For decades, she was known as the epitome of Latina success.
Hailed by observers as a human dynamo, a force of nature and a visionary all rolled into one, Nely Galan became America's first Latina media mogul, appearing in the cover of the New York Times Magazine, heading Telemundo and producing TV shows from the East Coast to Latin America.
Wealthy and living comfortably from real estate ventures, Galan decided to take a sabbatical and go back to school and earned a degree in clinical psychology about the same time the recession decimated a chunk of the national economy. During those days, she joined the Coca-Cola board.
"I asked why am I on this board?" Galan recalls. Someone answered her: "Because Latinas are the fastest-growing entrepreneurs in America."
Her dissertation on Latinas in the U.S. caught the attention of Coca Cola, which led to a partnership that created Adelante, a movement geared toward empowering Latinas into becoming entrepreneurs.
"A lot of our husbands had lost their jobs in the bad economy and Latinas were rising to the occasion, starting businesses. But we really didn't have the proper training or information, we didn't know there were government contracts for us or diversity suppliers, or franchisers that wanted us," Galan recalls.
In 2012, Galan launched the Adelante Movement, which is geared toward empowering Latinas by helping them become businesspersons. In addition to giving talks herself, Galan brought in well-known heavyweight figures like Rigoberta Menchu and Sandra Cisneros, giving everyday Latinas the chance to hear powerful speakers that otherwise they would not have access to.
The making of a Latina mogul
Long before she became the leader of an empowerment Latina movement, Nely Galan started out as a young, Cuban-American girl interested in media. She was born Arnely Alvarez in Santa Clara Cuba; her parents brought her to the states in 1965, when she was two years old.
She grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey. Her fist written piece was published by Seventeen Magazine on why not send a young lady to an all-girls Catholic school, which led her parochial school to kick her out but garnered her valuable experience as that publication's youngest editor.
At 22 she was working hard at a New York TV station as its youngest manager, she recalls, "killing myself like we all do" when she learned that the company was being sold. She calls it her "aha moment."
"Young lady, those are my chips. Go get your own chips," Galan recalls her boss...