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Kennysha Woods | Managing Staff
In celebration of Latinx Heritage Month, Curly Velasquez delivered the keynote speech in the Witherspoon Campus Cinema on Sept. 27. He is a renowned content creator and video producer from the digital media company Buzzfeed, and works on Pero Like, one of Buzzfeed’s entertainment divisions that launched in February 2016 as a Facebook and YouTube channel.
“Pero Like is Buzzfeed’s Latinx channel that addresses issues, stereotypes and complex identities that make up our diverse community,” Velasquez explained at the start of his speech. “One of the things that we’ve always wanted to do was to make sure that everyone is seen.”
The Latinx Heritage Month Planning Committee developed this event with coordination from Multicultural Student Affairs and collaboration from other organizations like Mi Familia, RAVE Events and various Latin sororities and fraternities on campus.
Attendees from NC State, surrounding schools and even farther out—one attendee even drove in from Charlotte, NC—filled up about three-fourths of the cinema seats. Tickets were sold out, according to the event RSVP page.
Natalien Zepeda-Molina, a second-year studying business administration, said she came to the speech because she’s a big fan of Velasquez and Buzzfeed: “I’ve been watching Curly for I don’t know how long.”
The speech centered on the progression of Velasquez’s career to becoming a video producer on Pero Like and how he uses that platform to amplify good representations of Latinx people in the media and to strengthen the community.
“We’re Latinx creators that create content for the Latinx consumer,” Velasquez said. “Always for and by Latinx people.”
Velasquez began working at Buzzfeed as a receptionist-turned-kitchen staff member. “One of the things that my dad always told me was as Latinos, it was important for us to be to always be the best at what we do.
“I would get on my skateboard. I would go down the middle of the studio and I would yell, ‘Ah-ooo! Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Monday’s lunch! Today we’re having spaghetti! Don’t come to me, I’ll come to you! I’ll let you know when the food is ready!’”
Velasquez added, “And they listened.”
From there, Velasquez was featured in his very first video and subsequently included in more. He then moved to the Shorter Than Short Form team before finally joining Pero Like as their very last addition.
“I’m the only person in Buzzfeed history to have moved from the kitchen to a video producer,” he said.
But the inception of Pero Like wasn’t met without initial difficulties. “We were faced with a lot of unique challenges that a lot of other Buzzfeed creators didn’t have to go through,” Velasquez said.
To garner high view counts consistently across the channel, the team needed to have authentic material, humor, street cred, relatability and political discussions—a combination that Velasquez noted is very unique to content created by people of color (POC).
“As a POC and content creator, I have to be a voice,” Velasquez said. The team has to balance its role as a space for light-hearted, fun and relatable content like “What’s the Sexiest Spanish Accent,” with its utility as a platform for more serious issues, such as Latinx people being discriminated against for speaking Spanish in public.
From “5 Spanish Words that are Impossible to Translate” to “What Afro-Latinas Want You To Know,” Pero Like hosts a plethora of content that allows people to see themselves, invites people to learn about Latinx history and culture, promotes genuine inclusion, gives underrepresented voices a place to speak and instills a sense of pride in the Latinx community. The channel has garnered over 957,000 subscribers and 207 million views.
“The Latinidad experience is so grand and so big,” Velasquez said, “and we wanted everybody to be able to see their raindrop within the ocean and who we are as a people.”
The speech concluded with a Q&A session in which attendees asked Velasquez about topics like content creation, the importance of supporting your fellow creators and being an ally to the Latinx community.
Dora Gonzalez, a fourth-year studying communications, said this wasn’t an event she would’ve missed for anything. “I almost didn’t come because I have three exams next week,” Gonzalez said, “but then I said, ‘when am I ever going to see him again?’”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Natalien Zepeda-Molina was a first-year student.