Will we own the show like Shakira and J-Lo?
  • Josuel Plasencia

Will we own the show like Shakira and J-Lo?


For 12 minutes on Sunday night, over 100 million people tuned to see Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. What happened? There was Salsa (a lot of Salsa), they were African drums, there was Shakira on the drums, on guitar, and on vocals — where overnight, she introduced an Arabic tradition to the western mainstream - the zaghrouta.


Of course, there also was Jennifer Lopez and her daughter, 11-year old Emme Maribel Muñiz, who together shared the stage, Jennifer donning a two-sided cape, one side featuring the American flag, the other, the Puerto Rican flag.


It was a celebration of global cultures delivered prime time.


It was clearly and also covertly a celebration about what it means to be different, to be Latinx, to be a woman, to be a mother, to be middle-aged - Jennifer Lopez is 50, and Shakira turned 43 the day of the performance. Happy birthday, Shakira!


That said, like Superbowl half-time performers, the main stage of the world of business, politics, and education is very rarely is Latinx, and even more rarely Latina. To see that change for 12 minutes, was worth celebrating.


But there was one moment that particularly stuck with me. For just a few seconds, Jennifer Lopez and her daughter, Emme, saw each other in the eye. Jennifer singing “Let’s Get Loud” and Emme singing “Born in the USA.” At that moment, I can’t help but think about our “Emme’s” — our next generation of Latinos.


Latino young people like my 8-year sister, Danielly, are growing up (despite the trailblazing accomplishments of figures like Shakira and J-Lo) at a time of increased negative rhetoric against their own community. Hate crimes against Latinos are at their highest level since 2010.


With this in mind, it is not hard to imagine the obstacles that the incredible women who delivered the half-time show had to face to ascend to the top of their craft. Today, both mothers, and all Latinos, while paving the way, still have to ask themselves one key question: what happens with the new generation?


Non-white students are the majority of our public school children, with Latinos leading the way at 28% (Pew Research). By 2025, 1 in 2 new workers will be Latino (SHRM). The growth is there, but we are reaping the results? Unfortunately not: Latinos today — despite Sunday nights demonstration of authenticity and owning a stage — struggle to be themselves, repressing parts of their personas at work. Changing who they are only to fit in.


A majority of Latinos do this, and it has been exceptionally documented. Research from Harvard Business School finds that 76% of Latinos “cover-up” at work. This research is real for me, as I still struggle with this today, as a Latino man who grew up in a low-income, single-mother household - with cultural norms very different than those valued at America’s top companies.


Bottom line, while Sunday night was fun, it was far from the reality of Monday morning.


Which brings me back to Emme, something was striking about an 11-year old child singing “Born in the USA.” It is arguably, the quintessential song of America’s “Boss” Bruce Springsteen. Emme and Bruce are both America. At that moment, staring at her mother's eyes, Emme owned her identity, who she was, and she made the world know she is not going anywhere.


Sunday, we saw two Latina’s who accomplished an incredible feat, but there is so much more to be done from the 60 million Latinos in the United States.