“I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.” – Lucille Ball.
This week’s INFLUENSER of the Week is the uber talented actor, writer and content creator Jenny Lorenzo. You may know Jenny as the beloved Abuela character that has garnered millions of views online along with her relatable, Latino-based content seen through the comedic and nostalgic lens of a 1st generation Cuban-American. But she’s also one of the original co-founders of BuzzFeed’s Pero Like, has worked with various brands such as Amazon, Netflix, DiGiorno, NASCAR. Has a podcast called Hyphenated with fellow comedian, Joanna Hausmann, and is co-host of the official Disney+ YouTube channel called, What’s Up, Disney+. With everything she has going on, we are so grateful she took the time to give us an in-depth look at what life is like as a Latinx content creator/actor living in LA. She shares about her day to day struggles, accomplishments , gets transparent about working with brands, and how being resilient has been one of the keys to her success—“not everything you create will be gold but do it anyway. It’s the only way you’ll truly learn and grow as a creator
Do you see yourself as an “influencer”, and if so, what does that mean to you?
I call myself an actor/writer/content creator. I have found that because the word “influencer” can have a negative connotation attached to it, that associating myself with that label has, in the past, diminished the work I do in others’ eyes. That does not mean I look down on those who do identify as influencers. It’s just not for me and the work that I do.
When did you start creating content on social media, and what was your motivation for getting started?
I started making content for the internet on an official and professional level back in 2011 for Aggressive Comix after I had just graduated from film school. I met the owner of AC, Rich Cassidy, at my very first San Diego Comic-Con and we both kept in touch and worked together remotely on the channel where I had a segment called Geekgasm. It was pretty different from what I do today as I mainly focused on geek pop culture and discussed all things ranging from movies to video games. I was motivated to get started for several reasons. But I would say the most significant motivating factor was to create my own path seeing as I didn’t check the right boxes as a Latina actress when it came to auditions. It’s why I chose to go to film school. To learn how to wear multiple hats to tell my own stories and cast myself in roles that suited me as an actor.
How did you find your own voice in the space?
I knew I wanted to be a comedian since I was ten years old. It’s what my entire upbringing centered around. Of course, comedy is broad, and it took me a while to figure out my niche. There was a point during my time working on Geekgasm where I started to include my Cuban-American identity via the Cuban Abuela character. It was a bit of an odd inclusion seeing as my audience demographic at the time was majority white male. But when I moved to Los Angeles and started working at BuzzFeed in 2015, I noticed a severe lack of Latino content, and that’s how Pero Like eventually came to be. A small team of people and I combined forces to bring about this much-needed representation. This was a significant turning point for my career. When I realized what I’m destined to do in this industry, it represents Latinos and, specifically, Cubans living in Miami.
Who is your primary audience, and what do you think keeps them coming back to your channels?
According to the analytics across all social platforms, my primary audience is 73% women, and the majority are of Latin origin. But what I love is that my audience is multi-generational, which means that anyone ranging from Gen Z to Baby Boomers is watching my stuff. Of all generations, however, millennials are at the top, which makes sense seeing as I’m also a millennial. But the fact that my content transcends generations and even nationalities is a big deal to me. I make my content as specific and authentic as possible, and by doing so, I still manage to attract people who don’t even speak Spanish or have an ounce of Latino heritage. They still relate, which says a lot about Hollywood’s apparent apprehension when telling too many authentic Latino stories. If you try to be too general, you lose the audience it’s intended to represent, and you also lose the audience you’re trying to bring into your world. All in all, what I believe keeps people coming back to my videos is the level of detail and authenticity that I bring to them. I have an entire attic space dedicated to my costumes, props, wigs, jewelry, kitchenware, home decor, etc., for the sake of being as accurate as possible. And love. I put so much love into my work. Into these characters. And I know my audience can feel that. It’s something truly special.
In what way does being a multicultural, Latinx, affect your content and make your connection with your audience stronger?
I specifically tailor my content towards those who live in that hyphen. For example, I live in the hyphen between Cuban and American. I speak English, Spanish, and Spanglish. I was raised on croquetas and merengue, but I also love me some good bluegrass folk tunes and Dunkaroos. It’s what the American experience is for those of us who are children of immigrants or immigrants themselves. And thanks to social media platforms, many creators like myself can reach audiences who feel seen in our work, especially since there’s just not enough accurate representation in mainstream media. We’re getting there, but we have a long way to go.
Do you think it’s harder for Latinx creators and influencers to be taken seriously or noticed?
Unfortunately, my answer is a big whoppin’ yes to this one. Not only are we still not taken seriously in mainstream media, but the struggle even exists in digital spaces. When I started to push for Latino content at BuzzFeed, it wasn’t as easy as it looked on the outside. It took a lot of hard work and convincing the higher-ups that our stories were worthy and that there was an audience ready to consume these videos. It was probably one of the most rewarding yet stressful periods of my life. We were the underdogs who feared that the rug would be pulled from under us at any moment, which is why we had to work ten times harder than most producers at the company. There came the point where I produced nine to eleven videos in a month when the average producer quota was four. A more recent example is that Instagram isn’t featuring bilingual Reels, which explains why my growth has been stunted. Most of my content is bilingual. And it’s disheartening and unfair. Each platform has a lot of work to do when helping creators of underrepresented groups grow and thrive.
Which social platforms do you prefer?
My preferred platform constantly changes for me. I will always have a soft spot for YouTube as that is where I got my start as a content creator and opened so many doors for me. Overall, I love Instagram the most despite its many flaws when it comes to content creators who make hyphenated content. And speaking of “Hyphenated,” that’s actually the name of my podcast with Joanna Hausmann. So the podcast is indeed an excellent medium that I’m really digging into right now—a new and exciting way to connect with my audience, who I see as distant relatives.
Do you work with brands? Can you share any brands or campaigns you have worked on that you are particularly fond of?
Since going solo as a content creator a few years ago, I’ve worked with many brands as that is my bread and butter or, shall I say, pan con mantequilla. Some of my favorite brand partnerships have been with Snicker’s, Nascar Latino, Disney, ConTodo Netflix, Chevy, Frito Lay, DiGiorno, Totino’s and Navarro Pharmacy. A fun fact about Navarro is that it’s a local pharmacy chain in Miami that is truly a staple in the community. They approached me in 2020 to make some local holiday TV commercials from home, which was a challenge considering the pandemic, but me and my producing partner, Kevin Bosch, pulled it off. We’re super proud of our work on it! Overall, when it comes to branded content, I make sure that the brand falls in line with my values. I work hard to ensure that the content is as funny and relatable as possible to ensure that my audience enjoys it, just like any other video of mine.
What are your thoughts on working with brands to make ends meet? What about other sources of income, such as Patreon, Cameo, or other paid membership based subscription perks for your followers?
I think that it is absolutely essential for content creators to utilize brand partnerships, Patreon, Cameo, and other paid membership-based subscription services to not only pay their bills but to continue to do what they love. If it weren’t for these mediums, I wouldn’t be able to work for myself. I wouldn’t be able to make such authentic content on my own terms for my audience. In addition to the companies mentioned, I also sell merchandise on TeeSpring, another fantastic resource for creators to make extra income.
How do you select brands you work with?
So far, 100% of the time, a brand approaches me first, and that’s when I involve my talent manager to discuss and negotiate. I have reached out to a couple of brands in the past. Brands that I feel fall in line with my content and characters, but so far, nothing has come to fruition when I’ve gone that route. But when brands approach me, I make sure to do my research and make sure this is a brand that falls in line with my personal brand and values.
What would be your dream brand partnership?
One of my dream partnerships would be with Kraft Mac and Cheese, mainly because a huge part of Laritza’s personality revolves around that dish. Ha! I would also LOVE to partner with Walt Disney World theme parks! ‘Cause, I mean, duh.
What do you wish brands knew when they work with influencers or when they approach you as an influencer?
I think any agency/brand that reaches out to an influencer should do their research and thoroughly get to know the content creator and their work. This automatically makes it easier to work together. Thankfully, most agencies/brands that have worked with me already knew of my work and what I was capable of doing, which has been fantastic! I think it’s important to trust the creator because they know their audience best. When a brand has tried to take too much control, a lot of the video’s humor would get lost, which resulted in poor engagement.
How do you maintain your authentic voice in your channels while still partnering with brands?
I always make sure that the videos are just as funny and relatable as any other video despite having brand integration which has been the key to my success with branded content. Thankfully, my audience has taken note of that, and I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from them!
Do you like to collaborate with other creators? If so, what are some of those creators you’ve collaborated with?
Collaborating with creators who fall in line with your brand and sense of humor is always so much fun. My favorite collaborators, hands down, are the Chonga Girls Mimi and Laura! We’ve collaborated in our videos and on the UCB Sunset stage and Miami’s Magic City Casino, where we performed to a sold-out audience of over seven hundred people. It’s fantastic when you get to work with other hilarious character actresses. It’s absolutely magical every single time. And working with Laura, specifically, when she plays Abuela’s frenemy, Mirta is just *chefs kiss*. The best. Simply the best. Another favorite collaboration of mine has been with Miami comedian Mario Ramil. He flew to LA for a Facebook Creator event back in 2018, and within a few hours, we came up with a concept about Cubans and their obsession with dominoes. Still one of my favorite videos to date! I would love to collaborate with Laura Clery, LeJuan James, and the Christi Show! I’m currently working on a collab with Haitian comedian Success Jr.
What does a typical day in your week look like?
Every day is different and having adult ADHD adds that extra layer of disorganized fun! Haha! But there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t work. If I’m not writing, I’m acting, and if I’m not acting, I’m having a brainstorming session with my producing partner, Kevin. And if I’m not doing any of those things, I’m editing. And suppose I’m not working on any creative aspect of my content. In that case, I’m working on my social media platforms, responding to comments, auditioning for voice over work, recording on my podcast, recording VO for the animated shows I’m on, or filming for the Disney+ show I currently host on called, What’s Up, Disney+? I, uh, do a lot. And it’s great. And exhausting. But mostly great. Keep in mind; I always make time for my husband, close friends, my doggie, Delilah. And I make sure to call my parents often throughout the week. I don’t let work consume the people that mean most to me.
If you were to give someone advice who is thinking about getting into content creation, social media and the world of influencing, what would it be?
My advice is to keep going and not let fear hold you back. Just because I’m doing the thing doesn’t mean I’m any less scared. This career path is terrifying but incredibly rewarding, which ties in with my favorite quote that I’ll be mentioning below. Not everything you create will be gold but do it anyway. It’s the only way you’ll truly learn and grow as a creator.
Tell me about a time when you really impacted someone’s life with your social media content. What was the result?
Over the years, people have written to tell me that they made a massive career change or followed their dreams or pursued acting, writing, content creation because of my videos and my journey. Many people who have also lost their grandparents, specifically, have turned to my videos for comfort. And those who moved away from home have turned to my content to stay connected to their roots. It’s all truly amazing and I’m so grateful to receive messages like this.
What have been your keys to success?
Determination, pushing past the negative voice in my head telling me that I’m an imposter, not letting fear hold me back, working outside of my comfort zone.
Talk about the biggest failure you’ve had. What did you learn from it?
It’s hard to think about one specific failure when this career path is a collection of mini failures and a whole lotta rejection. But what I learn every time is that one must be resilient. Feel all the feels, cry and move on. Sometimes these failures are attributed to your own shortcomings. So I sign up for classes to sharpen my skills. Other times, it has nothing to do with you or your talent. It’s just the nature of the business. And it’s important to be kind to yourself. It can get really rough out there.
If social media did not exist, what would you be doing right now?
I would still be acting and writing. Probably doing a lot more theatre and live performance. And most likely creating short films or features for the festival circuit.