Empowerment Series: Dominican-Puerto Rican, Award-Winning Journalist, Creator, Television Host, Tinabeth Pina Shares her Unstoppable Drive with AW
Growing up, I did not see anyone like me on film or television. Change takes time and Latinos have finally earned a place in the industry but not without challenges. Despite this progress, we are still fighting for spaces where we can share our stories.
Tinabeth Piña saw a void in the industry and decided to do something about it. The Emmy Award-winning Multimedia Journalist has a long list of accomplishments. She has worked behind the scenes at prominent networks including Fox, ABC, A&E, The History Channel, Oxygen, and PBS. Currently, she is the Host of CUNY TV’s Latinas, where she profiles women impacting the world differently.
The creator is also responsible for PBS’ Globe Scholars, an Emmy-nominated travel show that follows students’ journeys abroad. The author of “Cha-Ching” is well-traveled herself. She has visited over 50 countries and is still going strong.
AW had the opportunity to sit down with Tinabeth during the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month. I’m sure you will be as inspired, as I was when you read her story of determination. She is proof that an unstoppable drive can accomplish anything!
You created a foundation, received an education, and paid your dues behind the scenes at some of the biggest television networks. For many, that may have been enough but you continued to challenge yourself. Do you recall a turning point, a moment when you realized that you were meant for more? I don’t know if it was so much, as a turning point. It has been a way of life for me. I remember, while I was in Kindergarten, I was called the “N” word by a classmate. I didn’t know what the word meant and was confused when told, I was Black. The words upset me because I didn’t understand what was happening.
I go home and tell my mom the story. She explains that as a who looks physically different in a predominantly white school, I’d have to excel in everything thing I do because being the “other” would be used against me. She didn’t want that to happen to me. It was her way of getting me to do well in school and in all the things I took on. This has been wired within me since I was 5 years old, therefore, I did not have an a-ha moment.
Doing well means something different to everyone. For me, it means accomplishing whatever I set my mind to do and being at peace with it.
Oftentimes, we don’t believe in our potential for greatness. Our parents come to the United States from other countries and encounter endless limitations which can cripple our faith or fool us into thinking the bigger dreams are not for us. You are realizing your dreams with a successful career that has a purpose and you are traveling around the world! Have there been any doubts or insecurities you had to navigate during your journey? I think there are doubts and insecurities for everyone, not necessarily geared at me, per se, because I am Latina. Some of these doubts, anyone else can have too. Are you pretty enough? Are you smart enough? Are you sufficient for anything? We all have doubts but I think it’s about whether or not you allow it to rule your path or dictate what you do going forward. It’s also important to remain positive and surround yourself with positive people because there is no benefit to negativity, it only dims your light.
How do you shift your mindset to help you through the hurdles you face? One thing I have done since I was a kid is set goals. Sometimes, they’re small goals but once achieved they make you feel good, regardless of the measure of it. You continue to set and accomplish them, there can be ones that are inconceivable to someone else. For example, Globe Scholars was one of these goals. I wanted to create a show where I travel with students. I wasn’t sure that I could do something like that but it didn’t stop me from pursuing it.
Setting and achieving goals can give you a sense of purpose but also, fulfillment. It can help build the confidence to keep moving forward. Proving to yourself that you can do it will lift you!
One of the reasons, I do this work is because I believe sharing our stories encourages connection, healing, and inspiration. My dream is for my stories to become part of a legacy that offers hope for generations to come. Do you ever think about your legacy? Can you share what you would like yours to be? “I came, I saw and I tried my very best.” It is something I’d like to be known for, always trying and never taking no for an answer. You don’t know what you can do until you try whether in your career, professionally, or personally. Try and if you fail, you tried. You will never be left wondering.
Talking about inspiration. Recently, you executive produced a 6-part series called Hip Hop Subway: The L-Line. Can you share a bit about the project and where we can find it? It is a series celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop but from the Latino lens, thus the “L-line.” Elena Romero has written two books on fashion in Hip-Hop and is well-versed in all things hip-hop. Tuffy Questell used to host a quintessential New York show called, “Video Music Box.” He is an alumnus of one of the CUNY schools and gets on well with Elena. I wanted my hands in this special but did not feel I had the expertise. They were perfect for the role of Co-Hosts!
There are so many elements to Hip-Hop. If you are familiar with the genre, you know there is an aspect of Graffiti, Activism, Rhyming, DJ-ing, B-Boy/B-Girl, Dancing, Photography, and Media. After brainstorming, I broke it down into a 6-part series and presented the project to the Executive Director. We shot it in July, the first episode premiered on August 11th, the 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop. The next episode aired on August 25th and the next four will be released over the next four months – September, October, November, and December. You can see it on CUNY-TV in New York City. If you are not located in New York, it will be streaming on YouTube after premiering on CUNY-TV.
I can’t let you go without letting you share a bit about the magazine show, “Latinas” and program,” Globe Scholars.” Studying abroad is an important, life-changing experience. I thought it would be great for students of color to see students like themselves traveling abroad. “Globe Scholars” has followed the experiences of students who have gone to Cuba, South Korea, and Spain. The last one did not have students of color but included kids of the same age, who traveled to different countries and went to school at the same time. This has been a dream of mine and can be seen on the PBS channel.
My thesis in college was about the underrepresentation and misrepresentation of Latinos in mainstream television which was well-received. I always wanted to create a show that was in the English language for Latino audiences. When I was about to leave CUNY-TV, I got a proposal to do the show I wanted, and I stayed. We already had a show “Nueva York” which is for the Spanish-speaking audience in New York City. I did not want to step on their toes and purposely made this a niche show. I chose Latina women in particular to profile. I want to point out that even though it is called “Latinas“, the show is not only for Latinas. Anyone can watch this show and get something out of it. We are now going into our sixth season and the PBS channel has picked it up.
I am very fortunate, to set out to do something, whatever it is, and get it done.
We like to end AW interviews with a quote, mantra, or advice to help inspire listeners. You have taken the world by storm, realizing every vision you’ve had. You have this limitless attitude that a lot of people don’t possess. What words can you offer to encourage those who may not feel they can realize their dreams? First of all, thank you. I do what I do because I love it. Honestly, even though I am on television a lot, I never think anyone notices because it’s a small channel. I appreciate your words. I’ll say, “You have to keep on, keeping on.” If somebody tells you “No.” Do not accept that as the final answer. I’m not sure if it’s because I was an athlete growing up, my parents instilled certain attributes, plus there was sibling rivalry. All those things combined led me to where I am today.
The best I could say is what I said at my college graduation. There are three types of people in this world. Some people watch things happen, others make things happen, and the rest say, “What happened?” (Que pasó?) What kind of person do you want to be? I am the type of person that makes things happen. I don’t want to be reactive, I want to be purposeful and make things happen for myself. You have to put yourself out there but I understand, it isn’t for everyone. At the end of the day, no one will do things for you but you.
In the words of Tinabeth “Who do you want to be?” We have more power than we realize and can use it at any time to create the life we want for ourselves. She believed that she could then she did it. You can too!
AW is grateful for the opportunity to interview such an empowered Latina. Seeing women like her in front of the camera, and sharing inspiring stories is poignant. I believe seeing people who look like us, doing things we dream about can help perpetuate a generation of doers. She inspires us to realize our dreams.
We live in a world of great uncertainty and while society seems to be regressing in some areas, we have seen increments of change. According to the 2020 Census data, it is estimated that we account for close to 19% of the American population. The Latino population in the United States has surpassed the 60 million mark. It is our time, representation has become more important than ever. It matters who tells our stories and represents us. We no longer have to accept less than, while being made to feel invisible. Every human being wants to be seen and acknowledged. Having examples like Tinabeth makes it just a little easier to walk the path less traveled.
You can learn more about Tinabeth on Instagram@tinabethpena, @latinascunytv, and @globescholarstv
Stream Globe Scholars on Globescholarstv.org and Latinas, as well as, Hip Hop Subway: The L-Line at tv.cuny.edu and YouTube.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.