How Zoe Saldana wants to change the way Latinos see themselves

13, 2019

7 min read

Amsterdam, The Netherlands.- You’ve probably seen Zoe Saldana at the movies at least once in your life. This actress has starred in, neither more nor less, the two highest-grossing films in history: Avatar and Avengers: Endgame. But last year she decided to try her luck with a new role as an entrepreneur.

This actress of Dominican descent is the founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of BESE, a platform for digital media such as social media videos and podcasts that seek to tell the stories of Latinos who generally do not have a place in traditional media. Not only that, the Dominican-American actress founded her own film production company Cinestar with her sisters.

Saldana was a judge of the global final of The Venture by Chivas Regal where she listened to the pitch of 20 social entrepreneurs from around the world to choose five winners who shared a million dollars in resources.

Entrepreneur in Spanish She spoke with the woman who plays Gamora to learn about her experience as an entrepreneur in this first year of BESE operations and what she has learned about the importance of helping others to have a voice that is heard.

ENTREPRENEUR (ENT): You are “guardian of the galaxy”, Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek and now an entrepreneur. How did that happen?

Zoe Saldana (ZS): My children are relatively young – the twins are four years old and the youngest just two – but something changed in me when I became a mother. I was born with a responsibility and a duty to help my country; to help America continue to grow. Because I see America as a grandfather who knows a lot, but who grew up in different times and has a slightly ignorant mentality towards what diversity is, what is the daily life of its citizens.

I believe that the United States deserves better because that country has given so much to my family and today, it is being misled and misled by terrible leaders. I think that 40% of Americans come from multicultural roots, however, content is only being created that speaks to a version of the typical population of the 60s. That content imbalance will continue to generate lost individuals with erroneous beliefs and not We can raise the level that we demand of that country and its leaders.

Having content that represents well the people who are actually consuming it helps cultivate aspirations in younger generations. When you see better things, you do better things.

Final of The Venture by Chivas Regal / Image: Martha Elena Violante

For that, representation is essential. As a child you need to see people who look like you to inspire your dreams and to remind you that you too can achieve what you set out to do. If you do not have examples in the media that reflect how you are culturally and socially, how can you dare to think that something different is possible?

53% of students in the United States are natives of the American Union, but also multicultural, so we mestizos are already the majority. Yet we keep giving them the same old stuff to read as Jane Austen or dead old white novelists who wrote from a country that existed 150 years ago. The content we are giving our students does not reflect real America, which means that we are not giving our young people the tools they will need to ultimately take care of us.

I don’t want to help this imbalance, I want to do everything possible to correct it.

ENT: Taking all this into account, you created your BESE content platform that seeks to publicize more stories for Latinos. Taking into account that the same historical figures are always spoken of to inspire Hispanics (Frida, César Chávez, etc.), what does your company do to give more variety to these narratives?

HP: I don’t want to tell Latino or Hispanic stories, I want to tell American stories. I was born in New Jersey; I am American, but very proud of my roots. However, when someone in the United States is labeled “Latinx,” they separate. We have to change even our vocabulary.

For example, if you see a white-skinned American, people think “He’s American.” But if they see someone with a brown complexion like me, the first thing they say is “Latina”, when I’m also an American.

I see my 15-year-old niece who is very proud of her heritage (as a Jamaican and British because she has all those combinations), but primarily feels American. I am not the one to take away that right.

I’m just learning how to create content that is “American” that represents the multi-faceted United States today.

ENT: How easy has this first year as an entrepreneur been for you?

HP: It has been a year of many gains, but very difficult. It’s hard to start your own business, raise funds, and find investors who believe in your vision. I have a company that is a social enterprise, because I am trying to make a scalable business based on a purpose that will bring good changes to my community.

That is very complex, because the usual way of doing business was to make money or to be a non-profit organization. I believe that social entrepreneurship is the future, but we have to make all angel investors, brands and entrepreneurs understand that you can make money by doing good.

ENT: Today you were the judge in the final of the Chivas Regal social entrepreneurship contest, The Venture. What do you think of the ideas that entrepreneurs around the world are proposing to transform the planet?

HP: They are wonderful. Social entrepreneurs are wonderful minds with warm hearts. I am very touched by these people who are inspired by their personal stories to make a positive impact on the world.

ENT: One last question: if you could make a wish for your country, for Latin America, for the WORLD, what would it be?

SZ: Free education. I am not a socialist, but I do believe that education should be for everyone since it is an innate right and not a privilege. When you educate your communities well, they make better decisions for themselves and choose better leaders. Right now the United States has proven to the world that we must be smarter.


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How Zoe Saldana wants to change the way Latinos see themselves