There are those people in life who manage to fall into great opportunities and everything seems to always work out in their favor without much stress or effort….this is most definitely (and thankfully) not my story. “Detours” is the best way to describe my life and career. I have learned my journeys off the normally traveled path granted me an opportunity to experience things many are unable to and gave me a unique perspective I wouldn’t have if I just followed the status quo.
Born to an Israeli-immigrant mother and Mexican-American father, you can already see how that unorthodox mix was a clear indication the usual was not usual in my house right out of the gate. I was Jewish growing up in a primarily Hispanic and Catholic community in Pacoima, California. My home was a pretty good mix of all those cultures given we had Christmas trees decorated with lit menorahs and Passover dinner where we served brisket next to the chicken enchiladas. Looking back, I believe growing up in a home that was so welcoming to so many different cultures and people helped me to feel comfortable in any environment. Growing up in the 90’s in L.A, gangs, violence, drugs and teen pregnancy was what I encountered at every turn but I never felt I needed to follow what everyone else was doing. For the good or bad I did it my way and always kept my eyes open for an opportunity to get out of the life most considered inevitable.
In 1999, my first small break came when I traveled to Israel for the first time. I was at a crossroads in my life, relationships were ending, my career path wasn’t clear and my university studies were getting too expensive to continue. The two weeks I spent in Israel totally changed my life. I fell in love with the the food, the music and the melting pot of people who all were survivors from whatever part of the world they originally came from. I decided to move there immediately. I immersed myself in the culture and worked hard to learn the language. I worked any job I could at first – seamstress, hostess, private English tutor, barmaid – just to get exposure to what this place was all about and try and get a better understanding of why I was so drawn to it. I was far from a religious person so that wasn’t what brought me to Israel. It was that gut feeling that told me this is where I should be. I know that I didn’t start to understand my true abilities to persevere or tap into my drive to succeed until I lived in Israel. A year after I arrived, the second Palestinian uprising began and to say I was scared was an understatement. Daily bombings of bus lines I needed to use to get to work and always having to be aware of your surroundings made my day-to-day tasks more daunting and freighting. Just going to work and school became dangerous as the bus lines I took daily were targeted by terrorists. I learned a lot from the Israeli people during this time. Mainly that living in fear is not living and the only way to defeat those that live to destroy is for you to live to create. Since then I have never been more appreciative of every person I meet, place I visit or obstacle put before me because I truly understand what my alternative could have been. I decided that life was even shorter than I ever thought and made it my mission to accomplish everything I want to as soon as I can. I traveled to over 20 countries, learned several languages, completed my MBA in the final year of my BA while working as a publishing executive, and married an Israeli Air Force Commander (yes it’s all about a man in uniform) with whom I have two gorgeous children. I even appreciated my mistakes more, and I most definitely made more than a few along the way.
In 2006, after 7 years in Israel, my husband and I decided to make our way back to L.A and try for the American Dream…we weren’t sure what that was exactly but it sounded good. With no jobs and, at that time, an 11 month old son, we packed our lives up and I returned to L.A praying that we would find our way. I knew I wanted to work in TV. Living in the Middle East during the uprising and second Iraq war made me more aware of the power of television and its ability to influence, shape and allow people who are living in terrifying circumstances to escape into a place, even for an hour, where they aren’t thinking about the chaos surrounding them. My first interview was with CBS. I was offered a foot-in-the-door position as a per diem purchasing assistant after working as an executive for 5 years abroad…small break #3….Do you think I took it? Absolutely! My salary was less than I was making in Israel, and many close to me said not to bother, but my gut said this is step one to get where I wanted to be – so I jumped at it. I put all my energy into being the best per diem purchasing assistant CBS has ever seen and apparently it worked! After 4 months in the department, and the glowing recommendation of the Purchasing Director, I landed a Coordinator position in Promotional Placement & Awards. I knew I would get to work more closely with shows like The Price Is Right, which could only add to my repertoire of experience, and hopefully get me to my ultimate goal of working directly for the decision-makers in the creative divisions of the Network. After 2 years of handling some of the the craziest and most fun contestants in the world, I approached Human Resources about the next step in my career; I wanted to finally make it into a creative department. They told me there hasn’t been any openings for quite some time, but within a week they called to tell me an executive assistant position was available in Current Programming….small break #4…Even though it was a drop in title, I knew I was not looking for titles but the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of television, and how many get the chance to do it at the #1 Television Network. From day one the job was challenging, complex, exhausting and one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. Coupled with the fact I worked for two of the most amazingly talented and inclusive executives who mentored me, honing my creative skills on shows like CSI and NCIS:LA, until the day I received the email that solidified my career in CBS Entertainment.
The ECLE email from Leslie Moonves will go down in my history books as the greatest email ever written! The process to be accepted was one of the most grueling, nerve-racking, and patience testing experiences of my life. I truly put it right up there with childbirth (no joke!). After 5 years at CBS, Halloween became my favorite holiday and it had nothing to do with trick-or-treating and candy. I took that day off because the process of waiting became so stressful that I wanted a day out of the office where I wasn’t spending my time staring at my emails every 4 seconds waiting for THE ANSWER. I saw a voicemail on my cell phone as I was waiting outside my son’s school, with 300 other parents, for a Halloween parade. I heard the HR reps message to call her back as the feelings of joy and fear came over me. Joy that I would finally get an answer, but fear that she was calling to let me down easy and tell me that I wasn’t accepted. With a sense of trepidation I called her back. As soon as she told me I was accepted, I began to jump up and down screaming at the top of my lungs “Oh My God!” over and over. All 300 parents turned around and were looking at me as if I had lost my mind. They weren’t sure if I needed an ambulance or a straight jack. I am no longer invited to PTA meetings.
I truly feel I have hit the lotto, not only because I was accepted to the ECLE program, but also because I couldn’t ask for two more amazingly talented and genuine companions, Sean and Whitney, to share this fascinating journey with. Like I said when I started this, the easy path has never been my way. My big break came by recognizing that sometimes it isn’t an open door you should be watching out for but an open window that allows you to see the next step on the way to your ultimate goal.