“¡HOLA! L.A.” Profile: Bel Hernandez

Bel.Single“Our viewers are not just Latino but women of all ages, backgrounds

and economic status whose views matter.” –Bel Hernandez


The first English-language TV talk show with a Latina POV

First show of the new season airs

Saturday, March 30th, 7PM on KCAL9

By Elia Esparza

It is not surprising that Bel Hernandez created ¡HOLA! LA—a talk show that gives voice to women who have been systematically ignored by mainstream TV talk shows.

As creator and co-host of CBS/KCAL9’s ¡HOLA! L.A, Bel has put together a talk show forum that presents four unique and diverse Latinas who touch upon mainstream topics, presenting points of views that are not Whitewashed nor patronizing to women of color, low-income, at risk and most especially, Latinas. “Our viewers are not just Latino but women of all ages, backgrounds and economic status whose views matter.”

8 Ways Book Cover.500I’ve known Bel for 19 years but it wasn’t until I read the first chapter of her story in 8 Was To Say ‘I Love My Life!—a book she co-authored in 2012—that I finally understood her. I have always marveled at her strength and courage of conviction to keep pushing even when it wasn’t the popular thing to do. Then I read that revealing chapter where she tells of having been born alongside a riverbank in Momax, Zacatecas, Mexico. As the story goes… “my mother was walking to the midwife’s house a long distance away when heavy in the clutches of labor she reached for a tree branch for strength, she let out the last of her labored breaths, then my chrysalis complied, and I inhaled the first of mine. For the briefest moments, we gazed upon each other and we were one.” And so it is from her mother she learned that first lesson: “In order to survive one needs to be resourceful, resilient and tough.”

Bel does not compromise her integrity or beliefs to flow with the mainstream. She searched long and hard for her identity and there is no way it is up for grabs. She knows who she is and she knows who her audience is.

If ¡HOLA! L.A has one heart and four unique voices, then Bel Hernandez Castillo is the show’s soul.

Let’s see what the multi-talented Bel (she’s an actress, professional dancer, publisher and TV host!) has to say about sitting at the head of the ¡HOLA! LA table:

First things first, tell us about your name “Bel,” with one “l”—tell us about it and/or why your mom gave you this name. 

Bel:  My mom actually named me Guillermina, but the records building in Momax, Zacatecas burnt down and my mom was already in the states, so my grandmother registered me as Belarmina. In high school, I felt the need to shorten it, and became Bel.

Why did you decide to expand from online and print media onto a TV talk show? What was motivation for the creation of Let’s Talk aka ¡HOLA! LA?

Bel: Once Latin Heat Entertainment ceased printing to become an online magazine, we found it a natural progression to create video content. Once we got comfortable we decided we needed to do the show no other TV network wanted to do. That is how Let’s Talk! came about. We felt the Latina voice needed to be heard even if it was on the web. We were heard, seen and from this evolved ¡HOLA L.A.!.

$518—the median weekly earnings for Latinas compared to white women ($703), black women ($595), and Asian women ($751). 

What are your expectations for ¡HOLA! LA?

Bel:  That the Latina voice on English-Language TV will finally be heard and embraced. We all know that upwardly mobile Latinas have yet to see themselves reflected on English-Language TV for who they truly are. I expect that ¡HOLA L.A.! will become as relevant to general market audiences, because of our universal topics, as it will be for Latinos.

48.1% of L.A. County Population are Latino

At the Impact Awards
At the Impact Awards 2011

How did you catch the eye of CBS’s GM? 

Bel: I have known Olivia Campos-Bergeron, who is the Director for Community Affairs at CBS for over 15 years. She had read about our web show from reading Latin Heat.  She introduced me to Steve Mauldin, the general manager at CBS at the NHMC local Impact Awards. We were the recipient of an award and a clip of Let’s Talk! was played.  That is how it all started.

Biggest hurdle you’ve confronted in trying to get your show on an English network?

Bel: Finding the big brand sponsor committed to supporting a show like ¡HOLA! LA has been the hurdle. This show speaks to all audiences, and to Latinos in particular.  Targeting a consumer group that spend $1.2 trillion dollar a year seem to be a no brainer.

 Six times the national average—the rate at which Latina entrepreneurs start businesses in the United States. Between 2002 and 2007 Latina-owned businesses represented the fastest-growing segment of the women-owned business market.

What does being a part of the ¡HOLA! LA host ensemble mean to you?

Bel: Being part of ¡HOLA! LA means that collectively as a group, we have brought to English network TV the only talk show with a Latina perspective, thanks to the forward thinking GM [Steve Mauldin] at KCBS L.A. who also felt it was time for a show like ¡HOLA! LA.

What do you say to people when they compare you to other English-language talk shows on the air now?

Bel: As format goes, of course we are a take off of other successful shows, however there is no other talk show that can boast having four professional, dynamic, smart and professional Latinas as hosts — so in that sense there is no comparison.

52 Million Latinos in the U.S.A.

Who would be your dream guest to have on ¡HOLA! LA?

Bel:  I have several — why settle for one?  Carlos Slim, Salma Hayek, Dolores Huerta, Pau Gasol, Elton John, Eva Longoria, Robert Rodriguez, Kobe Bryant, President Barak Obama, Michelle Obama. And, yes, even Marco Rubio… Don’t get me started… the list is never ending.

132.8 Million Projected Latino U.S. Population by 2050

Are you aware that you are an inspiration for many Latinas out there? What would you say to someone who is trying to get into the industry?

Bel: I don’t think of that. I do know, however that I wish a show like this had been around when I was growing up. But I am also reminded of that when I see a young person’s face light up when I tell them that ¡HOLA! LA is on KCAL9 and KCBS2. Or when we get an e-mail or Facebook post thanking us for finally doing a show like ¡HOLA! LA.

25 million —the number of women in the United States who identify as Hispanic or Latina according to the 2010 American Community Survey.

What is your favorite story that happened during one of the tapings of ¡HOLA! LA?

LetsTalk.1stshootBel: I have two favorite stories. One was when we taped our first shows for the web show, which were the precursor to ¡HOLA! LA—we taped in a furniture showroom. One person provided the lighting, the other the camera, the food, and we shot four episodes and promos, all in an 8-hour day! Then we had to put the furniture back in its place!

My other favorite story is walking onto the KCAL9 set at CBS and realizing that we were not in a furniture showroom anymore, but now it was at a major network with a top production team and partners and realized that the time is now for a show like ¡HOLA! LA.

 53,044—the number of businesses with paid employees that Latinas owned in 2007 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Those firms had a combined $39,556,475,000 in sales value, receipts, or shipments.

Your favorite inspirational quote or recipe for success?

Bel: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant? Actually, who are you not to be?” — Nelson Mandella Inaugural Speech, 1994, excerpt quote from Marianne Williamson. 

92 percent—the percentage of Latinas 18 years and younger who were born in the United States, according to the 2010 U.S. Census

¡HOLA! LA, the show with a twist of flavor, sabor with a strong shot of relevance—first show of the new season airs Saturday, March 30th, 7PM on KCAL9 and also on Sunday, April 7th, 4PM on KCBS.  Co-hosted by: Bel Hernandez Castillo, CEO & President/Publisher of Latin Heat, a print and online magazine; actress/comedienne Dyana Ortelli (Curb Your Enthusiasm); actress/green gal Kikey Castillo, and Emmy winning journalist Naibe Reynoso-Hodsden. The ladies will report on current trends, the latest happenings in Los Angeles, and a little bit about everything Hollywood.

Something You May Not Know About Bel:

I started my entertainment career as a Mexican Folk dancer. I was in a movie called Losin’ It with Tom Cruise and Jackie Earl Haley before they hit it big. I played Rosa opposite Christopher Reeves in Summer and Smoke at the Ahmanson. I met my husband, Enrique Castillo  doing my very first play—Zoot Suit—and, I was in the pilot season of Beverly Hills 90210 in a recurring role that never recurred. Then I left it all to start Latin Heat.

Bel Hernandez Castillo is the creator and co-executive producer (with her husband Enrique Castillo) and co-host of CBS/KCAL9 ¡HOLA! LA. She’s also President and CEO of Latin Heat Media, LLC, a multi-media company whose main focus is the production of high quality, profitable content focused on the U.S. Latino market. She is publisher of the only English-language entertainment trade magazine, which in 2012 celebrated its 20-year anniversary.

Ms. Hernandez Castillo served on the board of the prestigious George Foster Peabody Awards, which honor excellence in radio, television, and documentaries, the last year as first Latina Chairperson in the history of the Board. She co-authored the book, 8 Ways to Say I Love My Life. The chapters representing one woman’s inspiring story was adapted into monologues and performed at Josefina Lopez’s Casa 0101 Theater and went on to win an Imagen Award for Best Theatrical Production.


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Elia Esparza is a leading expert in communications and journalism targeting the burgeoning Hispanic market and has produced and written dozens of articles. President and CEO of Always Evolving PR and a Communications Specialist, Elia, incorporates her 18 years experience in the areas of entertainment and education public relations, and marketing. promotions, market research and translations (Eng/Span).

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