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[ Gaby Natale ]
15 years ago, when I first arrived in the united states from Argentina, doing what I'm doing right now, speaking in public in English was one of my biggest fears.
Accentism: the perception that certain accents are inferior to others is very real in today's world.
In fact, even today, I come across people who mistakenly assume that I am uneducated, only because English happens to be my second language.
So as a newcomer, I feared people would not understand what I had to say, would not pay attention, or even worse, would not take me seriously as a speaker, only because of my accent.
But then I learned two words that cured my fears, two words that I treasure in my heart, two words that will help you overcome your own fears next time you have to give a presentation.
And those two words are Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Because if that man with that thick Austrian accent who first conquered Hollywood, and then become the governor of California, so can I, and so can you.
[ Applause ]
For many years, I've shared this story as an ice breaker just for fun.
It was my own way to encourage people to speak in public, even if they feel they don't quite fit the mold.
The truth is we all feel inadequate one way or another when facing an audience.
It can be the way you sound, the way you look, or something as simple as realizing halfway through your speech that the zipper is down.
But as I was getting ready to deliver this ted talk, I started thinking about that Arnold Schwarzenegger story in a very different light.
And I asked myself, "why on earth, out of all the people in the planet, Gaby, did you choose Arnold Schwarzenegger as your preperformance mental reference?"
Because the truth is, the terminator and I, we don't have that much in common.
He's from Europe, I am from South America.
He's an action movie star, I don't even watch action movies.
He's a body building champion, and to be honest with you, i can barely do 15 push-ups back to back.
So why on earth did I choose Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first place?
And so it hit me.
The only reason why I chose Arnold Schwarzenegger was because when I looked around, I couldn't see anyone like me on stages, like me in leading roles, or like me in leadership positions in general.
So the question I had to answer was very simple.
How to be what you can't see?
How to be what you can't see in real life?
How to be what you can't see, even in movies?
Because let me tell you something, if you are in a movie, and you happen to be, let's say, a tornado, you can get to be any kind of tornado you want to be.
You can even be a tornado made out of sharks - a sharknado.
But if you're - and if you're in a movie, and you are an immigrant Latina like me, all you can aspire to be is a stripper, a maid, a nanny.
Or if you're feeling extra ambitious, you can always be crowned the next queen of a drug cartel.
Jokes aside, when you don't see yourself fairly or proportionately represented, you understand early on that you have two choices moving forward.
Choice number one is to embrace what I call the emulator mindset.
And the emulator mindset is a fancy name for something we're very familiar with which is to look around, see how everyone else like you is doing, and then setting your goals based on someone else's past experience.
You are setting your future prospects based on someone else's past results.
You want to emulate their achievements.
And I am not here to judge anyone's life choices.
You can be perfectly happy embracing an emulator mindset all your life if you want to.
But here's the thing.
Emulators don't move the world forward.
They tend to perpetuate the status quo, and there are moments in life when the status quo is not enough.
You crave more.
So there's another option, and it is to embrace what I call the pioneer spirit, and this is how it works.
Again, you look around, you see how everyone else like you is doing, and then you open yourself up to doing something no one like you has done before.
You open yourself up to the possibility of believing in your vision, even before you have the results to validate it.
You open yourself up to the possibility of becoming a pioneer.
And because you cannot see out there in the world what you're looking for, your guidance needs to come from inside.
That's why every pioneer's favorite mantra should always be, inner voice over outer noise.
Inner voice over outer noise.
Because there are moments in life when you have to take a leap of faith, step into the unknown, and dare to be first.
Dare to be first in your family, dare to be first in your school, dare to be first in your community.
Because it doesn't matter how big or how small that step you're taking is, every time you choose to pioneer, you move the world forward.
Every time you choose to pioneer, you move the world forward.
And this is a concept that is important for everyone, but it is particularly relevant to people who are coming from communities who have been treated as the outsider, only because of the way they look, they sound, they pray, or they love.
And if you are listening to this, and you have the privilege of not having to ask yourself if you should pioneer or not, use that privilege for good.
Be an ally, be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.
That's something very important.
Now, I want for all of us to take a minute and think about our own lives, our own relationships, and our own projects.
How do you feel about them?
If you feel uncomfortable about any of them, pay attention, because discomfort is your wakeup call to pioneer.
Discomfort is your wakeup call to pioneer.
Let me share a personal experience with you.
When I was in my early twenties, I started my tv career in local news.
And as an aspiring journalist, one of my biggest hopes was to share who i was with the audience in an authentic way.
But as a young Latina working on camera, it soon came very clear that the industry only had two types of media personas I was able to embody.
Media persona number one was the hyper sexualized Latina.
The sexy reporter who is usually assigned to entertainment and weather, and she's expected to be sexy 24/7, even under hurricane watch.
Like, "the waves are blowing from the south."
That was not me.
I now understood this mix of weather and seductiveness, so all I was left with was with media persona number two, which is the news anchor who reads the teleprompter with a deep voice and a robotic delivery.
Or, "in other news, we want you to know that we really - don't speak like this, your real life, when we're at home with our families."
So I was not the persona number one - the sexy reporter, who is unfairly put in a box and allowed only to navigate shallow waters.
And I was not media persona number two - the formal news anchor, who is also unfairly put in a box and who's expected to trade spontaneity for credibility.
But it soon became so, so clear that if I had to move forward and grow in local news, I had to find a way to mold myself to fitting one of these two stereotypes.
Somehow, it was like I had to erase the part of my personality that I liked the most, the part of my personality that make me, me.
And here's the problem.
I don't want to be a want to be.
I want to be me.
I don't want to be a want-to-be.
And just like that, discomfort was my wakeup call.
I wanted to be what I could not see in media, a non-stereotypical, multi-dimensional, Latina.
So I quit my job as news anchor and started producing content independently.
And I credit that decision to pioneer, with everything that happened next.
Because to make you a long story short, we started a tv show humbly in a local - in the local market, out of a carpet warehouse which eventually grew into a regional show, a nationally syndicated show, and finally, a three time emmy award winning show.
[ applause ]
Many projects came after that, but it all started with the deliberate decision to recalibrate our own belief system.
Because let me tell you something, out there is not a level playing field.
It is not.
So in here, you have to open yourself to possibilities you've never considered before, and do yourself a favor.
Don't pay attention to stereotypes.
Because if you think about it, what is stereotype?
A stereotype is nothing but someone else's idea bout me or someone like me.
It is not a fact.
It is only an idea.
But if you mistakenly take that idea as a fact, if we believe that idea to be true, if we believe those low expectations about us or people like us, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
That's why pioneers are so important.
Because every time you pioneer, you expand what is possible not just for you, but for people like you.
Your experience is not only your experience; it is a case study -- the living proof of what's possible for everyone else that will come after you.
Every time you pioneer, you move the world forward.
And before I leave, I have some amazing news to share with you.
There has never been a better time to be a pioneer than right now.
Technology has enabled us to be connected all around the planet in ways we have never been before.
Your story and your message as a pioneer can travel to places you can't even imagine.
Do not underestimate the power of your own story.
Pioneers are not extraordinary people.
Pioneers are ordinary people who chose to see themselves and the world in extraordinary ways.
The world needs more pioneers.
Pioneers are the DNA moral progress is made of, from the civil rights moment to the suffragist, and from the LGBTQ fight for equality, to the amazing teenagers who are speaking up for the planet, every single shift in human consciousness that has made this world a better place started in the same way.
With a group of pioneers who got together to push an idea whose time has come.
And that, my dear amigos, is the hell of an idea worth spreading.
Thank you so much for your time.
And, thank you.
And as my friend arnold would say, "hasta la vista, baby."
[ Music ]