Venezuelan journalist Mariana Atencio talks to People CHICA about leaving NBC News to start an exciting new chapter of her career.

By Lena Hansen
January 03, 2020 11:42 AM

Award-winning Venezuelan journalist Mariana Atencio is used to covering impactful events — from the devastation in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian to the migrant caravan at the U.S. border — and she kicked off 2020 with some big news of her own. She spoke exclusively to People CHICA about leaving her three-year post as an NBC News correspondent to devote her energy to a fascinating new project. “I’m thrilled to announce that I’m spearheading my own production company, GoLike, along with my friend Mirna Couto, a veteran television producer who has been my mentor and business partner for the past six years,” she says. “Together we have over 30 years of experience in news and long-form in both English and Spanish, and have won a Peabody Award, a Murrow, an Emmy and a Cronkite, among others, but most importantly, there’s always a surprising, fresh and relevant take to every story we tell and everything we do.”

Atencio, 35, is staring the new decade producing exclusive multimedia Latinx content. “The interest in our content has blown us away!” she says. “We are already producing a TV pilot, writing a second book, pitching new show ideas and have so much more in the works that I’ll be sharing in the coming months. I’m proud to build a company led by two Latinas with the commitment to develop projects about our communities, for mainstream audiences. ¡Sí se puede!

The name of her new company derives from her famous #GoLikeMariana hashtag on Instagram. “GoLike happened organically,” Atencio explains. “As people began identifying it with impactful, positive storytelling, we saw a growing need for authenticity in media, regardless of platform. When I share my struggles, failures, victories — big or small — people connect to those raw emotions because they are real.”

That raw honesty will reflect in her new venture. “We are a 360 brand that wants to build bridges of understanding. When my first TEDx Talk went viral, I realized that my mission, my purpose, is to keep spreading goodwill through all available platforms to engage audiences wherever they are,” she says. “We are getting ready to launch more books, speaker series and original programming that will provide much-needed messages of unity in a time of division. With every story, I want to showcase a unique experience that may at first feel ‘foreign’ because the characters speak different languages or live in other countries or even continents, but as the narrative evolves it will become clear that we are all linked in our universal pursuit of peace and happiness.”

Her own personal experiences have paved the way for this turning point in her career. “My life has been a continuous crossover of sorts. From South to North America, from Spanish to English media, from traditional to new communication outlets, and through it all … I have seen our shared humanity,” she reflects. “Now, I want viewers to cross over with me to discover how much we all have in common.”

She puts her soul into every story and admits that covering world news can be devastating at times. “It was probably the crisis in Venezuela and my coverage of protests around the world, including Chile, Colombia and Hong Kong, that affected me the most,” she says of her reporting for NBC News last year. “I started out in journalism after protesting for democracy and free speech as a college student in Caracas. After we were tear-gassed and many of my classmates imprisoned or exiled, I set out to travel the world to give a platform to people raising their voices. I see myself, my family and friends in them. Whether I’m covering protests, politics or devastation, all my stories are told through that firsthand human lens.”

She knows she can also make a positive difference by shedding light on important issues. “My biggest wishes are to help my home country of Venezuela — undergoing a humanitarian crisis and where my mom, cousins and so many of my friends still live — and to empower my Latino community on what is bound to be a challenging political year,” she says. “I want to mentor young Latinx storytellers. If they can look at my story and be inspired to tell their own, I know I’m doing the right thing.”

The reaction to her autobiographical book Perfectly You has been astounding, too. “The most gratifying thing has been the tsunami of DMs and messages I get from people all over the world who are discovering what makes them special and embracing their authenticity,” she says. “In particular, people like Patricia who attended our book tour stop in Austin, and opened up to the group by saying the chapter on losing my father in the Venezuelan crisis helped her cope with the loss of her 12-year-old son, and understand how that ordeal made her perfectly suited to give back to the world.”

Atencio also hopes to give back by strengthening and uniting su gente through her powerful storytelling. “A big issue I advocate for is Latinx unity. We tend to tear each other down sometimes, because of the way we look, our diverse heritage or preferred use of language. None of that should matter!” she says. “If you identify as Hispanic, Latino/a or any other hyphenated Latin country–American — Mexican American, Cuban American — lend a helping hand to another Latinx, and that will create a ripple effect that will turn into a wave of positive influence and power for our people.”

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