Giovanna Aguilar: Latinas are changing the world Interview
by Carlos Arana for La Guia Cultural
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The Cultural Guide has always been willing to support Latin talent works in the creative fields. On this occasion, it is a great privilege to present an Ecuadorian-American filmmaker and businesswoman who is elevating the voices of Latin women: Giovanna Aguilar.
In an intimate conversation, Giovanna recounts the journeys of her career as a filmmaker, producer and businesswoman. Her career film projects such as the documentary When We Were Apollo and finance. Her professional achievements speak for themselves and also her great skill in any area that she chooses to perform, since she has also ventured into communications and marketing.
LGC: How did you become interested in cinema?
Giovanna: Since I was a child I was fascinated by cinema. Every year movies like: Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz were shown on television and I loved the experience of escaping into those stories full of characters and other worlds. And since I spent reading many novels, the movies offered me another dimension. At first, like until I was 20-something, I wanted to be an actress but later I discovered my passion for production as a producer.
LGC: You have extensive experience in other areas of work. How do you link them with the audiovisual world?
Giovanna: Yes, I work in marketing communications and as a writer on occasion covering various topics for clients usually C-Suite executives. And what I have observed is that everything, like the audiovisual, is a story. Each person, regardless of their title, is a human being who wants to connect with their audience, and in the best way that works for them. But the camera lens is what helps capture the authenticity of the person. Now I have launched with my partners, Hugo Almeida and Steven Aguilar (my brother) an e-commerce platform that offers natural products from South America, made in Ecuador; especially of social impact that offers many opportunities to learn more about the issues that affect the Amazon, the environment, and the beautiful culture from which products such as Enjoy & Live come from.
LGC: Your participation in big projects like When We Were Apollo and Dream Town says a lot about your preparation as a professional in the film world. What other projects have you participated in?
Giovanna: Right now, I'm producing another documentary that will air on PBS, (Public Broadcasting Service), it's called When We Were Shuttle. And it's about the impact NASA's Shuttle program had on Brevard County, Florida. It is very nice and special to have the participation of people in the community sharing their experiences. And I'm also developing a couple of scripts to direct. I love working with actors.
LGC: Reading your biography, I see your love for sharing stories that celebrate the human spirit through universal themes. What kind of project would you like to work on that you haven’t yet?
Giovanna: I would love to represent Latin stories that are not usually produced for the US market. For example, those experiences from the point of view of people who grew up in the suburbs of New York City during the 70s and 80s. There are very human themes of immigrant families who have also raised their families with effort, work and vision. And I would love to do a biography, for example of someone like Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina in space, who was on the Shuttle Discovery in the 90s. And I never want to work on a project that glamorizes drugs or narcos.
LGC: Apart from the seventh art, what other art are you passionate about?
Giovanna: I love visual art, especially oil. It is another world that teaches me to be patient and accept imperfection. Mixing colors is like finding characters, but unfortunately I haven't had the space to paint due to the paint and turpentine odors are strong.
LGC: What do you think of the great progress that the figure of Latin women in the US has had in the professional field, entertainment and politics?
Giovanna: I am very proud of my Latin sisters. We are intelligent, enterprising and walk toward our goals with tenacity. The most beautiful thing is to see how women show pride in their Latin roots while being honoring their values and love for their families. In the professional field, there are women CEOs like Nina Vaca who has taken her IT company, Pinnacle Group, to globally. In the entertainment industry, women like Salma Hayek are defying stereotypes and are a tremendous force of inspiration for new generations of talent. And in the field of politics, there is Catherine Cortez Maslo, the first Latina elected to the Senate in Nevada, and Nydia Velazquez, the first Puerto Rican to serve in Congress. But there is much, much more to advance in all these fields but I know that Latinas will accomplish successful feats beyond our communities. We can achieve growth and create opportunities not only for our Latino communities but for all communities at all levels– the employee, the artist, the individual. Anyone who deserves to have their voice represented.
LGC: In addition to being a director, producer and screenwriter, you are also an entrepreneur. Has having a business been a challenge for you? Giovanna: Entrepreneurship for me is celebrating part of my culture, of my family. My father, Marco, launched a cable company in Ambato, Ecuador and his father, my grandfather Eudoro Aguilar, had several coffee businesses from Zaruma, Ecuador. So, I grew up observing and appreciating his work and vision, as an idea he took forward, and his company and dad with the support and help of my mom.
LGC: Shop LOHAS World, an online marketplace dedicated to products aligned with a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. How did this idea come about and why?
Giovanna: I’ve always been interested in the environment and it was part of my academic studies in the 90s. I majored in political science and minored in energy and environmental studies. In Latin America, people are very aware of nature and respect it. And it is inspiring to see how they natural, organic food as just a staple of what they eat, and often from their own local farms or vegetable gardens. And now, it is fashionable in the United States but in Latin America it is simply, as in many parts of the world, a lifestyle. It is very important to be aware of what we consume, what is in our products and how our purchasing decisions and habits can help or protect our environment and provide economic opportunities for communities where our products come from.
Shop LOHAS World, is a way to celebrate our cultures with respect for the environment, from Venezuela to Argentina and other countries. And it’s amazing to share some of those experiences here to the United States for people to enjoy and become aware of. And for me it is very special that the first line of our ecommerce site Shop LOHAS World is Enjoy & Live, natural skin products with ingredients from the Amazon and the Andes.
A friend told me about Juanjo Cueva, the creator of the Enjoy & Live line, and that he went to study in South Korea and later developed the brand with the help of an American ex-pat living in Cuenca, Ecuador, who was a chemist at Shiseido cosmetic company. I loved the products as a customer and later we formed a company with my partners, Hugo Almeida and my brother, Steven Aguilar. We are three Ecuadorian-Americans who have not forgotten our roots and are living in two cultures that provide us with a mix of business opportunity and human responsibility.
LGC: How has the impact of LOHAS been?
Giovanna: Well, we launched LOHAS in February and we already have sales and our customers love the products. But of course, as a new brand we have a lot to do and believe in growing opportunities for our market. We plan to bring other brands dedicated to this space not only from Ecuador, but also from other countries with the same LOHAS approach (Lifestyle Of Health and Sustainability)
LGC: Has your cinematographic side been involved in LOHAS?
Giovanna: My dream is to travel to Ecuador and visit communities with social impact in the Andes and the Amazon to capture their stories and be able to share them to support them and also provide them with an entrepreneurial opportunity in the future, and through storytelling. A documentary would be amazing. This year I’m part of the team at the Ecuadorian Film Festival in New York City with a theme dedicated to the environment, which I believe is also a strong, relevant and necessary theme.
LGC: What message do you leave for those Latinos in the US who wish to undertake a project? We Latinos in the US demonstrate, every day, our ability to carry out our dreams. And I advise you to continue with each step moving forward and knowing that our community can provide support through professional and entrepreneurial organizations, as well as chambers of commerce. It is very important that they are proactive and seek the support of the community and people who can pave the way for them or be a mentor. Also, networking is essential. And don't forget to help and support other Latino entrepreneurs because influence can grow from our community.