Ilia Calderon became the first Afro-Latina weekday evening news anchor for a major U.S. broadcast network back in December, and according to NBC News, she’s been ‘quietly making history’ ever since.
Along with Jorge Ramos, Calderon anchors the news for Univision’s flagship Noticiero Univision. But despite Calderon’s increased visibility potentially indicating a paradigm shift for various Spanish-language media, according to some Afro-Latinos, there is still some confusion, unawareness, and misconceptions regarding the subtle differences in their identities.
Still, Emmy award-winning Calderon’s promotion did generate a number of prevalent headlines, both because she was replacing longtime anchor Maria Elena Salinas as well as increasing representation in Spanish-language television.
Calderon told NBC News that for the most part, she has received the audience’s acceptance.
“It has been amazing, not only with the ratings but on social media as well. Everywhere, on the street, in the supermarket, the reaction has been positive,” she said.
She also noted that she was “not a stranger to the audience,” as she has previous cohosting experience from an alternate edition of Noticiero Univision in addition to Primer Impacto.
Calderon said she never limits herself due to the color of her skin, and she acknowledges that the road to broadcasting for Afro-Latinos can be rough.
“I’m not gonna lie, I think it is hard. We are a minority within a minority, so the representation is not there. However, Univision is showing other companies that Black Hispanics can be successful too, and hopefully the company sets an example for other companies, in the media and elsewhere,” said Calderon.
Veronica Villafane, editor and publisher of Media Moves, noted people’s tendency to “favor lighter shades” for Latinos in news and entertainment.
“Now there is an opportunity for more inclusiveness and awareness, and awareness paves the way for change,” she said.
While she didn’t directly say whether or not Afro-Latinos were victims of discrimination in broadcasting positions, she did note that people often perceive those who look different from them as being biased or giving preferential treatment, despite the countless factors that go into selecting these highly sought-after broadcasting and on-air positions.
“I don’t know if her success will be attributed to the color of her skin; more likely, it will reflect on her abilities as a journalist and whether she connects with the audience,” said Villafane regarding Calderon’s career outlook.
Of course, in order to ‘connect with the audience,’ it seems as though broadcasters are expected to have flawless looks. In fact, 74% of adults think that even an unattractive smile can hurt them professionally, according to an American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry survey.
Calderon is clearly making an inclusivity impact already. Johanna Ferreira, a women’s lifestyle and Latinx identity journalist in New York City, said that Calderon’s success is very meaningful to her due to the representation.
“I noticed her years ago on Univision, and immediately I stopped what I was doing and thought, wow, that is an anchor who looks like me,” said Ferreira. “I’ve never seen that before.”