The Billboard Latin Music Awards are synonymous with producer Tony Mojena, who has been behind the televised show since 1998 and was a driving force in its move to Puerto Rico this year. Mojena, a native of Cuba who grew up in Puerto Rico, is also a longtime live event producer and helms Telemundo’s morning show, “Levántate!” But a live award show, he says, “is the most complicated show to produce.”

Why do the Billboard Latin Music Awards in Puerto Rico?
This is a show that both Billboard and Telemundo have grown year after year. It began in the Fountainbleu Hotel [in 1999], then it went to the Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami, then to arenas, and it’s been improving and really, setting the standard for what Latin award shows should be. In our efforts to always take the show to a higher level, we thought it was important to take it to major music markets, and Puerto Rico is a musically rich country, a major music market and it also happens to home to the station that gave Telemundo its name. And fortunately, we have major support from the government.

What differentiates the Billboard Latin Music Awards form the plethora of other Latin music award shows?
The major differentiator is the credibility and prestige these awards enjoy. The other is, very humbly, the production. Our goal is to present a real, true musical evening that is excellent and celebrates excellence.

What’s the importance of a Billboard Latin Music Award and of the show itself in an artist’s career?
It’s the measurement, the reflection, of what has happened throughout the year. And on the other hand, it’s an award that’s seen in over 50 countries. The artist who sets foot on this stage will be seen by nearly 200 million people from around the world. And in a way, reaching the set of Billboard is a graduation ceremony for an artist. It means they’ve arrived.

The Billboard Latin Music Awards stand out as the first show that invited mainstream artists on its stage, and also, as the pioneer in pairing up different acts.
Yes, we’ve had Jessica Simpson, Celine Dione, Alicia Keys, among others. And from the onset, we brought different artists together. We try to be musically innovative, and not only air what’s popular at the time, but also new acts that are original and different and established artists in different ways.

What goes through your mind when you plan this show?
I think of how I’m going to keep the viewer engaged for three hours in front of a television set. I begin to craft a combination of artists that will be appealing and that, above all, will have such high production values, that it will keep you glued to the television no matter where your taste in music lies.

You’re a live event producer and a manger. How does this help your job?
By working both as a manger and a producer, I get both the production and artistic worlds, and understanding both is essential. I relate to the concerns managers have with these types of shows. That’s why we always come to an agreement. And I can work with different egos and different levels of artists, which is the most complex factor of all.

What do you do immediately before the show?
Pray. I’m inside the truck, and I lead a prayer over the headsets, trying to calm everyone down and getting them all in the mood.

And after?
The first thing I do is personally thank every single person who was part of the show, from the artists to the cameramen. The next day, I come down with the flu.