Empowerment Series: Dominican-American Writer, Journalist, Digital Creator & Content Strategist, Johanna Ferreira Shares Career Hurdles with AW
A writer’s journey is filled with rejection and uncertainty but that is only the beginning of the challenges faced by Latinx Journalists. According to a 2023 Bloomberg article, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report in 2021 that showed 8% of people in publishing were Latino. A 2022 follow-up report, reflected 7% of writers, authors, and editors were Latino. The numbers don’t lie. We are mostly being iced out of an already small community. However, despite the roadblocks, we are seeing more of us gain traction across the industry.
Johanna Ferreira is a Latinx Writer, Journalist, Digital Creator, and Content Strategist. She has bylines in high-profile media outlets such as Refinery 29, Allure, Byrdie, Oprah Magazine, InStyle Magazine, Travel & Leisure, and many others. This trailblazer is creating dynamic content that celebrates modern Latinx culture that’s relevant across our diverse communities.
AW had the amazing opportunity to interview Johanna. We had an unfiltered conversation about her experience in media from personal hurdles to amazing connections. My favorite part of the interview was her response to my question about female support during her journey. It provided me with a sense of comfort and something to strive for, as I move up the ladder.
Read, watch, or listen, as we explore key topics to help inspire your journey. I hope you are also reminded of the power you have to create opportunities in the most unlikely places. When we believe we can, anything is possible.
I somewhat fell into my writing career. There was no blueprint to follow or people in my life that could answer questions about this field, it was unchartered territory. We both come from Latino households. I am Dominican, my parents were immigrants. It was ingrained into my head that success meant a career in law or medicine. Did your parents challenge your decision to pursue journalism? Did you have any personal reservations when you started this journey? I love it when I’m asked this question because it is a fun way to introduce people to my unique upbringing, as a Dominican-American kid and share more about my parents. I feel like your experience is typical of most Dominican kids who grew up in the States, persons of color, or anyone with immigrant parents.
I am a second-generation Dominican-American from Queens. My parents grew up in the Dominican Republic, both migrated to the United States in the early 1970s. There were numerous waves of migration from the Dominican Republic to the United States starting in the 1930s because of the Rafael Trujillo regime. One of the biggest waves prior to the 1980s, when many Dominicans migrated to Washington Heights and The Bronx was the arrival of Dominican migrants between 1966 and 1978 which is when my parents arrived in New York, settling in Corona, Queens. They came young, during Junior High School ages, and grew up with working-class parents. My dad attended dental school at NYU, and like my mom, he speaks native Spanish and English, the same as I do. It is a privilege to have my parents be Americanized, it allowed my siblings and I to pursue the careers that we envisioned for ourselves versus the careers they might have wanted for us. They wanted us to have the same freedoms and opportunity.
In terms of having personal reservations about pursuing a career as a Writer, particularly in media, I didn’t have doubts about it. Honestly, the second I was able to get into the “flow” figure out my purpose, and feel the fire, I knew that I wanted to be a Writer. Nothing has come close to that feeling. So, I did not have reservations but I did feel scared. The discouragement came from everyone in the media being White. The women in Media were white, magazines and those with bylines were also White, and the stories were about White people. Thankfully, I had a professor who said to me, “Don’t get discouraged. Don’t get upset. Get into the field, so you can make the difference.” It was the beginning of doing the work from a purpose-driven space.
Statistics tell a story. There aren’t many Latinos in our field of work. You have a successful career in journalism. You probably had to break some barriers to get to where you are. As an insider working in Media and Publishing, what do you think are some of the hurdles Latinos confront as Writers, Journalists, and Editors as they look for their place in this very small world? In terms of obstacles and hurdles, they still exist in Media and Publishing. First, the industries are different but, as far as these in the US, neither was created with us in mind. The majority of media that most of us consume, even as people of color, are not portraying stories about people like us. If you have not worked in Media, Publishing, Film and Television, and Music, White male-dominated industries, you wouldn’t understand how gatekeeping works, it is a thing. I think this has been a problem until more of us started doing something about it but it has not been easy.
I am honored and grateful for the way you described success. I only began considering myself successful in the past year. I think a lot of us who work in this industry have a hard time getting in the door. I was competing with non-Latinos who attended NYU and Columbia. I’m a Dominican kid who went to Baruch, a CUNY school, not receiving the same guidance, as others. It is the reason, I began working in Latin niche Media before entering Corporate Media because I wasn’t finding the opportunities or jobs.
Sometimes, you get the job but there are countless barriers you have to get through to execute the vision you have. Many of us are doing the best we can with the resources we’ve been handed in the industry. We have a long way to go but we should take time to acknowledge how far we’ve come.
In an industry where there are a handful of coveted spots. Sometimes, it can feel like the competition is fierce. Do you feel like you have received any support from fellow Latina professionals in the field? I am going to be very honest. This does not resonate with me. Have there been other Latine people in my circle who have not been supportive or perhaps competitive? Sure but it is so rare. I am, where I am in my career because of the tremendous support received from other Latinas and Latinos in Media. We show up for each other in different ways, at events, on podcasts, and recommend one another for opportunities. We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. There is something really beautiful about showing up, as a community.
We like to end AW interviews with a quote, mantra, or advice to inspire our community. For listeners looking to get their foot in the door or start working toward a dream, passion, or purpose. What are some tips you can offer? Mindset. The mind is incredibly powerful. I often repeat this mantra, especially in the morning, “Your personality creates your personal reality,” used by Scientist, Author, and Public Speaker, Joe Dispenza. This way of thinking has allowed me to manifest things, I want in life.
You can help manifest your own desires. Stop the negative thoughts, self-limiting beliefs, comparisons, and scarcity, and focus on the person you want to be and the life you want to live. It will not happen magically, you must believe in your gift and take a chance on yourself – do the work.
In terms of getting into the writing business in media, specifically. We are living in a time when we are fortunate to have plenty of ways to tell our story and get it out into the world. Podcasting, TikTok, Instagram, create a newsletter! I notice that people have a tough time starting. Just write. Allow yourself to see where it can take you. If you want to write for a particular media outlet then research and read that content. Also, it’s so important to craft that pitch!
AW is incredibly grateful to Johanna for her candidness during our interview. She is an inspiring Latina who is using her gift to highlight our talent and create change by empowering rising Latinx Journalists to write our stories, unapologetically.
If you are an optimist, you will see that progress is happening, even if it’s at a snail’s pace. Our presence across the nation is increasing. We have a voice and should use that power to continue telling our truths. Sharing them will help conserve the rich history and culture of our community. Remember, one of the best ways to counteract mainstream media’s misrepresentation of our people is to use the tools we have to deliver our own perspectives and experiences. Hopefully, this brings a better understanding to the world about who we are and breaks down the stereotypes that have long lived in our society.
Let’s celebrate our talent, not only during Hispanic Heritage Month but all year round!
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.