The opportunity to walk into a room full of Latina business leaders is seldom. However, FIERCE was honored to bring to life its first Jefas on the Rise Awards ceremony to honor Latina entrepreneurs. 

With the help of event planner Ashley Quijano, the event paid tribute to these businesswomen with bright flowers and infectious cumbias. This celebration took place inside Damian, a contemporary Mexican restaurant in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, known for its rich, authentic flavors and moody ambiance.

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A celebration in style

Upon entering, guests dressed to the nines were greeted with a Jefas on the Rise tote bag that included a FIERCE sweatshirt and products from the nominees. Thus, those who joined us could sample products such as a bottle of I Love Chamoy, a Baja Fan from Shop JitanaINARU chocolates, and much more.

In fact, under the light of FIERCE’s slogan, “Calladitas No More,” the room was flooded with that neon energy as the Jefas introduced themselves with cocktails in hand.

Moving further into the ceremony space and dining area, guests enjoyed a five-course meal and accompanying Makers Mark cocktails.

Lily Tapia Photography

NGLmitú Chief Brand Officer Vanessa Vigil, and Vice President of Brands, Wendy Barba, kicked off the joyous awards ceremony

Wendy Barba (left), Vanessa Vigil (right) Lily Tapia Photography

“Since its inception, FIERCE has been dedicated to spotlighting the hustle and passion of Latina Jefas — who we define as business owners, leaders, and bosses in every sense of the word,” said Wendy during opening remarks.

“My colleagues and I are proud to honor an incredible group of women who put their Latinidad and communities at the forefront of their careers, proudly embodying what it means to be a Jefa on the Rise. They’ve broken ceilings, held ‘firsts’ in their fields, defied odds, and still have years of success ahead of them,” Vanessa added before announcing the winners.

Elisa Hernández (left), MJ Acosta (right) Lily Tapia Photography

The honorees were selected by community members who voted on Below are the winners of the 2023 Jefas on the Rise Awards:

Elisa Hernández, Los Angeles Dodgers Host

Elisa Hernádez, Lily Tapia Photography

Elisa Hernández is a first-generation Salvadoran making a big impact for Latinas in the sports industry. She is currently the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pregame show host, engaging with the crowds at the legendary stadium. This jefa has worn many hats in the industry, from creating Spanish content for the NFL to editing content for sports websites and podcasting. And this LA native does it all while donning her long nails and hoop earrings, embracing every part of who she is along the way.

Annie Leal, Founder of I Love Chamoy

Annie Leal, Lily Tapia Photography

Annie Leal created her viral chamoy sauce, I Love Chamoy, as a “love letter” to her dad, culture, and community. Her ingenious idea of developing a sugar-free version of the iconic topping became an immediate success. I Love Chamoy sold out in their very first week of business. The rapid growth is a testament to her use of social media and the love and support from the greater Latinx community. This jefa is fulfilling candy cravings left and right with a healthy option that many people didn’t think there was a market for.

Jacqueline García, Therapist

Jacqueline García, Lily Tapia Photography

Jacqueline García grew up going to therapy after immigrating to the United States and was inspired to become one herself. She earned a Master’s Degree in social work and has been a licensed clinical social worker for over seven years. Understanding how vulnerable patients are when they open up, she knows how to make it a safe space for sharing. In addition, she launched her own apparel brand focused on destigmatizing mental health. This jefa is all about breaking generational cycles and tending to our mental well-being.

Denise Hernández, Founder of Shop Jitana

Denise Hernández, Lily Tapia Photography

Home decor is Jitana founder Denise Hernández’s thing, so it makes perfect sense that she started her own brand. Inspired by her travels and culture, she collaborates with local artisans on products like woven totes and beaded chandeliers. Hernández’s career in retail buying took her to Australia, which ignited her interest in home decor. A visit to Bali gave her the extra push to start her curated shop. This jefa demonstrates how passion can be all you need to dream big and start your business.

Zaida Hernández, Engineer

First-generation Salvadoran-American Zaida Hernández is The Space Latina. The stellar jefa has worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, supporting the Artemis missions and the Orion spacecraft. Aside from the incredible engineering work she does, she wrote and illustrated a children’s book. Her goal is to inspire young Latinos to study and pursue careers in STEM. Hernández understands her impact as a Latina in science and engineering. And she is, without a doubt, a role model for future space Latinos.