Nathalie didn’t take a straight path to journalism. She loved the idea of being a reporter since her days at her high school newspaper, but it took a few turns before she decided to take the plunge. It took hustling at multiple jobs, from keeping books at a modeling agency, to dealing with crowds at Sephora, and a 9-month stint working the aisles of Spirit Airlines before she decided to go for it.
As a flight attendant she was on a lot of regional trips. “I learned very quickly that people are very isolated across the country, and I encountered a lot of racism from passengers on those flights.” She recalls passengers would ask her things like, “Do you have a green card?” Or, “Do you speak Mexican?”
That whole experience made her run back to what she calls her bubble in New York City, where she’s always felt both understood and accepted. Nathalie is half Dominican and half Guyanese, she also grew up in Queens, one of the most diverse places in the world. She craved being back in that community and finally left the airline for it. But the bubble she went back for burst quickly when Donal Trump was elected to the presidency. She says she realized that everyone had been living in a bubble, but that bubble was gone, whether she was at Spirit or taking care of kids at a New York City daycare.
Finally, tired of taking care of kids, she applied for a position at The New York Times. She applied thinking she would never be considered, but to her surprise she was called back immediately. She worked in the index department for a while, and worked her way up to Senior News Assistant at the DC bureau where she got her first bylines at the paper.
These days, or rather, these nights, Nathalie spends her time scouring through news as an Associate Producer on the national desk at CBS. She goes through the news looking for stories that represent and affect minority communities across the country. “I spend time looking for stories that a white male colleague might not notice or identify with,” she says. “I want to elevate those voices.”
Once she’s off the overnight shift, the goal is to become a producer. She wants to pitch and make her own packages. “I am going to be a producer whether it’s here (CBS) or not.” Now that she’s landed in journalism she’s learned to ask what she wants and she does not plan on turning back.
As an IWMF fellow in El Salvador, she plans on covering stories that the average American would not associate with Central America, so expect some “happy, positive” stories that have nothing to do with drugs or gangs. “People try to paint Central America, South America and the Caribbean as negative.” And she does not want to do that. “It’s a western narrative being shoved down our throat.”
Her advice to a younger version of herself (and probably good advice for every IWMF fellow): “Being scared is good. Go to things that make you a little bit uncomfortable. Don’t shy away from things you’re scared of. And don’t sell yourself short in advance.” Her advice to women of color in journalism: “Just go for it, go for that career in journalism and make that path, even if you feel like no one else looks like you in the newsroom.”
-Jika Gonzalez, 2020 Mexico Fellow