Imagine stepping into a foreign country at the age of twenty to vacation with your family like you had done several times before. It was supposed to be a perfect holiday full of fun, but somehow, you got separated from everyone else, lost everything, and became a homeless immigrant in one bad turn of fate.
In 2001, when Venezuelan-born news anchor and journalist, Paula Lamas, found herself all alone with no contacts or means of livelihood in Florida, she knew it was time to be a survivor and not a victim. Paula, 40, is a versatile news anchor, radio presenter, and journalist currently working at Univision Seattle and KOMO News Talent. Throughout her stellar 18-year career in journalism in the United States, Paula has worked with several high-flying news stations and TV channels including CNN Latino Miami, CNN Spanish, and Fox Business News. She has also been a news correspondent for NTN24, RCN Colombia, and Noticiero Venevision.
Alongside being the first Latina to ever be nominated for Best News Anchor in the Pacific Northwest, Paula is the first Venezuelan to ever win the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award. She is also recognized as a pace-setter for Latin-American journalists as the first Spanish-speaking presenter to report in English. Paula has become a beacon of motivation to every Latina woman and multicultural dreamer striving to make a difference in America.
When Paula was forced to remain in the U.S. and fend for herself, she got a job working as a host in a luxury restaurant from 6 pm to midnight every day. Eventually, she was able to enroll herself in a journalism class at the University of Miami. She took her studies very seriously and one day, the teacher invited every student to take up internship positions at Radio Caracol, a prestigious Latin-American radio station with studios in Miami.
“The call was for 4 am but out of the entire class, I was the only one who showed up,” Paula recalls. “I was holding down both the restaurant job and radio internship at the same time. The radio didn’t pay at the beginning and I just slept only three hours each day. I didn’t mind much as I loved to learn and I wanted to take advantage of all the time as much as I could. I thought then that I could return to Venezuela at any time. Perhaps, when the political situation got better.”
Tough decisions for the bigger picture
As Paula’s visa neared its expiry date, the programming director at the radio station offered to help her secure a permanent residency in the United States.
“I knew it was a blessing, but then it meant more uncertainty about when I would be able to return to my country,” Paula explained. “Also, there was another big challenge in front of me. I had to resign from the restaurant where I was earning good money. However, I eagerly resigned from the restaurant and focused just on radio, even when my starting salary was $500 a month. It was hard but not impossible.”
She made the bold decision to leave a well-paying job live on her meager radio salary. However, she had a solid plan in mind. Paula learned everything she could about radio journalism from some of the best presenters at the time. She continued thriving at the station until a greater opportunity came her way.
She got her first chance to be on national TV when a producer from Fox Business News connected with her for a feature in 2009. She was requested to join a news discussion in her full identity as a Venezuelan national to provide insights on the political situation of her country.
“I was afraid and ashamed of my level of English and one of the field producers told me ‘if I can understand you, America will’, and that marked one of the most powerful moments of my life,” she said. “I learned to never be afraid or ashamed of being a Latina, or of speaking English with an accent. After I participated in the production that day, they invited me to be a Latin-American news correspondent in Happy Hour at the Fox Business News show.”
Building character and an unwavering reputation
After nearly seven years at the radio station, Paula felt she had so much more to offer and without a backup plan, she resigned from her position at the station. She was unemployed for three months until she landed another job as a reporter at a small TV station.
However, her reputation preceded her as she began to get freelance jobs all over the place until her luck shined for the better.
“One day, someone suggested that I apply to CNN in Miami,” Paula recounted. “I did it, and to my surprise, they called me three hours later and made me a collaborator. From that position, I rose to reporter and then News Anchor for 6 am and noon editions.”
For the past 18 years, Paula has worked with countless media outlets and now holds a respectable news anchor position at Univision Seattle and KOMO News Talent.
Her years of scaling a journalism career in the US has not been without their struggles. As a woman of color, Paula attests to have witnessed a lot of racist and sexist encounters throughout her stay. However, as she has learned, there’s always a better option. “Respect yourself, fight and go forward or remain a victim for the rest of your life.”
Paula distinguishes herself as the news anchor with a lot of positive vibes as she has learned over the years to always listen intently to the guest, project emotional transitions in a relatable way, and always carry out her research on topics before coming on air.Paula has certainly come a long way from the young girl with nothing but a bag and winter clothes in Florida. She said: “I’m the perfect example that your dreams can surely come true in the US!”