Thursday, February 17, 2011

Leila Cobo >

Leila Cobo, Executive Editor for Latin Content and Programming, Billboard; expert in Latin music and culture and Writer.

Being Hispanic, does it have any influence on your business?
More than being Hispanic, understanding the Hispanic marketplace, culture and mindset are essential to my job and to Billboard’s Latin business in general. Of course, as a Colombian native—born and raised—this is my culture. You can’t serve a constituency that you don’t understand, and perhaps most important, that you don’t respect.

In the face of adversity, how do you decide to keep going?
I try not to dwell on the past. It’s been a tough lesson to learn! But I try to never look back. Self-critique is a wonderful thing, but dwelling on mistakes that can no longer be corrected seriously hampers progress. It’s like playing tennis. You go point by point. The minute you dwell on the previous point, you’re dead.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
My biggest challenge is ongoing. It’s convincing the mainstream that Latinos or Hispanics are part of that mainstream. We are not a niche. We are not a quota. We are part of the fabric of this country, and anyone who fails to realize this is not recognizing the reality of this country and is missing out on tremendous business opportunities. This doesn’t mean hitting anyone over the head with everything Latin. But sometimes, I’ll be watching TV series that are allegedly set in Miami or New York or Los Angeles, to give an example, and there isn’t’ a single Latin in there! And I have to wonder, do the people that write these scripts live in these cities? Do they ever go out and walk around and look and the people that surround them? You cannot possibly live in this country and fail to see that Hispanics are as much a part of it as African Americans or Asians, or Italian Americans or any other ethnic group you can think of.

If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?
Work less and travel more.

What was your childhood ambition?
To be a Broadway star!

Tell us about three people that you admire?
-My father, who died a little over 10 years ago, was a surgeon but was also the head of a non profit organization and a visionary. He founded the school of medicine in Cali, my hometown, the psychiatric hospital and fought to incorporate residencies into the medical program, going against the establishment at the time. Most important, he was a brilliant, curious and very open minded man. He was a trailblazer and he made a positive difference in many people’s lives.

-Freddy Mercury: I never met the man, but to me he was truly the complete artist: Great singer, great composer, great showman and such a musician. Not a single facet was compromised.

-Stephen King: Prolific and with an endless supply of imagination.

For meetings: breakfast, lunch, or dinner?

What sacrifices on your personal life did you have to make in order to become a business success?
I could go on and on about this, but first and foremost, I’ll say I’m very blessed to have a job that allows me to work from home and achieve great balance between family and work. I’m married to a recording artist, so we’re both mutually respectful of our crazy schedules and unorthodox obligations. But if anything, I’ve made professional sacrifices for family. When I had my first child 14 years ago, I worked in the Los Angeles Times, and they declined to allow me to work even a couple of days from home. I left for a job that allowed me greater flexibility. Today, the mentality is quite different and working from home is so common. I have to say that companies that do not appreciate or respect the necessity of balancing family and work—particularly when it’s so easy to telecommute—are missing the boat. Whenever I met with resistance to this concept, I moved on. If you balance things out, if you are organized in your work and if you deliver, it IS possible to have your cake and eat it too, and in the process, share it with everybody else. Having a balanced life allows you to be so much more productive in your work. Everyone benefits.

What is your favorite quote?
At this moment it is: The positive always defeats the negative.

Is it difficult to be unconventional?
It’s difficult to be a woman and be forceful and direct. As we’ve all seen time and time again, at all levels and in all disciplines: if a man is forceful, he is strong, or a leader. If a woman is forceful, she is a b... In my case, it’s very important to me to be honest and upfront. This is at the core of my job and being straightforward and sticking to my word has been a crucial element in establishing and maintaining relationships for many years.

Biggest mistake made?
Trusting liars.

Do you consider yourself an innovator? Why?
More than an innovator I consider myself a very passionate advocate. The innovation is a result of that. With Latin media and content, we really are creating as we go, and it’s about defending your position and your ideals. My job is not just a job. Never. It is something I feel and believe in very, very deeply. And I like to think that at the end of the day, I’ve made a difference for my company, and—perhaps more important—that I’ve made a difference in the lives of the artists I cover.

About Billboard
Now in its 116th year, Billboard is the world’s premier music brand consisting of Billboard magazine, Billboard Events and—the online destination of choice for millions of music fans. The Billboard brand is built on its exclusive charts and unrivaled reporting on the latest news, issues and trends across all genres of music.

Billboard is owned by Prometheus Global Media, a diversified company with leading assets in the media and entertainment arenas, including: Music (Billboard and its related conferences and events, including The Billboard Latin Music Awards), Entertainment (The Hollywood Reporter, Backstage, ShoWest, ShowEast, Cineasia, and Cinema Expo International); and Advertising & Marketing (Adweek, Mediaweek, Brandweek, Adweek Conferences and The CLIO Awards).

Billboard Latin Music Conference & Awards will take place April 26 – 28, 2011 at Miami’s Eden Rock Renaissance.

Leila Cobo's picture by photographer Claudia Calle.

1 comment:

LatinVision Media said...

Fantastic Interview. Thank you Leila

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