped into some acting.

DC: Yes

LB: How is that going?

DC: Oh my God, I don’t even know. I don’t even know how it happened, I don’t even have an agent and my bio picture is a cell phone picture. ¬†So it happened again, like radio, by accident. A friend of mine, her name is Carmen and she was in “Breaking Bad.” She said, hey they’re looking for somebody to play a reporter on “Breaking Bad.” Can you do it? I said, I don’t know, maybe. I’ve never acted before and I have a cell phone pic and I went in and auditioned and I got the part. So, I’ve appeared in 3 different episodes of “Breaking Bad” and that led to “In Plain Sight” where i played another reporter. Wow, stretch, huh. So I did that and then I did a movie called ummm… I don’t even know, see I don’t even watch myself. What was the movie called… it was “Spoken Word.” I just found out that I’m going to be in the Austin Mahone documentary, which is going to be huge, even if I have 10 seconds in it, that’ll be good. It kind of fell in my lap and again I like entertaining so it’s been fun. ¬†I just got a residual check from “Breaking Bad” yesterday and I can’t even imagine what those actors make. I had 60 seconds and that’s all I got.

LB: Usually when people have accidents they’re bad but your accidents are all something amazing. (laughing)

DC: I know they are like good accidents! (laughing)

LB: Everyone from Hollywood and even radio say that they recognize the power of the Latino market but in my opinion that doesn’t show in any of the movies or the radio. What’s your opinion on that?

DC: They (Hollywood) don’t recognize it at all. My husband and I, my husband is white, (DJ Automatic) but he and I come from very different backgrounds but we were discussing it last night. I said some of the advertisers and movies and things that are supposed to quote unquote target me, are almost offensive. Do you ever feel like that? ¬†Do you think I’m stupid? ¬†That I can’t be successful, that I walk a certain way, that I talk a certain way.

LB: Very stereotypical  when they do try to, allegedly focus on us.

DC: Oh my gosh, I would hope that, that becomes a thing of the past.  You look at Tyler Perry who has unapologetically marketed everything he does towards the black community.

LB: Right.

DC: And I love him for that but he had to find outside financing to do that, ya know at 1st no one wanted to do that. Lets hope that very soon someone recognizes that the same thing should be done with Latinos. ¬†It is not about stereotyping, we are successful, we don’t talk… well of course we talk a certain way. I like frijoles. (laughing)

LB: (Laughing) Right, but that’s a minor¬†part of it.

DC: Yes, that’s a minor part of it, I like my tortillas but that doesn’t mean that I’m not American, that I can’t be successful and there are literally millions of people just like us who are waiting for the Tyler Perry “mindset” for Latinos.

LB: Exactly, just an American family or friends who happen to be Latino. I’m on the same page as you! Another thing, being in radio, who’s your favorite artist right now?

DC: My favorite artist is Eminem, always. I’m sorry, he’s like a white guy that I love, besides my husband. Umm Drake, I love Snow Tha Product, and I love Tech 9, I’ve loved Tech 9 for over 11 years and you seem him finally getting that mainstream love. Snow, speaking of Latinas, she’s one of my favorite artists. Great rapper, great artist, decent singer, as she would say; But she’s one of my favorites and I really hope that ¬†she’s recognized here pretty soon and that the mainstream embraces her because I really, really am a fan of hers.

LB: Yeah, She is very gifted, unique, and talented

DC: Yes, she is

LB: Speaking of unique, earlier we talked about the Mind Your Own Music website we have coming out and how it’s based off the the listener and what he or she gets from the music personally. Ya know really being an individual, having your own style and music, not conforming to what mainstream pushes on us. What do you think about the push we get from media telling us what to like and who’s hot?

DC: I think it’s a great thing, the whole concept of Mind Your Own Music. The great thing is that the internet has really changed that. Napster really turned things around for the artist, and now really they’re calling all the shots. Radio used to kind of run the game and it’s just not like that anymore. We respond to what’s going on, on the net; We play what the fan dictates now, for instance Tech 9. Of course we’ve been playing Tech for 10 year. No other radio station in the country can say that, nobody! Now, oh my God everybody is on this Tech 9 thing, and I believe Snow Tha Product will be the next big artist that will come from the internet. Wiz Khalifa had no label, no nothing, and remember he came from the internet. Mac Miller, Donald Glover, also from the internet. So the Mind Your Own Music concept I think is right on Point. The fans dictate what radio does now, it’s not the other way around. I get artist all the time saying “how do I get my song on the radio?”

LB: Get fans!

DC: Yes, get fans! (laughing) You’ve got to force those people to come to us and say ¬†“hey I want to hear Snow Tha Product” for example. I want to hear Tech 9, I want to hear whoever it is. If you don’t have that, ya know it’s just not going to happen in radio anymore, it just doesn’t work that way.

LB: It goes back to the power is in the the people, the way it should be.

DC: Yes, it’s all about the people now which is a great thing, it really is.

LB: A lot of our audience younger Latinos/Latinas, what is your advice to those who are pursuing their dream who don’t want to go the normal route, ya know 9-5 at desk or whatever it may be.

DC: First of all, get educated! That really is important, I talk about this a lot on my show. I think it’s different, as a woman I think I see things a little different; As a mom, as a young teen mom, ya know I was very blessed to have a family there to support me. I was able to go to school and continue learning, even if you don’t do the normal college thing, you should constantly desire and have that drive to learn.

LB: To get educated no matter what.

DC: Yes, you don’t have to the typical degree or what not. Unfortunately in our society in the Latino world and in the African American world you see a lot of high drop out rates, the graduation rates need to go up and the teen pregnancy rates need to go down. I do believe that no matter what situation you find yourself in, you can live on the poor side of town, you can have the worst parents on earth, you can have the hardest upbringing but if you educate yourself you can climb out of any hole. ¬†That’s my message to Latinos, that’s my message to kids in general.

LB: That is right on point, the dropout rate is crazy! That’s locally and nationally for minorities. Everyone wants instant gratification.

DC: Instead they say let me try this and see what happens… I’m going to tell you what happens, your going to make a baby. This is controversial, with the birth control the way it is now and the education, there’s no excuse anymore. We know better let’s do better.

 

 

I’d like to send a special thank you to Dana for allowing us to sit down with her and conduct this interview even though she was crazy busy this week. For all of you who follow and listen to her, Dana is a great person, she’s humble and authentic. You can follow her on twitter @DanaCortez and check out some of her favorite artist she listed as well like TECH N9NE (@TechN9ne) ¬†Snow Tha Product (@SnowThaProduct)¬†Mind Your Own Music (@MindYoMusic) and don’t forget to follow us @LatinoBeatz and myself @JoshuaNMelendez.

 

 

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