Añejo, nestled in the corner of Church and Walker Street, appears dingy in the already gloomy, New York October sky. Upon entering, the music is lively and the walls are moonless with specs of light hovering around in a rhythmic sway. The Mexican eatery, a scene for Dia de Muertos, is filled with chatter and the heavenly aromas of agave wafting away. No one is fully aware that in just a few moments the Voice of New York will enter the floor, sans drum roll or fancy introduction, to talk and break bread with a bevy of women who build dreams for a living.
Radio mogul Angie Martinez clandestinely makes her way to the bar and softly asks for a margarita. She looks over, smiles, and holds her hand out: “You look familiar.” I’m not sure if she thought being friendly or suggesting a past encounter would warm me up, but either way, she was right. Her easygoing approach put me at ease and allowed me to see myself in her — just another hardworking gal, looking to take the edge off.
She moved fluidly around the room, and talked with her hands like every Caribbean person I know. I purposefully took my seat directly across from her; I was internally thanking the Universe for aligning the stars and granting me the opportunity to pick the brain of such an esteemed vet, who came up in the golden era of hip-hop.
“Angie has a lot in common with us. As a business owner and entrepreneur she faces the same challenges that we do to make sure that her brand and business are successful,” opened AT&T manager, Yvette Odulio. “The hardest thing, I think, we all face is maintaining that work/life balance. Tonight we’re lucky enough to have [Angie] here to share some of her insights and experiences. Plus, she’ll sign her cookbook for us” “– and offer you cocktails!” Martinez interrupted. “Some amazing guacamole and some good food!”
That is how this private dinner began and continued: with good energy, laughs, life stories about failures and accomplishments. I even watched a teary-eyed Martinez passionately describe her recent encounter with President Barack Obama, where she got to introduce the POTUS at the White House.
Life gems we gathered from our entrepreneurial talks with Angie Martinez…
The Power of “No”
With her Puerto Rican upbringing always in mind, Martinez wanted to create a cookbook that delivered an imperative message to the world: Latin food can be healthy. But “every major book publisher told me no,” said Angie. “It was like no no no no no, from everywhere. I was annoyed.”
Angie would soon learn that one “no” can really mean “not right now.” A publishing company that rejected her cookbook proposed the option to publish a memoir, instead. Yes, Angie Martinez is currently writing her life story, set to be released April 2016.
Negotiation, Persistence & Confidence
“I used to feel like people were doing me a favor. I used to feel like ‘please give me a book deal.’ But now I’m like ‘I got this! It’s a really good idea and if you don’t get it, okay, it is what it is. I’ma find somebody else, because this sh*t is going to be good.’”
“It took me years to develop that type of confidence, because I use to really be like (timid voice) ‘Hi, I’m Angie and I have this thing and I really hope you like my idea.’ Now, I don’t do that. Now, I tell them the idea is dope and people need it. I express how I really feel about it and then they either get it or they don’t.”
“What is your value? Make people need you. When people need you they are going to need you! It can’t be only about me teaching you a few things, let me see what you can give me. I’m not going to keep asking if you have an idea. If you have an idea, say it. If I say it sucks, keep it moving and come back tomorrow with another one. Being here is not about me. It’s about each of you. Do not leave here without these people feeling like they need you.”
“It’s important to have a girlfriend you can talk to about the inner sh*t you’re going through. It’s important to have a support system for the things that you need to help you grow. Like, who are the people around you? Have good people around you. Smart people. Seek them out and when you connect with one, stay in touch because you need that. I know I do.”
“I feel fear all the time! I was scared to death to introduce President Obama. My motto is “fuck fear.” So, yes, I’m scared. But who cares? I have to acknowledge it to myself — but who cares? You still do it, you still go. It’s okay to be scared. I’m scared all the time. Fuck it! It doesn’t own you. You make that decision. Fear is bullsh*t.”
“I know it’s cliché, but you have to take time for yourself. It’s the realest thing I wish I could have learned earlier. You need to give yourself energy. Because you’re giving out energy all day to your man, your kids, your work. You need to put some energy back into yourself. And also accept that it will never be [perfectly] balanced. It’s the truth! But if you give yourself enough time to be aware, then you would notice danger a little bit before it arrives. You will be constantly readjusting your life. Forever. There will never be a time when you’re like ‘I got it!’ It’s never going to happen!” “It’s always hard. What I just started doing maybe three years ago — once a year I go somewhere alone. And I’ve always been the type of person who hates doing things alone. I don’t go see a movie by myself, or have dinner alone. But when I take that trip without anyone, I come back with so much peace and so many ideas. I write, I read. [You have to] make sure you take those moments for yourself, because work and life can make you crazy. You’ll find little tricks that help you. A trick for me is taking a trip once a year alone.”
Know More, Do More
“Always try to be better. If I was in a room with five guys talking about hip-hop, I needed to know more than all of them. It’s true and it sucks, but it’s our reality.”
Define Your Own Success
“Sometimes, we as women put so much energy into our career and then it doesn’t make us happy. You work so hard, but is that success? Like, how much money do you have to have? What is your purpose? What fulfills you inside? You start chasing something, but why? You want a million dollars? And when you get it, what happens? Answer me that. What happens?
Chase YOUR Dream
“A lot of people get stuck chasing somebody else’s route, I see it all the time.” “You have to be authentic to who you are. Pay attention to your own spirit, your own gut, your own instincts. Learn from people but do you. Maybe you’re slowing yourself down trying to fit into a piece that’s not for you. There is no answer to everything. It’s just a job and if there isn’t one for you, you can’t let that stop you. You have to figure out another way. Fuck ‘em!”
A photo posted by Angie Martinez (@angiemartinez) on
Fail to Win
“I’m just deeply inspired by how [Oprah] left what she had, multiple times in her career and wasn’t afraid to do something different, something new, start over. Not afraid to fail. People were talking a lot during the first year of OWN and she said, ‘It’s cool, I failed the first year, I’m going to learn and pick it up again.’ To me that is super inspiring because it’s a journey. Failing is part of it and if you don’t fail, you’re not in the game and then you really have a problem. Failing is not the problem. Not being in the game is the problem.”