Whoever said Latinas can’t have it all or do it all, hasn’t hear of Patty Rodriguez. She is a producer, an author, and a jewelry designer and this entrepreneurial credits most of her success, side to her family, to a belief that she’s had since her childhood. It’s a belief of magic which has allowed to execute her most inner visions. But for her, the belief in magic goes beyond something whimsical and mythical, to her, it’s about being creative, having a dream and being absolutely passionate about it.
“I’ve always believed in magic and in the impossible this brings. I’m a dreamer, I believe and think of stuff until it hurts, until the point that belief becomes passion.” Rodriguez said.
Before I move forward and tell you how this mujer from Lynwood, California, daughter of immigrant parents and mother built her brand, I have to say that I was enchanted by Rodriguez’s unconditional and contagious devotion for creativity. It’s really no surprise that Rodriguez has delve in creative projects. She is now the founder and CEO of MALA by Patty Rodriguez, her jewelry line and the creator and co-founder of Lil’Libros, bilingual first concept book for children.
How did this chica make it all happen? Simple, the ongoing theme for anything she does: for one, it’s being proud of where you come from, and secondly, believe in the impossible as a possibility, as she puts it.
Rodriguez was born in East L.A. and raised in Lynwood, just a few miles South of L.A. Her parents migrated from Jalisco Mexico. Rodriguez says to be extremely grateful for what her parents had to sacrifice in order to provide their family a better future.
“I could never imagine in billion years crossing the border and going to country where I don’t know the language or anybody.”
She described living in a small apartment where at any given time, six, seven, even eight people lived at once. But throughout the difficulties, she said her mom never stopped smiling. “She was always so positive and always looking forward to the future,” she recalled.
“Seeing that only encouraged me, but not everyone is able to see that courage to make sacrifices, feel lucky to have strong family foundation.” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez currently works for KIIS FM’s On Air With Ryan Seacrest, as a producer. She always had an affinity for the entertainment industry, ever since she was little she wanted to be a writer, an actress, or something along the lines of art, she said. Radio always called on her attention, she remembers listening to KIIS FM everyday on her way to school.
“One day without a reason, I had my girlfriend go with me to the station.” Rodriguez describes meeting the producer for the morning show. “I was leaving and saw him in the elevator, he asked me what I was doing and I told him I had no idea why I liked what they did, but I did.” She said. At the time she was too young to be an intern so the producer took her contact information and after she graduated high school, she received a call from the producer. “I thought I was never going to hear from him, and graduation came and I was called and offered an internship.” Rodriguez said.
But this was only the start of a long journey for Rodriguez. During this time, her parents divorce, and she lived with her mother. She says her mother played a huge role in her success. “We had one car, and my mother would take public transportation to work so I could drive the car from school, to work to my internship, it was tough.”
It hasn’t been easy road, at one time juggling school, two jobs, an internship and a heavy commute, but “you know how the saying goes hard work pays off”, she said. It was this experience and the unconditional support of her family that Rodriguez saw as encouragement to continue working hard to see her projects become a reality.
Her jewelry line spawned from the absence a necklace with the name of her city, Lynwood, the place grew up and is extremely proud of. It caught the attention of a co-worker at the station, who wanted a necklace that read “818”, the area code for the San Fernando Valley, the place on the other side of the Hollywood Hills.
If you seen the Miley Cyrus cover of Rolling Stone where she’s posing with her infamous tongue, you probably noticed the “818” necklace. During one of Cyrus’ visits to the station, she saw the necklace on Rodriguez’s coworker. Cyrus loved the necklace so much that she asked where it was bought, Rodriguez’s coworker simply decided to give it her.
Weeks later, Cyrus was rocking it on the cover of the iconic magazine, setting off the momentum for Rodriguez to build her jewelry line. She described seeing her necklace on the magazine’s cover as unbelievable. “I couldn’t believe it, this doesn’t happen to people like me.” Rodriguez said.
To her, the jewelry line MALA by Patty Rodriguez (which stands for mischief, amor, Los Angeles), embodies what it means to be powerful, mysterious, a-go-getter, tough and very proud of the culture.
During the inception of MALA by Patty Rodriguez, she gave birth to her first child. It was also during this time when she started to venture into book writing. She described how becoming a mother gave her that extra strength to pursue her goals.
“It was after my son was born that I was able to understand my career path that we probably had bottled inside me.” She said.
Rodriguez like many children of immigrant parents, had difficulties learning and adjusting to the English language. This brought many insecurities but also gave her a love for reading which eventually evolved into a love for writing.
During our conversation, she recalled the time when her second grade teacher acknowledge her ability for writing well. She encouraged her to participate in an essay writing contest describing what she loved the most of her city, Lynwood. This meant the world to her, because It was through writing that she could express herself creatively, without being judge by her voice and pronunciation of words.
“I won 2nd prize but this pushed me to be creative, I don’t know I’ve always gravitated to this type of thing.” Rodriguez said.
Now that she has a child of her own, like many parents she wanted to provide the best possible opportunities for her son and avoid enduring the same hardships as she did. Teaching her child about the her culture and her mother language Spanish, was just a way for Rodriguez to provide that well being for him.
In her quest for find tools to facilitate her job as a parent, she found herself in a desert of non existing bilingual books that teach about her culture. Rodriguez decided she could nourish the desert landscapes with her literature and write these books herself . She ended up writing a manuscript. After sending it off to many publishing houses, she got many call backs but the publishers weren’t entirely sold on the idea. The reason, Rodriguez said, Hispanic parents simply don’t read to their children.
“It really hurt but this was true, but there are many reasons why Latino parents don’t read to their children.” She continued, “For one, there aren’t many resources and also, how intimidating is it to go to a bookstore and looking for something that’s not even in your language?” Rodriguez said. After this, Rodriguez was discouraged from continuing the project.
It was after a tragedy, when her home was destroyed by a fire, and everything she hard worked so hard for vanished she decided to continue with the creation of Lil’Libros, even if it meant she had to do it alone. Luckily, she was able to enlist the help of her friend, Ariana Stein, who also happens to be the godmother of Rodriguez’s son.
“The publishers don’t know about me, about my struggle and my culture… They don’t know that every Friday, I play loteria with my family… I am doing this for other Latina moms” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez’s belief in magic along with her strong sense of pride for her culture and for the place where she grew up, allowed her to unleashed her vision as a creative business woman.