Is there anything that Dee Vazquez can’t do? As one of New York City’s hottest media personalities, she’s got her hand in everything from radio and television to print work. She’s also actively involved in the community and speaking out for urban youth everywhere. We talked to Dee and found out that this hard-working girl knows the secret to success, and is playing by her own rules in the male-dominated world of entertainment.
Clutch: Did you always have an interest in working in media?
I always wanted to get into entertainment. After the people in television received me well when I was working on cable access, we got good feedback from people. They would call up and say they liked the way the show was going; they liked the direction. And once people started embracing me I decided to embrace them back. I started really researching the role as a host, as an interviewer. From there I decided to take this on as a career move.
Clutch: After television, you moved into radio work and writing for magazines. How did that come about?
Well, I owe that to my manager! It was when I was doing television that he said, “you know what? TV is cool but we really need to start diversifying all your talent. I never knew I had a talent in radio, but we blocked some time out and see what we can do with this. Before that, I’d done stuff with Earl Chinn and Marley Marl, but when he blocked that time out in Long Island, that’s when I had a real feel for it. I had to direct the show for and produce it. That’s when I got onto Hot 97 and I got onto Shade 45/Sirius Satellite and from there that’s when more opportunities came along, but it was really him telling me “let’s open up this world of radio. And from radio, someone from the Connex List asked me to do a piece because they heard me on TV and radio and thought I could do something cool for the magazine. And from writing for the Connex List, I started writing for The Source, Urban Biker and different publications.
Clutch: Now, you’re of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent. Do you ever feel like there’s a lack of fair representation of Latinos in the media?
I feel that Latinos have always been present in the entertainment industry, but every couple years there’s this Latin explosion. I guess they forget that we’ve been here (chuckle) and they “discover” us every couple years. And that’s okay too, just as long as they’re aware that we’ve been in this industry. But, someone who’s had a really big biggest impact on me is Jennifer Lopez. She was a girl from the Bronx who went auditions; went for dancing, went for acting, did whatever she had to do because she had a bigger vision for herself than just living in the Bronx. I think that for a lot of people growing up in the inner city—or in the suburbs in Middle America—say they see something bigger than just living in their four walls or in their community. I can relate most to her. Every day she got on the train, every day she went on auditions, and she had in the back of her mind something bigger. She had the vision for herself. I love what she’s doing and the way she maneuvered in the industry.
Clutch: What are some of the struggles you’ve encountered while making a name for yourself in entertainment?
One thing I feel a lot females still go through today is not letting your sexuality define you, which is very hard in this industry. This is entertainment and we all know that sex sells. If you happen to have a body or pretty face, they say let’s work with that as opposed to going, “Oh, she has talent to produce, direct, write.” Once you go out there, you have to prove it to people that you bring more to the table. You kind of have to put it in their face because if not, they’ll take you and say, “This is what you will do. This is how you will look. This is what you will say.” With every project that I do I make sure I have a bigger hand in it than just being the face. When I was hosting Video City on cable access (or whatever TV shows that I’m doing), I make sure that what I’m saying is not what someone told me to say. I try to put my flavor into it and direct myself the way that I want to be presented and not let someone tell me how I was going to look or how I should be represented.
Clutch: You’re working with former VP Al Gore’s Current TV. Tell us about the project and how the experience has been so far.
The great thing about Current TV is they present news that’s happening around the world in a cool way that’s not boring or preachy. I hooked up with some of the producers of Current TV and I did pieces on AIDS/HIV in the neighborhood and on the stop snitching campaign, which I actually went on Fox’s 5 Mike & Juliette’s Morning Show to talk about that with the VP of The Source. It feels like a lot of people have the Hip-hop and urban community a little bit misunderstood. The feel like everybody here is misguided and ignorant. When I did the piece for Current TV, it opened up how everyone in the community feels about certain topics. With HIV/AIDS, not everybody wants to have sex and be loose. With the stop snitching thing, not everybody believes in this stop snitching thing. And when I did the pieces for Current TV, it showed that even though we all listen to Hip-hop or we all live in urban communities, we don’t all think the same way. It was entertaining, but it gave an outlook and enlightened people about what was really going on in the Hip-hop community.
Clutch: What do you credit as your biggest accomplishment so far?
My biggest accomplishment is when I go back to elementary schools and junior high school and speak to students. They ask me questions like, “Did you meet 50 Cent? Did you meet Chris Brown?” And I tell them yeah, but the first thing I tell them is don’t let anybody tell them they can’t do something. I always ask them what they want to be when they grow up. And a lot of them are cynical about where they see themselves. I tell them my story of growing up in the projects and coming from a single parent household. I let them know I may not be a 50 Cent or Jennifer Lopez, but I’m on my way to being successful. At the end of the day if you’re successful and you’re following what you want to do, then no can categorize you as anything less than what you see yourself as. That’s the biggest thing to me, to go back to these schools and show them I’m just like you and I’m on my way to success and you can be too.
Clutch: You’re constantly criss-crossing the nation from hosting events, doing radio work and participating in various media promotions. How do you juggle everything with your hectic schedule?
I don’t know! I actually just came back from Orlando and we had a delayed flight. As soon as we got there, all we could do is unpack. I rested for maybe two hours and got up, got dressed and did a twelve hour shift. But it’s my job and I have to make time for my work. When someone gets up at 5:00 a.m., they sacrifice half of their time and their day to go to work because they have to bring the bread and butter home for their families. They always look at the bigger picture and that’s what I do. I look at it as work. Although it is entertainment, it’s also my job. I just gotta do it. If I can’t sleep as much as I would like to, if I gotta run around looking crazy, I really don’t think about it. I just make sure I do it all.
Clutch: Working in radio, you have access to new music and hear about upcoming artists before the hit the airwaves. So who are some artists you’re listening to these days?
Some of the music I listen to, I have to admit, is dipping back to back-in-the-day music. I love Santogold, though. I think she’s doing some great things right now. I love Estelle, I think she’s doing great things too. But it’s something about music from back in the day. It makes you feel good, it makes you reminisce a little bit. I love Tina Turner. I love Sheena Easton. I’m listening to Prince right now and Journey. That’s the stuff I’m listening to.
Clutch: It’s safe to assume that you love fashion, being from the fashion capital of the world (NYC). Who are some designers that you’re rocking or stores that you frequent?
I can always depend on Urban Outfitters for the sales, so I love them! As for shopping, I love to into these up-and-coming designers’ closets. I love Miss Brucie, Katou. There are a lot of designers who have great stuff, so I like to go into their closets, find out what’s going on and pick up stuff from them. And it’s free, so that’s good, but at the same time you get to support the fashion world. So that’s the part I love.
Clutch: What advice would you give to others who are interested in working in media?
Be knowledgeable about your craft. If it’s entertainment, know what’s going on. If it’s music, know what’s going on. In media in general, know your research. Don’t get involved in your research or your craft—and what I mean by that is, you have to understand what’s going on, but you can’t too excited. I mean, it’s an exciting environment, but you have to understand what your position is in this world. Understand that it’s a career and a job, so professionalism is key. If you want to be successful, the only way you can be successful is if you keep your eye on your goal. So, know your craft and stay focused. Stay professional.
Clutch: Where do you see Dee Vazquez in five years?
I was asked that the other day and I have to admit, I really don’t know. Five years ago someone could’ve asked me if I would be in the position I’m in now and I wouldn’t have known it. I do know that I’m getting more into producing and I’m coming out with a couple of my own original works (check that out on the Internet). But all I know is I’m staying focused; I’m in it for success. So if I keep going on the same route that I’m on now, I know I will obtain success. How and what that will be, I really don’t know. Life has a way of throwing little oddballs at you, so I’m here to embrace it all and gain success and knowledge.