Latina entrepreneur proposes next level for women’s empowerment

SOMETIMES during public presentations, Nely Galán asks women what they do.

“They say things like, for example, ‘I am a cleaning woman,’ ” Galán says. “So I would ask, ‘How many houses do you clean?’ and they go, ‘Ten.’ The point is that you are not a cleaning woman, you are an entrepreneur who has a janitorial service; you are becoming self-made.”

Dubbed a “ciclón” among Latinas and a “Tropical Tycoon” by the New York Times Magazine, Galán realized early on that she needed to create her own path to success. The child of Cuban immigrants, she was not yet 30 when she became the first female president of Telemundo, the second-largest Spanish-language television network in the U.S. In the 1990s, she helped Fox create several channels in Latin America, including Canal Fox and Fox Kids.

As a real estate investor and owner of her own company, Galan Entertainment, Galán considers herself a self-made businesswoman. She has produced shows such as “The Swan” for Fox and has acted as producer and content adviser for Latin crossover programming for HBO, ESPN and MGM.

She was also the first Latina to appear as a contestant on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” so, yes, she knows Donald Trump.

In 2012, Galán toured the country with her nonprofit, The Adelante Movement (Go Ahead), hoping “to unite las hermanas (the sisters) socially, economically and politically.”

Next week, she will release “Self Made: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way” (Random House’s Spiegel & Grau). The book calls for women of all groups to join what she describes as a new chapter in the feminist movement.

“We already have the rights,” Galán says, “so the next level in the women’s movement is about financial empowerment, and it’s a self-made revolution in the making.”

Q: Why is the new book called “Self Made?”

A: The main point we need to recognize is about identity – to identify as someone who is becoming self-made – because women diminish themselves! You have to change the way you are thinking. If you are still thinking that a man or a boss or the government is going to save you, that is just not going to happen. For me, even, the book was a catharsis to write because it made me remember all the things I have been through and the difficult journey women go through. I had to hit rock bottom and go, “OK, no one is going to save me. I have to do it myself.” And when you do that, you realize you can do it.

Q: Can you give us an example of a rock-bottom experience?

A: When I had my son and I realized that I was not going to stay with his dad … I got petrified. I felt I couldn’t take care of everything by myself. Then I realized that of course I can do it. It was like slapping myself.

Now I laugh because I have a great husband, and people always say to me, “You are so lucky that you found a man like (him)”… And I say, “I am not lucky. When I met him I was Princess Charming for myself.” I had already surrendered to the fact that I was it.

Q: But many women don’t feel as confident as you do What’s the secret?

A: The difference is, and this is a chapter in the book where I say, “To be chosen, you have to choose yourself first.” The world will constantly tell you that you are not good enough, pretty enough, you are not smart enough, not rich enough, and I myself sometimes let that negative voice take over. But what I do is make my other voice be more powerful – because if you don’t love yourself, if you don’t think you are great, if you don’t put yourself out there, how is anybody going to believe you?

Q: Are you a feminist? If so, what does it mean to be a feminist in today’s world as opposed to in the past, at the beginning of the movement?

A: Yes, I am a feminist, and I am not burning my bra. Feminism to me means that I identify with the power of women. … I went to an all-girls Catholic school, and I wrote a book that could have been written for everybody because “Self Made” works for everybody. But I wrote it for women because I feel that they are the ones that are being called to greatness today. … There is a disparity in the amount of money we make as employees, but as entrepreneurs, there is no disparity. In the book, I explain that I am not telling women, “Leave your job and be an entrepreneur tomorrow” because that is crazy. I explain and dedicate a long part to resources for Latinas, African-Americans, Asians and all kinds of women.

Q: There is a chapter called “Don’t Buy Shoes, Buy Buildings.” How could you tell women not to buy shoes?

A: (Laughs). That chapter is both literal and a metaphor. Literal because people think that my career in TV is very glamorous, but the fact is TV is like everything else in that it comes and goes. You are not always making money. So I took the money I made, and I bought buildings, and those buildings have made me five times the money that my TV life made me. I mean that instead of spending your money on junk … put the money away and think of a big goal. I will tell you that I liked to buy shoes like any woman, and I tell in the book what I did with them … I now buy Isabel Toledo’s shoes at Payless for $25.

Q: How are women doing now? There has been a lot of debate about gender inequality in the country lately.

A: We do have a long way to go, it’s going much faster than before, and I think it’s really up to us. I give you examples of all this money that exists in America for women, and particularly multicultural women, that we don’t even apply for. Let me be just really blunt: If we don’t take advantage of everything that is available to us, we are kind of stupid. We are living in the United States … We have to take advantage of this.

Q: What topics feel most urgent for you?

A: I think this is a moment for women to understand the power of their vote and the power of their purchase. We should vote only for a candidate that supports women and entrepreneurship, and supports immigrants, and Latinas and Latinos, and multicultural people. I can’t tell people how to vote. I think that is a very personal choice. But I personally am going to support Hillary Clinton. … If you just did all the research that I did about all the hidden money in America, she created most of those programs that we are not applying for.

Q: You were on “Celebrity Apprentice.” What is your take on presidential candidate Donald Trump, who hosts that show?

A: It was in the middle of a reality show, which, as you know, is a TV show, so I thought that the way he talked and everything was just part of his act – like in the same way that we watched Simon Cowell on “American Idol.” I didn’t think he would speak the way that he is talking now about immigrants and women. I hope for his sake that he changes his tune because it’s not appealing or attractive, and I can’t, as a Latina or as an entrepreneur or as an immigrant, I can’t support that.


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