By Kristen Maldonado,
Growing up, my parents always instilled in me that as a Latina and a woman, I was going to need to work harder to prove myself. I did what was expected of me to be successful. I graduated high school, I figured out what I wanted to do while in college, did countless internships and found my passion in the world of entertainment. I started my career straight out of college at a media company while simultaneously hustling on my own side projects to achieve my own goals of being an on-camera talent.
That goal was met with its own challenges. I didn’t have many people from my background to look up to. I tried to network but nothing stuck so I didn’t know how to get started. I wasn’t bilingual. It seemed like everything was stacked against me. On top of that, I had met with producers who said I didn’t have the “right look” to be successful on-camera. Despite all that, I hustled for years independently to try to make a name for myself in the industry.
Things changed during the pandemic. I noticed that because professional outlets weren’t able to cover certain projects, I was being taken more seriously as an independent journalist. I became a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and started joining journalism organizations, but I still felt this sense of ‘other.’
Inspired by the lack of inclusion in the entertainment space and my desire to help uplift marginalized voices in the community, I started my own small business with the Pop Culture Planet video podcast, which eventually became a full-blown entertainment outlet. The goal is to cover the world of entertainment while also shining a light on representation and inclusion. We shouldn’t be limited to only Latino or Black or Asian topics just because of our backgrounds. I want to cover everything, while also representing my community.
Through my efforts, I was able to speak candidly with creatives like Dante Basco, Gloria Calderon-Kellett and Jessica Marie Garcia in video podcast episodes that really opened my eyes even further to the importance of feeling represented and different perspectives under that umbrella.
What I learned was the way we are portrayed on screen gives others permission to treat us in stereotypical ways, which is why it’s so important for us to tell our own authentic stories. When we can own that narrative, it opens our eyes to the possibilities for ourselves, which are truly limitless. It’s not just what we see on-screen either, but embracing diversity behind-the-scenes, in criticism and, of course, on the business side of things. How can we get more diverse representation across the board if higher ups don’t understand those stories or champion those narratives?
By embracing a diverse environment, it allows wider perspectives to be shared, and new and innovative ideas to rise to the forefront. You get to see a perspective you may have always felt, but never seen represented before. It makes people feel seen and heard and celebrated. This message is relevant across all fields of business, not just the entertainment industry. Being a diverse business owner has simultaneously given me a greater purpose in terms of connecting with underrepresented voices while also allowing me to learn and help uplift others in my community.
Kristen Maldonado is an entertainment journalist, critic, on-camera host and content creator. She is the founder of the outlet Pop Culture Planet and hosts its inclusion-focused video podcast of the same name. You can find her binge-watching your next favorite TV show, interviewing talent and championing representation in all forms. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, a member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association and the Television Academy, and a 2x Shorty Award winner. She’s also been featured on New York Live, The List TV, Den of Geek, Good Morning America, Insider, MTV and Glamour.