The communications director for the Latino Victory Project tells People Chica how she is building political power for the Latino community.
Johanny Adames, Latino Victory Project
Johanny Adames, Latino Victory Project
| Credit: Camilo Linares

Johanny Adames is a trailblazer in her own right. Her life's goal is to empower her community's voice and ensure that it has a seat at the decision-making table.

Prior to joining the Latino Victory Project, the Dominican communications strategist served as the first national spokesperson for Latino media at Planned Parenthood. Now, she aims to build political power that reflects Latinos' voices and values within the U.S. government.

In an exclusive interview with People Chica, she talks about her role, the importance of proper representation for Latinos and why Latinas in power are more important than ever before.

Johanny Adames, Latino Victory Project
Johanny Adames, Latino Victory Project
| Credit: Camilo Linares

What inspired you to get into this line of work?

It was my upbringing. Being an immigrant here and understanding that there is a hunger for information in our community. Our community is in need of trusted sources and information from people who look like them, sound like them and understand this country. [Someone that will] resonate with them. And I'm not talking about just me, I'm talking about my colleagues—people who work on issue-advocacy or [for] a government entity who are providing information in Spanish. We sound like the community because we are a part of the community. We do this work because it is a way of giving back to Latinos.

How did you get involved with the Latino Victory Project?

We were right in the middle of the 2020 elections and my boss, Nathalie Rayes, came to lead the organization. I was working at Planned Parenthood back then, doing Latino communications, too. She said she had an opportunity to create real lasting change by electing Latinos into public office.

I knew the work I was going to be doing was going to be impactful and it was going to be the kind of change I had always been advocating for in all our capacities. Coming here and being able to do so much in just a year has just been amazing and critical for me as a professional and a Latina in the United States.

You have been working hard at this for a very long time. Ten years ago you showed up at the DNC and represented Latinos there. What was your experience with that like?

It was life changing. I was at a community college [Miami Dade College] and the campaign reached out to me. I filled out a form online to be a volunteer for the Obama campaign in Miami—my hometown. I had written something about being able to afford college due the Pell Grant, the program that had been expanded by the president then.

The moment I saw I was getting my hair done next to Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi was surreal. I was sitting next to the most powerful woman in the United States and I told her I was nervous. She said "Darling, don't be nervous."

It taught me a lot. It doesn't matter who you are or what position you hold, if you can make someone feel better, [do it]. That has stayed with me the whole time and throughout my career. The Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States told me not to be nervous—and it made me feel better. I learned that words have meaning. How you treat people and how you make people feel is very, very important.

Johanny Adames
Credit: Photo by: Camilo Linares

What would you tell other chicas out there who may want to make a change in their community but don't know how to do it?

Thinking about it is the first step. Figuring out what they want to do to support the Latino community is key. I'd say look at yourself, look at your own skills—what are you good at? What are the things you feel are your contribution [to] the Latino community? For me it was my ability to communicate and understand our system, and distill that for people. Do some soul searching first: "what is it that I'm good at? What am I going to enjoy doing?" Use it as an anchor.

Our community needs to own our talents and our skills, and understand we can learn along the way. We already have so much in us, but just because we feel like it doesn't look like or sound like what "professionals" are supposed to be like we shy away. I want us to understand that we need to show the world how to be a Latina, a badass, a chingona and be you. Bring your full self into your path, career and who you want to be.

Now more than ever we are seeing how Latinas need to show up and be seen. What are your thoughts on that?

Latinas are running for office more than ever before. It tells you that we're still a young community in terms of demographic. We have a long way to go, but we're expanding our political power.

We need more Latinas at the table in board rooms, nonprofits [and to run] for office. [We need more Latinas to] just take the first step and trust [their] instinct and believe in [themselves]. We need more Latinas to be ok with the attention. Take all the space that we need. That whole "calladita te ves mas bonita" (you look better when you are quiet) mentality is so dangerous. Just say yes and do it and believe that you can do it.