For Leon, CEO and founder of Lionfish Entertainment, her career was shaped by several lessons that helped develop her career. One was her father saying she could do anything, including being president. But when his daughter asked about being a singer, he flatly said, “Absolutely not.”
“He taught me that my brain was my biggest asset,” Leon said, who added that her mom always encouraged her to be a leader and her brother also stood by her as she followed her dreams, even when Leon a few years ago had doubts, got sick and had to stay in bed for two days. During those two days she saw all of the Star Wars films, 1 to 6.
“It’s really about believing in your self,” Leon said. “I know I am a Jedi now and the best is yet to come. I hope you all realize that you are Jedi’s too and may the force be with you.”
Recording artist Raquel Sofía presented Billboard’s Leila Cobo with her award for being on the journalistic frontlines from writing books to covering the industry and overseeing the Billboard Latin Music Conference through the years.
“I want to thank Billboard because no proposal is too big, or too small or too crazy,” Cobo said during her turn on stage. "They’ve allowed me to fly through the years, so thanks so much.”
Cobo recalled working at the Los Angeles Times earlier in her career and at one point she didn’t have a babysitter, so she took her child with her to review an Oscar D’Leon show.
“My dad always said that women had to be twice as prepared than the men,” Cobo said, “and I think that’s why I am here. Even though he’s not here I dedicate this award to him.”
Recording act Jesse and Joy presented Gabriela Martinez, general manager Warner Music Latina and SVP marketing Warner Music Latin America, with her award saying the executive has made all the difference in their lives as someone who works tirelessly.
“I think it’s super important that in your personal journey you always believe,” Martinez said. “At the end of the day it will happen. It’s a strength that will take you far.”
Singer Leslie Grace gave Jessica Rodriguez, Univison’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, her recognition, saying that she has led a career “marrying the core values of Hispanic America with the resources of the Univision brand” that was key recently when she helped lead a seven-hour live entertainment telethon, which raised millions of dollars for disaster relief.
“I think we can all agree with the times we are all living that we need more women leaders, Rodriguez said. “As a woman I am here because I stand on the shoulders of so many mentors and sponsors who lent me a loving hand. I was born and raised in an immigrant home the South Bronx and I realized growing up that I couldn’t be what I couldn’t see. Open the door for other people.”
Jorge Mejia, president Sony/ATV music publishing Latin America presented “Despacito” writer Erika Ender with her award, saying she has been a successful writers for years, but also pointed out her philanthropic drive to support youth and their career goals.
“We are women who multitask ... and that’s the beauty of what we do. The only way we can reach the top. I thank all the men I owe who have helped me, opened doors, who worked with me, who have made me laugh and especially those who have made me cry because I wrote better songs. At the end it’s about results.”
Recording engineer, Marcella Araica, said that she was proud of her recognition to be part of a career that has few women.
“As a young woman I had a dream and I never gave up. Once I was there I realized there were not many of us here, but it did not deter me from achieving that dream.”
This new Latin Grammy week event precedes the 18th annual awards, which will be broadcast live on the Univision Network from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday (Nov. 16).
Gabriel Abaroa Jr., Latin Recording Academy president/CEO, opened the ceremony by saying that most of the employees of the Latin Academy are women and he believes one reason the organization has been successful is because of them and “there is no need for explanation. Period,” he said.
The Leading Ladies ceremony was sponsored by Wal-Mart, Google and Nielsen. Special proceeds were provided to the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation in the form of scholarships for young women interested in studying music.