Assimilation with Nancy Reyes

Since it's Thursday, we had to do a throwback to an episode of the ¿Quién Tú Eres? podcast that went viral a few weeks ago. 

In this episode, we have a vulnerable and candid conversation with Nancy Reyes about the difficult experiences she had growing up in New York in the 70s and 80s, a time when she had to assimilate and suppress her Latin side to fit in. She tells us how assimilation impacted her life and that she is now working to reclaim her authentic self.

Nancy Reyes is currently the CEO of TBWA\Chiat\Day NY, an award-winning advertising agency based in NY. And, throughout her career, she has helped develop brands and has dedicated efforts to push a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion agenda within the marketing industry.

 

These are some of the episode highlights:

 

"Back then, to be singled out was a bad thing and you did not want to stand out." -Nancy Reyes

Nowadays, as people are more open about their stories, others feel inspired to share and express who they are, as these younger generations are more accepting than our previous ones. But that was not the case for Nancy, who comes from a generation that needed to assimilate to survive.

For Nancy, as a kid and teenager, this meant stripping off anything that would indicate to others that she was different. It meant keeping her head low and adopting behaviors that allowed her to blend in, like perfecting her English and getting rid of her accent or performing for others with the voice of Rosie Perez at their request.

 

"I just needed to be given permission... a door needed to be open." -Nancy Reyes

When we've suppressed ourselves for so long, it can be hard to open up again. Maybe we’ve been burned in the past, or we’ve been mocked or ignored. But then, someone comes along and dares to show themselves authentically, or someone does or says something that tells us, “You know what? I can bring out more of myself. I can share. I can use my voice." In Nancy’s story, that door opening came in the form of her boss, who noticed she would not speak and share her ideas in a brainstorming meeting. Her boss said to her, "We want to hear you. We want to hear your voice." And that was all she needed to feel welcomed. And from then on, with that door opened, she never looked back! She re-discovered the power of her voice.

 

"If I had to say what is my authentic self... Right this second, it is the exploration of who I am." -Nancy Reyes

For some people, it becomes clear who they are as their authentic selves as they grow older, but that does not happen to everyone. Growing older is not always synonym to having everything figured out because we continue to discover new parts of ourselves, shed old layers, and evolve.

Depending on our background, it might not have been easy or the best choice for us at the time to bring out our authentic selves. For some of us, assimilation was necessary. It was about survival at first, but sometimes without realizing it, that assimilation version of us becomes us.

For Nancy, after spending so many years being the person she was shaped into as a product of assimilation, the journey to being her authentic self is not clear at the moment. But she remains curious, open, and patient in this process, and she has the support of her peers as she dives deep to get reacquainted with her authentic self.

***

Nancy inspires us to continue to explore what authenticity means for us.

Listen to the full episode episode to learn more about her journey: Spotify & Apple Podcasts

Connect with Nancy on LinkedIn

Have a story to share? Let us know here for an opportunity to be featured in the podcast!