Career Profile | Larissa Vázquez Zapata, Editor of GFR Media's Magacín
If you live in Puerto Rico, there's no way you haven't heard that El Nuevo Día is the biggest media outlet and news publication in the Island. As part of GFR Media, this daily newspaper has gained the respect of almost everyone in Puerto Rico for being the most complete in every aspect and being able to evolve with its audience through decades and regardless of harsh economic situations.
I remember when I was in high school I loved receiving El Nuevo Día's Sunday edition because it had so many interesting articles and special segments, but most importantly, I could read Magacín, their lifestyle section. As an avid magazine reader as a teenager (my favorites where Revista Tú, Seventeen and Cosmo Girl), Magacín felt like a more grown up and sophisticated version of what I was used to reading. Since I was so consumed in Mexican and American magazines, Magacín helped me stay on track of the lifestyle trends in Puerto Rico. But I have to admit, as embarrassing as it sounds, that I loved looking at all the fancy people at extravagant events and imagining myself in their shoes, which were probably Manolos and Jimmy Choos. *sighs*
Then I started working in the communications industry and noticing the bylines so of course, that's when I started to admire Larissa Vázquez Zapata who has been the Editor at Magacín for the past 8 years. She was the person in charge of making the first digital portal for the publication and is currently in charge of their social media outlet at the same time she manages a team of Lifestyle journalists. And did I mention she has traveled all over the world for this job? Can we say #DreamJob?!
So needless to say, Larissa has been in my interview bucket list ever since I started this Career Profile series a year ago. I am truly honored that she took the time to answer these questions and hopefully this will help you get to know the life of a super rad Puerto Rican Editor. So without further ado, and great pleasure, I present you with Larissa Vázquez Zapata's Career Profile:
ME: When you were a little girl, what did you wanted to do when you grow up?
LVZ: The story is a little long, I warn you. When I was a little girl I started to write on every wall I could find, something that my mother didn’t like very much since during this time, mid 70’s, most middle class homes had wall paper and my home was no exception. That’s how I figured a way to practice my calligraphy skills over a bone white moiré wall paper that soon started to show “Bic blue” stains. So after my mom convinced me not to write on the living room’s walls, I moved to my grandma’s room. I started using white chalk to write on her wooden closet doors. Needless to say, I messed them up as well. The wood absorbed the chalk and the doors started to look gray!
I also used to climb on a chair and start giving classes to a group of imaginary kids, so I guess at that time, people thought I would be a teacher.
But I was always curious and used to devour any book in my hands. One of my favorite lectures was the Enciclopedia Salvat, which every once in a while they would come out with a new volume that they used to sell at Pueblo Supermarkets, so I would beg my mom to buy one for me. I even memorized the covers of the 12 volumes: the first one had a papyrus fragment of the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the 12th had a NASA picture with the Apolo 13 in space with Earth in the background.
While still in elementary school I began writing science fiction scripts and making cuts out of the fashion and decor magazine my mom used to buy. From that moment on, I gave into the “glossy” and until this day, I’m in love with magazines.
I also had a time in which I wanted to study architecture, but I have to admit that I freaked out over all the things people said about Structure Class. Believe me, numbers and I do not get along.
ME: What did you end up studying in College and why?
LVZ: Before starting college, I have to say that I was very involved in the university system since I graduated from University of Puerto Rico’s High School (UHS) and that was a huge privilege and influence in me. Particularly in terms of rounding up my education and afterwards on deciding what I wanted to study since this was the Latin American literature boom and magical realism era. I was getting to know Luis Rafael Sánchez, Magali García Ramis, Gabriel García Márquez, Horacio Quiroga and Alejandro Carpentier. I was sure I was going to choose a career in which I could read and write a lot. I wanted to be a print news journalist because that way people would only recognize my byline, not my face. That’s why I did my bachelors and masters degrees in Journalism at the Public Communication School of the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras.
ME: Did you work during college?
LVZ: I had the privilege of having parents that could provide everything for me. I wasn’t rich or anything, but I had the basics, so I was able to focus full-time on school.
ME: What was your first full time job as a journalist?
LVZ: By the end of my bachelors I had a practice course that was supervised by Norma Valle from Imagen Magazine back when Casiano Communications was in charge. I managed to stay there for several years but then I quit to pursue my masters degree. When I graduated they hired me again, but soon I was contacted from El Nuevo Día. I was a little traumatized at first for having to change the glossy paper to a newspaper, but I was very attracted to the journalism challenge of having a daily deadline, something that would require a different work rhythm than I was used to.
That’s how I had the privilege of working as a journalist, in my field of study, since day one.
ME: How did you get your start into the lifestyle and fashion scene?
LVZ: First, I started as a reader. Since I was very young I read a lot of magazines made in Puerto Rico, United States and Europe. In fact, whenever I travel, one of the first things I do is go to a newsstand, get a local newspaper and see what magazines they have, even if I don’t understand the language. This is one of the best ways to train the eye. Not only in terms of topics, but in graphic and design terms. An editor not only works with text and supervising reporters. An editor is in charge of conceptualizing an entire magazine, cover to cover. You must have a much greater vision with your graphic designer and all other artists so your product reflects freshness, innovation and it’s attractive to your audience.
I didn’t end up working at a magazine with strong beauty and fashion content by chance. I looked for it with all my intention. At that moment it was what I most wanted to do and that’s how I started to get to know people, develop my resources and at the same time, people in the industry started to notice me through my work. And with time, that’s how I started to win the exclusives, big interviews, invitations to cover events around the world and so on.
With more than 20 years as a journalist, with a steady byline and the past 8 years as Editor of Magacín, I’ve developed an expertise in lifestyle topics, luxury marketing and the female audience.
Also in my free time I read a lot of information about lifestyle, because I like it. Apart from fashion and beauty, I read and write a lot about travel, art, design, architecture and gastronomy. Truth be told, part of my job is to be aware of all trends in these topics.
ME: How does it feel to be Editor of one of the best Fashion publications in Puerto Rico?
LVZ: Great! It’s a privilege and a great responsibility. In terms of print only, we are talking about a lifestyle magazine with the most circulation in Puerto Rico. Almost 200,000 copies are inserted in El Nuevo Día every Sunday and Magacin Lifestyle, the magazine we publish in glossy paper every season directed to high income households, has a guaranteed circulation of 30,000 copies.
Although for web and social media, that is a whole new world. Now we are not only working with one platform, we have mutated into a monster with several heads. I am responsible for the editorial calendar while creating and executing content strategies for every Magacín platform, among others. But we are also a very small team so we have to be extra efficient.
ME: What do you most like about your career?
LVZ: That it demands constant creativity and every day is different. You have the opportunity to get to know extraordinary people, visit new magnificent places, see, listen, smell and appreciate a lot of things first hand. And most importantly, write and being able to tell a story. In the end, it’s the seduction with words, as Álex Grijelmo says.
ME: What is the biggest challenge of your career?
LVZ: Moving at the rhythm of technology, getting to know the audiences better each day and balancing between work and personal life. Anyone who has worked in the communications industry knows that the levels of stress are very high, with super extended hours. In other words: don't let the job become who you are.
ME: What has been the best moment in your career at Magacín so far?
LVZ: 2008 was very important for me because it was the year that we first published Magacin Lifestyle, which I consider my daughter. Being able to create a product from scratch until having it in your hands is very exciting.
Then in 2011 we became a multi-platform when we launched magacin.com in which I had the opportunity to work on the architecture of the site with my friend Orlando Camperto, which by the way, designed Magacín Lifestyle and now is the Design Director at El Nuevo Día and Primera Hora. I remember how we used to cover the walls with yellow Post-Its in order to visualize the functionalities we wanted the website to have.
These two launches have been the biggest milestones in the history of Magacín and I am very satisfied to know I was the editor during these stages. But as you know, we are moving at the speed of technology and market trends, so soon you will be seeing some changes. I can’t tell you anything else, but we keep evolving and that’s what’s important.
ME: What has been your favorite assignment?
LVZ: During almost more than 20 years working as a journalist it’s probably impossible to remember all of them. I do have special memories for a series of travel chronicles I made through the Middle East in countries like Oman, Qatar, Barein and some of the Arab Emirates like Fujaira, Abu Dabi and Dubai. Those are places that you don’t get to visit every day.
ME: How do you feel you are contributing to the Puerto Rican society?
LVZ: There’s a lot of people who think publications like Magacín are superficial because of its social and lifestyle content. They fail to notice that in 20 years you will be able to know how the economy, fashion and people’s situation was during this time. Magacín is filled with anthropological and social lectures.
You can figure out what makes a society by carefully studying their lifestyle and how it entertains, among other factors. Magacín is a window to a society sector in Puerto Rico and at the same time, gives you a quick take to the world.
ME: If you weren’t Editor for Magacín, what would you be?
LVZ: An architect or perfumist.
ME: Would you encourage the current generation to pursue journalism as a career?
LVZ: If they have ink in their veins, absolutely! Even though this metaphor is a little out-dated since it refers to traditional print journalism, I like it because it stresses the passion and compromise it requires. Today’s journalism is multitasking. You have to be ready to do everything, but even though the media has changed, the basics are still the same. If you want to be a journalist, you have to understand the ethics, have a profound understanding of your language, develop analysis capabilities and have a great intuition to recognize where’s a story.
Also, remember that journalism doesn’t make anyone rich and the glamour is only a mirage.
ME: Do you need to study journalism in order to be an Editor?
LVZ: No one would dare ask a surgeon who’s about to do surgery: hey, did you study medicine? Because it’s obvious, we take it for granted. Well Journalism Schools don’t exist by chance. If someone wants to work in the communication industry and be an editor for example, someone who is going to edit and correct what other journalists write, it must be a journalist who supervises you. For the sake of professional respect, someone who knows what the reporter had to go through in order to write that piece. An editor is not an editor because he/ she writes beautifully. An editor is someone who understands much more than just gathering and conceptualizing information.
The thing is that nowadays there’s a tendency in which any super model, pageant queen or actor who wants to become famous can be given a microphone. And instead of naming them TV Presenters, they call them Journalists. But if the media certifies it, we are doomed. And sadly, TV is filled with cases like these, which harm the profession.
ME: What would you recommend someone who wants to be an Editor of a lifestyle magazine one day?
LVZ: To be up to date, cultivate and get to know every topic that they pretend to cover. That they know how to write, because even if it’s a post on Facebook, a tweet or a caption on Instagram, it has to be well written according to the particularities of each platform. They have to develop a good eye. To learn to work as a team because the newsroom is a work chain. Enroll in practice courses because that is the best way to network with people in the industry and really know if you like the editorial world.
Favorite way to unwind: Sleeping (I really need those extra hours) and reading magazines. I have magazines in every room in my house! I also love spending time with my nephew. I enjoy going out to eat out of town with the family.
Favorite Holiday: None. Every month there’s at least one holiday with questionable origins and there’s no doubt commerce is the one taking advantage of the celebration.
Favorite Social Media: Not too long ago the Sales and Marketing Executives Association of Puerto Rico (SME) presented a study which revealed that 87.7% of the Puerto Rican population prefers Facebook, which is the same tendency we have seen in our followers. So as an editor, I have to be where our audience is. In fact, according to Neiman Lab, 44% of the adult population in the United States access news outlets through Facebook. Which means, we can not leave out Facebook and that Mark Zuckerberg is doing a great job!
Personally as an editor, I use Facebook a lot as, but I prefer my private life to stay private.
Must Have Piece of Clothing: Solid color twin sets, dark jeans and a black lace dress. But the look isn’t complete without a good pair of shoes and I prefer my Tribute T-Strap by Saint Laurent in gold.
Favorite Scent: I can’t choose just one! The first rain drops in soil, white flowers (gardenia, jasmine, nardo and azahar) and the combination of saffron rose and oud.
A necessary luxury: Time above all things. Also perfume, dark chocolate truffles, heels and traveling.
Music Genre: It depends on my mood. What you will never find in my playlist is rap, reggae or reggaeton.
Favorite Book: The Bible. Is the book with the most circulation and the most translated in history. Also Salvadas las distancias: La caverna y Todos los nombres by José Saramago, 100 Years of Solitude and Love in Times of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. Reunión de espejos by José Vega (is a story book collection of Puerto Rican writers), and The Perfume by Patrick Süskind.
Must have decor piece: Isamu Noguchi table with a black base.
Favorite Restaurant: Wherever they serve good sushi or Mediterranean cuisine.
Favorite Coffee Shop: Chaguín in Río Piedras beside La Gándara. I don’t even know if it exists anymore, but just for the sake of nostalgia. It used to be the center of encounter of the UPR's Communications School students.
Favorite place you’ve ever visited: Istanbul, Florence and New York are my favorite cities.
What is next in your bucket list: 2016 will mark the 20th anniversary since my first trip to Spain so I would love to visit my friends and do a roadtrip along the South once again. Granada blows my mind! Also, my friend Nora and her husband Ettore coordinate an Isabelina route that is historic and fascinating. Then we will eat gazpacho, bulls tail and honey eggplant in Cordoba.
I am also waiting for the opportunity to go see the northern lights, maybe in Tromso, Norway and overfly Capadocia on an air balloon.
But for now, probably a barre workout. Not because I love exercise, but the complete opposite. To see if I start enjoying it a little bit!
That's it guys! Hope you really enjoyed this interview. Now that you know Larissa's hard work behind the scenes, make sure you subscribe to magacin.com so you can learn more about the fabulous lifestyle trends in Puerto Rico.
Who would you like me to interview next? Let me know in the comments bellow.
Until next time!