Fierce. Feminist. Influencer. Los Angeles-raised Karli Henriquez forged a path from radio to TV to the social media sphere. Today, she heads marketing for leading-edge tech company i.am+. Working at the intersection of lifestyle gadgets and pop culture, Henriquez scouts tech talent, innovators, and music makers—all while wielding a powerful social media presence. What better place for a Latina under forty to represent?
What does a day in the life look like for a director of music and influencer marketing?
Right now, we’re developing your future favorite artificial intelligence. I’ve been taking the lead on developing a network of global digital creators that are fans of the new media space. The creators I’m working with are young business moguls, entrepreneurs, tech journalists, and tech-savvy thought leaders. I try to stay on the pulse of whoever’s being innovative, whoever’s bringing something new to the table. On any given day, I could be releasing a zine with a top film photographer, I could be at the Grammys with an emerging artist, or I could be speaking at a local panel discussion on the importance of diversity in the tech space.
You’re known as an authority among influencers. How has influencer marketing evolved over the years?
The word ‘influencer’ is a new concept; it started with new media. People are just beginning to understand the value behind microcampaigning and microactivating with digital influencers—investing in a celebrity each time you want to promote a new product or brand is slowly becoming a thing of the past. It’s still so new, and explaining it is not easy. Sometimes people don’t understand the value of these types of marketing investments until they take the risk. Once you see an influencers’ insights and digital reach, you will be very impressed. The digital media space can be very boutique, geo-curated, and make impact in a big way.
How does it feel to be a Latina operating in this emerging tech space?
It’s really important for me to be in the room, because the amount of Latinas in these tech conversations are very limited. One of the main things I realized at a young age is the lack of diversity in entertainment and tech at large. I knew I had the responsibility to pave the way in areas I had the power to change.
So, how do you leverage your position to drive positive change?
I leverage my position by exposing it to young women that are interested in exploring careers in entertainment and technology. I currently have three Latina interns. No shade, no tea—but those are my people. I mentor young women utilizing my personal social channels, locally with once-a-month meet-ups, and I have a podcast in the works that will reach a bigger community of people. Stay tuned for that.
When you were growing up, did you ever imagine you’d have your own media platform?
I was raised in a very traditional home, with first-generation parents, so it made everything tough. My father is Colombian, and my mother is Salvadoran. Most of our parents come to this country with a set of roles and limitations, and you’re raised to believe that this is as far as it goes. When I was younger, no one was telling me I could have a career in music or tech. I had three options: being a nurse (not even a doctor), a banker, or a wife.
A New Venture
Karli Henriquez is partnering with Marc De Jesus to launch a new agency, Know Alias, in 2019. The duo bring more than fifteen years of experience to the startup, described as an artist management, tour management, and brand development agency. “We’re very excited to see where this new business venture takes us,” Henriquez says.
When did you break through from your traditional anchors?
At twenty-one, I moved out of my parents’ house. It almost gave my grandmother a heart attack, but it was the best move I ever made for myself. That’s the moment when I truly became independent. I said to myself, “OK, Karli, you wanted your freedom. Now, what are you going to do with it?”
I got hired by iHeartMedia and wasn’t really aware of the access I was getting—to concert tickets, red carpet events, and more. I’m proud of myself for not going in the wrong direction, and I give my family credit for that. When the opportunity to become an MTV VJ came around, that’s when the real access and money came. One regret is that I wish I had done something with the money I made at such a young age. I hope to one day offer better financial tools to our community of young creators/entrepreneurs.
Any career regrets so far?
I’ve made many mistakes—one of them is trusting people who really didn’t want the best for me. But it allowed me to realize the type of people I wanted in my life and the types of conversations I wanted to be a part of. I got scrutiny for not being at every single party in my early twenties, but it helped me to filter out which ones were to my benefit.
To succeed in this business, it’s a science: you have to identify your path. So I told myself, “You have to represent your community, make your family proud and you can’t be wasting your time.” As the saying goes, “Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres.” The moment you start to spend time with people who are not as driven as you, you begin to get uninspired and lazy.
Thankfully, my man, my friends, and my family have been a great support system. My sister, Emely, keeps it real for me all the time; she’s the greatest gift my parents gave me.
How did you cultivate such an impressive social media following?
Working for KIIS FM in Los Angeles and hosting an MTV show, I gained a lot of followers. My followers on Instagram have been there for me since day one, and they’re just wanting to see me win. I love them! A large group of my follower count are women, mostly Hispanic. They’ve grown with me. The more candid and transparent I become in sharing my fears, my failures, and accomplishments, the more they value sharing that digital relationship with me.
At what point did you realize that you had finally arrived?
I’m not there yet. When I’m at Oprah’s house picking vegetables with her—that will be the moment I’ve arrived. For now, all I can say, to myself and my followers, is: “Chill, girl, you got it under control. Enjoy the journey—it’s not all going to happen at once.”
See our “Follow the Influencer” photo essay featuring Karli Henriquez ⟶
Our full list of 2019 Leading Latinas ⟶
Conversations at the Top: Zoe Saldana ⟶