When we talk about representation — fair, equal, transparent representation — we talk about our need to see badass women walking the walk and showing the world how it’s done. And no one does that better than Marie Leguizamo. She’s the Managing Director of Banijay Mexico and U.S. Hispanic, and her journey is inspiring.

The Daytime and International Emmy-nominated Executive Producer and Managing Director who once dreamed of being an opera singer transformed her hunger for success into a skyrocketing career in television. She’s one of those who work tirelessly behind the camera to tell stories and bring to life the entertainment our community deserves.

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Marie Leguizamo shared with FIERCE her journey from New York to Miami to Los Angeles. From working as a producer at MTV to being one of the creative geniuses behind LOL: Last Out Laughing, Leguizamo knows a thing or two about being a Latina executive and the importance of women in the entertainment industry.

Becoming the woman behind the wheel

Being a woman in a male-dominated industry — especially in an industry like entertainment — is not an easy feat. It takes courage, hard work, and, honestly, a superhuman kind of patience.

“I’ve found that many times, the biggest challenges of being a female executive in a male-dominated world have been being taken seriously and not having that comment of ‘Oh, it’s just because you’re emotional,'” Marie Leguizamo told us. While she recognizes emotionality is part of her toolbox, she knows that it should not be commonplace.

“Yeah, okay. Maybe I’m a little emotional, but I’m not emotional when it comes to exactly what I want and what I think is best for our productions and for [the] company,” she explained. With over six shows under her belt, her work speaks for itself.

“I find it a bit insulting sometimes when it’s kind of a check-the-box,” she says about women in decision-making positions. That’s why part of her role has become to “really give opportunities and voices for women.”

She says the idea’s not to “just hire a woman.” “No, [the reasoning is] we hired a badass woman, and she’s doing an outstanding, exceptional job.”

At Banijay Mexico and U.S. Hispanic, the staff is about 80% women, and it’s not just to check diversity hiring requirements. “It’s not because of any other reason than [the fact that] those are the most talented people for that position,” she added.

The key is to turn the negative into a positive change

When it comes to the industry, Marie Leguizamo not only opened the door for other female executives. She’s also transforming the TV industry. Her work with unscripted television formats has expanded to a whole continent, bringing shows like LOL to Colombia and Argentina.

Since she first watched The Real World, she knew the format could evolve and take the industry by storm. Leguizamo took her passion as a consumer and her drive as a producer and turned it into what she loves to do and what she loves to produce.

“It is an honor to be the showrunner for Last One Laughing, Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina,” she confessed. Her other roles include being the executive producer of Temptation Island and Jalas o Te Rajas.

On the other hand, her job has given her priceless moments, such as meeting her husband during the third season of Mira Quien Baila. She learned how to work with kids in La Voz Kids and became the Jefa behind the success of Last One Laughing.

So, what does the job of an executive like Marie Leguizamo look like?

Producing, managing, and directing content for a whole continent seems like an impossible job. However, Marie Leguizamo and her team have spent years fine-tuning the development of new formats and identifying trends and audience preferences.

“It’s a really hard job to know what’s happening in the market because it’s constantly changing,” she explained. I think the most important thing is being a consumer of the content you produce [and] also understanding the trends that happen.”

Leguizamo added that it’s essential to always know “what’s new, what’s fresh, and different, and not treat all territories the same.” In fact, she adjudicates that mindset and approach to the success of Banijay Mexico and U.S. Hispanic.

An expert’s view on how television is changing

If there’s anyone who could anticipate the future of television, that someone is Marie Leguizamo. The seasoned producer is well aware of the constant change in trends and how global circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic might’ve changed the whole industry.

For her, the pandemic was a “pivotal moment” for television, “especially because we were all at home. We were all watching TV, and we [became] the biggest critics.” However, while the boom in streaming services seemed to be game-changing, “we shouldn’t discard our free TV or open TV,” Leguizamo warns. “There’s still an audience there.”

And when it comes to social media, she knows that’s another tool, not a competitor. “[We must] keep an open mind to all the different ways of watching television.”

Finally, for those Latinas out there who are looking to break into the industry, she has some advice

“Patience,” she says. “It’s the most important thing because [that’s how] you continue to grow.”

She also recommends that you “trust your leaders. Trust that they know what’s best for you.”

“And even if you feel that you have the full capacity of the title or the job that you currently have, start looking into what you want next,” she continued. Aim for the next job, but don’t complain about it. Try to enjoy the moment because the moment you’re in now is what you wished you had five years ago.”

“So enjoy what you have, enjoy the moment, the opportunities, and always thrive for more.”