MJ Acosta-Ruiz’s Trailblazing Journey As an Afro-Latina TV Host for the NFL Network
In the richly woven mural of Latina stories, MJ Acosta-Ruiz’s journey stands as a celebration of tenacity, resilience and flexibility. Today, as a shining star of the NFL Network, this Afro-Latina host inspires countless Latinas, reminding them of the strength that lies in their voices and roots.
Growing up, Acosta-Ruiz understood the complexity of her family’s migration to the United States. She especially understood the sacrifices her father, a Dominican professional who had to trade his medical career for a factory job, had to make.
This awareness of sacrifice allowed Acosta-Ruiz to understand the value of purpose.
Her father, always a sports enthusiast, introduced Acosta-Ruiz to basketball. But the young girl found a unique way to merge her love of dance with her father’s passion — in attempting to create a cheerleading squad.
Eventually, Acosta-Ruiz would spend a season as a cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins.
However, as she told mitú, her story would take an unexpected turn for the better.
MJ Acosta-Ruiz and the power of the inner voice
For MJ Acosta-Ruiz, life’s path has not been linear. At 18 years old, she left the family nest in Miami, where her family had relocated after a stint in New York. At first, she roamed the halls of Miami Dade College while attending business school with dreams of opening a dance studio. However, she soon questioned her choice.
Acosta-Ruiz then paused to reflect on her future and found herself dancing for The Roof, a Latin music program on Mun2.
“Each day, I would arrive early to learn as much as I could. I’d speak with the producers, shadow the hosts, and run up to master control to understand how things worked behind the scenes,” she recalled. “I was hooked! The following semester, I re-enrolled in college as a Broadcast Communications major and started the long journey.”
Sometime later, while Acosta-Ruiz was working at the local NBC & Telemundo affiliates in San Diego, she was hired by the NFL Network. In doing so, she became the first woman of color to become a full-time host on the network.
“Listen to your inner voice,” she said in an interview, “It’s okay to change your mind.”
Building the future and battling personal challenges
Her journey to network television had many challenges, including toxic and unwelcoming environments along the way. However, Acosta-Ruiz picked herself up, drawing on her unwavering group of friends and the intrinsic values instilled in her by her Latino family.
Part of her journey included taking a step away from college to figure out her true calling. She recalls taking on a new career path later than expected made her feel “far behind.” As she told mitú, although the industry can be unforgiving, especially to women of color, Acosta-ruiz was determined “to hit the ground running.”
“I took on a full course load while working multiple jobs to cover rent and expenses,” she said. “I also juggled several radio, news, and production internships to gain as much tangible experience as possible.”
Because there was financial insecurity in her early life, Acosta-Ruiz claims to have learned from her family’s humble beginnings “to make it work.”
And though life would throw her curveballs — including tokenism, sexism, sexual harassment, assault, and misogyny — the host found in her Latino culture the tools she needed to cope. Among them, tenacity, resilience, ingenuity, humility, pride, paying it forward, “and doing it all in two languages — three if you count Spanglish.”
Experience as a testimony of determination
MJ Acosta-Ruiz’s background includes hosting Generation Nexxt on NBC Miami and being the face of her community in the NFL. Her advice for achieving this? Always lean on your team.
As she says: “Honestly, one of the biggest coping mechanisms was my group chats with my girls back home in Miami. You know, your squad will have your back no matter what.”
“Reach out to your community of fellow jefas,” she recommends. “We are the blueprint! Social media now provides us with access to a network of women who are forging the path and are happy to help their peers and the next generations of jefas. I encourage everyone to lean in, share the knowledge, and above all, lift as you climb,” she added.
The host also recognizes two phrases she always keeps in mind.
The first is “todo toma tiempo” (“Everything takes time.”) Acosta-Ruiz assures that, in her experience, “It’s hard not to play the comparison game, especially in a digital world, but none of what you see happened overnight. It takes time and a lot of hard work.”
“Overnight successes only appear to be that way, but there’s always a long and arduous road to get there.”
The second phrase that guides her steps is “Anda despacio que estoy de prisa,” which translates into English as “Go slowly because I’m in a hurry.”
“It sounds counterintuitive at first glance, but when you think about it, you realize how many things go wrong when trying to rush something,” Acosta-Ruiz explains. “When you’re in a rush, you’re flustered, you make mistakes, and you often must double back, which costs you more time. I repeat this phrase when I feel anxious.”
Today, Acosta-Ruiz embarks on a new chapter with NFL Network, ready to explore in-depth stories across the NFL universe. The legacy she’s building is clear — a testament to the power of perseverance, the importance of one’s roots, and the ability to triumph over adversity.