Monday, June 20, 2011

Hollywood's premier Latino PR guru, Gabriel Reyes

From struggling actor to head of the most prominent and pioneering Hispanic/Latino PR firms in Hollywood, Gabriel Reyes found his true calling.
By Al Carlos Hernandez, Deputy Managing Editor, Herald de Paris

HOLLYWOOD - Reyes Entertainment is one of the most prominent and pioneering Hispanic/Latino driven public relations and marketing groups in the Country. The company is based in LA was founded by Hispanic/Latino public relations Guru, Gabriel Reyes.

Reyes started out as an actor but found his true calling in PR and marketing after a disastrous meeting with a casting agent back in the ’80s.

He said, “I remember having an epiphany one day: These casting directors sit in a room all day with a camera and see 200 to 300 guys for a 30-second commercial. I walked in and I realized that, as I was doing my audition, the casting director wasn’t even looking at me. She was having her lunch. I think that the issue is that American mainstream media doesn’t have any idea of who Hispanics really are. Hispanics ourselves have an image problem. So I thought that the way to do this is for me to get some kind of career in communications, so that I’m able to work on behalf of Hispanics.”

By 1997 Reyes was one of the leading publicists in Hollywood and a Hispanic-market expert. He founded Reyes Entertainment in an effort to offer clients bilingual, all-inclusive campaigns across Spanish and English-language markets.

Gabriel says, “The Reyes Entertainment mission: To transcend cultural and language barriers and secure maximum visibility and value for clients and projects.”

Reyes Entertainment’s list of clients includes the Disney-ABC Television Group, where Reyes designs Hispanic PR initiatives for programs such as George Lopez, Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives, Lost, and Disney Channel programs High School Musical, Handy Manny, Johnny & The Sprites, and The Wizards of Waverly Place. Additionally, in 2007 Reyes Entertainment organized the first ever Hispanic Media Junket at Disney-ABC Television which was geared specifically to expose the company’s talent to Hispanic media.

Gabriel Reyes was named one of Hollywood’s “50 Most Influential Latinos” by The Hollywood Reporter and the company has received two Prism Awards for Excellence in Multicultural PR Campaigns, as well as five Marcom Awards for Excellence in Public Relations. One of his first clients was Latina Magazine where Reyes was the magazine’s publicist for five years and was responsible for landing Jennifer Lopez her very first magazine cover.

Other clients serviced by Reyes Entertainment are CBS Nickelodeon Networks, Telemundo Networks, Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment Fox Atomic, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Columbia Pictures as well as many independent film and video releases. This includes “The Other Conquest” whose executive producer was opera legend Pl├ícido Domingo.

Reyes said he is doing his part to unmarginalize Latinos working in Hollywood and share their accomplishments with both Spanish and English language media.

Herald de Paris Deputy Managing editor, Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez
, who teaches University Public Realtions management, was honored to speak with Reyes about post modern public relations.

AC: What, in your early years, attracted you to the entertainment business? How did your family react? Who was your greatest supporter?

GR: I was attracted to the arts from an early age but I did not decide to pursue a career in the Arts until I was in college. I believe I am an artist at heart and artistic pursuits make me the happiest. Like many Latinos, my parents were not keen on my pursuing a career in show business but they knew little of my life since I left home at 18 and they were not an obstacle to me. I’ve had great supporters later in my career but very few that I can remember as a kid or teenager. Growing up in South Texas in those days, a gay kid who liked music and dancing could expect to have very few friends or “supporters.”

AC: You were a professional dancer, do you still dance? Tell us about your drawing and painting. You also write under pseudonyms – what kind of writing do you like to do?

GR: I started dance classes while still in high school. I continued in college and performed in several classical ballets as well as Modern and Jazz concerts and musicals. When I lived in NYC, I had the life of a “hoofer,” going to dance class every day and auditioning for Broadway, off-Broadway and summer stock. I performed in several off-Broadway shows both as an actor and a dancer and I never wanted to do summer stock because I did not want to leave NYC. I still give myself a class at least three times a week consisting of a 10 min. warm up and 30 mins. of combinations across the floor. When I don’t dance, I do yoga or go running. My weight is my nemesis. I’ve always liked to write and consider myself a decent writer. I enjoy writing about the subtle “back stories” taking place behind our human and institutional facades. I enjoy the Sci Fi genre as a convention because when you take the action out of the known world, you are free to explore closely-held taboos that no one is allowed to speak of.

AC: Why did you give up performance and make the transition to the business side of things so early in your career?

GR: I gave up performing early in my career because I felt that being seen as a “Latino” actor was limiting and I decided to pursue a career communicating to American media the truth about who Latinos really are and especially our American-ness, which has always been and continues to be questioned in the national conversation. I guess I felt I had a “bigger” calling.

AC: As a former performer, does this help or hinder your relationship with the artists with whom you work?

GR: I find that being someone who knows what it feels to get onstage and perform is infinitely helpful to my relationships with artists I work with. It allows me to speak to them in the language of the craft and exercise an empathy that I don’t think they get from someone who’s never done it.

AC: Do you regret not continuing as a performer? PR people are often considered the wind beneath peoples wings and the real unsung heroes. Don’t you miss the adulation?

GR: Sometimes I regret not continuing as a performer but it’s never too late. I can still be a “hoofer” in my old age. And yes, I am and have been the wind beneath many peoples’ wings in my PR career but I think that’s what a good PR person does and so I don’t consider myself an unsung hero. I don’t miss the adulation because it doesn’t drive me. Helping others is what drives me and I daresay I get plenty of adulation for my work and what I accomplish in my career.

AC: Why public relations and not artist management and/or producing?

GR: Because I’m a good publicist and am very successful at it and I’m doing what I’m good at. Although, I don’t discount the other two.

AC: Who was your first big client? When was the moment you knew that your company was going to be successful?

GR: My first client was Nely Galan and her production company Galan Entertainment. She’s still one of my dearest friends and mentors to this day. And, of course, Latina Magazine. I’m proud to have been the magazine’s first publicist and continued on their masthead for over five years. Latina’s founder, Christy Haubegger, is one of my best friends in the world to this day.

AC: You were the one who helped put Jennifer Lopez on the map. What did you see in her that told you she would be big? Who is the next J-Lo?

GR: I met Jennifer Lopez back in the early 90’s when Galan Entertainment was developing an independent film and she was attached to it. I was first struck by her tenacity and strength of character as a rising young actress, navigating the world of show business. She was doing a summer series for CBS called “Second Chances.” Then, I saw her in Gregory Nava’s My Family/Mi Familia. Her performance was so intense and heartfelt and her face was a vision of loveliness up on the big screen. She has that sparkle in the eye that’s unmistakable star quality. When it came time to choose Latina Magazine’s first cover, I felt she was a clear stand out and I’m glad Christy and her editor agreed! It’s hard to say who is the next J-Lo because Jennifer is a triple-threat and veryfew stars have the ability to act, sing and dance very well like she does. I’d like to add that this year Jennifer’s career has hit a new apex with her appearance as a judge on American Idol. She has given America a chance to meet and know the real Jennifer and it been a great benefit for the show.

AC: You work on many platforms: film, TV shows, film festivals. Which platform do you like the most and which are the hardest to facilitate?

GR: Early on in my career, I decided that I wouldn’t be limited to one category but would try to master several in the entertainment and media spaces. Each one is a world unto itself and each discipline has its own set of dedicated media so it’s important to go wide as well as deep. I love all media and don’t have a favorite platform. Although the internet’s versatility and accessibility is undeniably a strong contender. I would say they are all difficult to facilitate because of our relentlessly competitive 24/7 news cycle, which often rewards sensationalism over substance with plenty of air time. As publicists, we are always looking for that link between the news of the day and the client we are promoting.

AC: Early in your career you made the decision to specialize in Latino/Hispanic markets. Why? How has this US based market changed over the years? Good/Bad?

GR: I chose to specialize in the U.S. Latino markets because Latinos were being grossly underserved by mainstream media. Even today, the national conversation is generally negative towards Hispanics and rampant with the stereotypes pushed by media and entertainment. I would say that while there are many more Latinos working in entertainment and media, our image in the national consciousness is more negative today than even a decade ago.

AC: You have always campaigned for changing the way Hollywood views Latinos and for the integration of Hispanics into main steam media. How has that changed over the last 15 years? What needs to happen to make things equitable?

GR: I’ve been working in the Hispanic media and entertainment space for over 15 years. Whereas we’ve seen much more integration of Hispanics into mainstream media, I find that we are still absent from much of the national conversation and when most Americans do think of Hispanics; it is not in a favorable light. As an example: At last year’s Rally to Restore Sanity, Jon Stewart, the darling of political correctness and someone who should know better, opened his speech by noting that the audience “looks like America: 75% white, 20% black and 5% other.” I’m sure he had heard about Latinos being the largest and fastest-growing “minority” group in the U.S., he just forgot, you see. Latinos just were not on his mind, even when talking about the make up of the U.S. population. Invisible.

AC: How did it feel to be considered one of Hollywood’s most influential Hispanics?

GR: It felt great to be chosen one of Hollywood’s most influential Hispanics and I’m grateful to those who consider it so. I also know that, like everything else, it is just for the moment and tomorrow someone else will have that honor. It’s all good.

AC: How has new media, especially the social networks, changed the way public relations is handled? According to Mark Levine there are only two speeds: Fast and Dead. What do you think?

GR: It is true that technology and the advent of social media have changed the practicing of public relations but even before this phenomenon, our growing 24/7 news cycle demands content and it is up to publicists to “think on their feet” to take advantage of every conceivable opportunity to gain awareness for our clients. I also think that competition for attention leads many to playing loose with facts and serve up misinformation.

AC: What is a typical day like for you? Why do you have offices in several states?

GR: On a typical day, I start out by answering emails and updating social media pages. I check in with clients on the day’s projects and progress and follow through on phone calls. I usually have a business lunch and a yoga or dance class break. I spend my afternoons returning phone calls, emails, talking with clients, journalists and attending to the business of the day. On evenings when I don’t have a business dinner or an event, I wind up my day with a light dinner and catching up on readings or doing a bit of writing, drawing or painting.

AC: Do you think that by specializing in Latino/Hispanic media it has limited you or has excluded you from more mainstream projects? Have you, like many actors, been typecast?

GR: In some instances I’ve been typecast as a “Latino” publicist and many have thought that, because I’m Latino and speak Spanish, I only deal with Spanish-language media. That’s a misconception. The most important reason I started my business is to tell our story into the mainstream media world. However, this is the pervasive mindset that still exists today: People think that because we clamor for our place in the sun, Latinos want to be separated as a group, but just the opposite is true. We clamor for a place in the sun, ALONGSIDE the rest of Americans and NOT separate.

AC: What are some of the positive signs Hollywood is showing Hispanic talent? What are some of the lingering negatives?

GR: Almost everyone in Hollywood now knows about the Hispanic market and wants to get into it but there are not enough Latino writers so that the Latino characters in sitcoms especially, can go beyond stereotypical. More advances have been made in dramas than in comedies where your biggest Latino stereotypes are still alive and well.

AC: What are some of your goals for your company? What would you say is your biggest success to date?

GR: My goals for my company are:

1. We want to be around for many more years to come;
2. Secure more Fortune 500 brands as clients;
3. Expand our social media and online communications platforms;
4. Do more business with Latin American brands who want to enter the U.S.Hispanic space and vice-versa.

The biggest success for Reyes Entertainment to date has been our longevity and reputation for excellent work. We are pioneers in this space and were here before the term “Latino” or “Hispanic” was commonly in use and consider our efforts key in the development of the market.

AC: Tell us about your teaching responsibility at UT at Austin? How do you view the post modern student when it comes to their understanding of public relations?

GR: In the Spring of 2011, I taught at a course at The University of Texas at Austin entitled “Integrated Communications in Latino Entertainment.” The course was meant to teach students PR and communications skills, promoting Latino entertainments towards both English and Spanish media. The post modern student is wired for technology and also has a very short attention span. I also notice that women outnumber men in areas of university life these days.

AC: What kinds of things are you working on and what kinds of things would you like to do?

GR: Currently, we are gearing up for the launch of mun2’s new reality series “Beauties & The Boss.” We are also looking forward to the 12th Annual NY Intl. Latino Film Festival. Reyes Entertainment is the festivals agency of record for four years running. This year, the festival takes place Aug. 16-21. We also promote the amazing programming on PBS, as well as work Hispanic media for WWE and consult with Warner Bros. Pictures on the production of press assets for their films.

AC: What kind of advice would you give someone who wants to go into public relations?

GR: My advice for someone entering the PR field:

1. Learn to write a compelling story/press release;
2. Be a media junkie and know what everyone’s doing on their show, column or byline.
3. Learn how to pitch your story via phone in 10 seconds or less.
4. Learn to write a great email pitch.
5. Learn the art of writing an effective email Subject Line
6. Learn tact and manners.
7. Immerse yourself in your clients’ world. Be one of them.
8. Know why you are doing this.

AC: What are some of the things, both personally and professionally, on your “Bucket List” that you have yet to achieve?

GR: My personal and professional bucket list:

1. Spend a month travelling through Asia, Africa and Latin America;
2. Teach more young people the art of PR and Hispanic Market;
3. Produce a hit series and/or a hit film.

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