Two-time Emmy Award-winning TV host, writer, content creator, and one of Cold Tea Collective’s 19 Asian Millennial Women You Should Know — these are just a few of the many titles to describe the talented Jackie Fernandez. Having departed from her long-time gig with ABC, the media powerhouse has found a new voice in her passion project, #Ghostwriters, an interactive TV series about women of colour navigating all the “isms” in an office environment. She draws inspiration from her own experience as an Asian American woman working in a white-dominant newsroom and her non-traditional career path forged by her voice of authenticity.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Listen to the full interview below and subscribe to our podcast on most streaming platforms
THE NON-TRADITIONAL PATH
“In my culture, they really push you to be a nurse,” Fernandez explained, as a first-generation Chinese Filipino. “It was definitely not the path I wanted to be on. For me, I wanted to be a writer. My parents really didn’t support that at all, so it was something I did secretly.”
Instead, Fernandez decided to pursue journalism in New York City. After graduating, she found herself back in Los Angeles, unemployed and feeling lost for a period of six to eight months.
“I even gave up on myself for a bit,” Fernandez confessed. Succumbing to the pressure from her family, she applied for a nurse recruiter job. Minutes from stepping into the interview, she glanced down at her phone and noticed a missed call from Washington, DC, for an interview with C-Span. Seizing this opportunity, Fernandez packed her bags and flew to the East Coast. During that trip, she eventually landed a role with ABC news, jumpstarting what would become a soaring career in television.
Fernandez shares some advice for aspiring journalists. “If you want to be in journalism, you don’t need to go the traditional route. Right now everything is your own brand online. So if you can create a niche for yourself and learn the tools that you need … and tell stories in a unique way, that’s going to get you hired.”
IN THE NEWSROOM
Once Fernandez became a sought after news anchor, her jobs shuttled her across the country to the cities of Greensboro, North Carolina; Cleveland, Ohio; and Tampa, Florida where Asian Americans were of a rarer variety, let alone those who were women in leadership positions.
“For a lot of these people, it was their first time encountering someone who looked like me and they had a lot of preconceived notions of what someone who looks like this should act like,” she recalled.
Fernandez was constantly being told that her tone was “too direct and harsh,“ even though her white male counterparts displayed a similar style. In response to the double standard, she pushed back and stayed true to her voice.
“I can tweak, but I won’t change who I am. If you’re someone in a space that’s encroaching on who you are fundamentally as a person, that’s the space you need to get out of,” Fernandez said.
A RISING TIDE
As Fernandez reflects on her journey, she is grateful for many people who have raised her up.
“Every person who really pushed me, kicked my butt or even gave me this opportunity was a person of colour,” Fernandez recollected. “Those people mature in their growth had the wherewithal to know that diversity is something that is so key and that they have the power to lift up other people and it doesn’t have to be their own specific race.”
Fernandez spoke to the power of collaboration and networking, praising the synergy within the Asian American entertainment community in Los Angeles that empowered her to conceive her new series.
As the momentum grows for expanding Asian American representation in Hollywood, Fernandez believes “the ones who are making it are in the school of thought that a rising tide lifts all boats.”
“We really want Asian Hollywood to be what Black Hollywood is now – they help each other out, they lift each other up,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez relates her personal journey to the creation of her breakthrough show, which she describes as The Office meets Insecure.
“I realized that past years I’ve had gave me the stories for this show. They added texture to my life. So I am grateful for that. And I know this path is meant to be — this winding road to where I finally am,” she said.
The trailer for Ghostwriters drops on April 29 and the show will officially launch on Instagram on May 13.
Follow @ghostwriterstv on Instagram.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Listen to the full interview below and subscribe to our podcast on most streaming platforms:
Executive Producer and Interviewer: Natasha Jung
Associate Producer: Tiffani Lee
Production and Editing: Andy Le
Making Asian American media
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