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Galán, Nely - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Chronology: Nely Galán, Social and Economic Impact

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Galán Entertainment


By the time she was 30, Nely Galán had signed production deals with HBO Independent Productions and Fox Television to produce television and film products for the Latino market. She made her broadcasting debut when she was 18 on a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) news show for teens called Checking It Out. At the age of 22 she was the youngest station manager in the United States at WNJU-TV, New Jersey’s top Spanish-language television station. When she was 25 she created and hosted Bravo, a television talk show originating in Philadelphia that featured Latino guests and was eventually shown on more than 30 different stations. In 1990 she set up her first production company, Tropico Communications. She relocated to the West Coast in 1992 after signing a production deal with HBO, then went to Fox in 1994.

Personal Life

Nely Galán was born Nely Alvarez in 1964 (some sources say 1963) in Cuba to Arsenio and Nelida Alvarez. The family moved from Cuba to the United States and settled in Teaneck, New Jersey. Galán attended the Catholic all-girl Academy of the Holy Angels in Demarest, New Jersey, about an hour from her home.

In a Vogue interview, she said “I arrived in the United States at age three and grew up wanting both to live up to the old-world expectations of my parents and to fit in with the customs of my new homeland.” Her parents assumed that as much as they had done Nely would marry, stay home, and have children. but Galán had another vision for her future. She wanted to be a writer.

A “wimpy, quiet kid,” according to her own account, she underwent a change in attitude when she was 15. Having learned English well, she impressed the nun who was her English teacher with a short story she had written, and it was read aloud in class. Later the nun charged her with plagiarism, simply on the grounds that a young girl could not have written such a good story. Galán retaliated by writing another story, this one a satire about a Catholic all-girls school, and sent it off to Seventeen magazine. While the essay was not published, the editors liked the piece and the magazine invited her to be a guest editor. She felt vindicated for the unwarranted accusation of plagiarism and gained a new confidence.

Her guest editorship turned into a full-time job hiring models for fashion spreads in the magazine. Her contacts resulted in a job offer from the Elite modeling agency, and the 17 year old Galán went to Paris to help coordinate talent for fashion shows there. When she was 18, the precocious teenager married Hector Galán, a documentary filmmaker. They were divorced after four years of marriage.

Career Details

Galán’s broadcast career began when she was 18 years old. She was the host of Checking It Out, a teen-oriented news show on PBS. While working for the show, she spent two years traveling throughout the United States, interviewing guests and filming stories. Recognizing the power of television, Galán wanted to become a producer. At the age of 20 she went to work as a documentary producer at the CBS affiliate in Boston. She assisted with the production of Since JFK: The Last 20 Years, which won an Emmy award.

Galán returned to New Jersey and was hired as the station manager of WNJU-TV in Teterboro, New Jersey. At the age of 22, she was the youngest station manager in the United States. WNJU was New Jersey’s top Spanish-language station, and Galán was responsible for a $15 million budget and a staff of 100 employees.

Galán was hired away from WNJU when CBS made her an offer to anchor a show aired from WCAU-TV in Philadelphia and to host her own talk show called Bravo. Bravo was modeled after Oprah Winfrey’s popular talk show and featured prominent Latino guests. It was seen on more than 30 different television stations.

Other projects that Galán was involved with included hosting Nely, another talk show; hosting Live in L.A., a local morning talk show; and anchoring The Gossip Show on E! Entertainment Television.

Around 1990 movie studios as well as network and cable television companies were becoming more interested in reaching the 27 million Latinos living in the United States and the 200 million viewers in Latin America. While still working for CBS, Galán heard from an acquaintance, Concepción Lara, who was developing a Spanish-language version of HBO. Lara recommended Galán for a similar spot at ESPN, which wanted to develop a Spanish-language sports network. Although she wasn’t a sports fan, Galán took the work as a learning experience.

Galán was soon approached by HBO Independent Productions, and in 1992 she successfully negotiated with HBO to form her own production company, Tropix. Galán ran Tropix from 1992 until September 1994, when she signed a new production contract with Fox Television. During that period she was working on Latino sitcoms and other projects for HBO. One show, Loco Slam, featured Latino stand-up comics and debuted in June 1994. Another project in development was a three-hour English-language anthology about three Latino families: Mexican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican.

Chronology: Nely Galán

1964: Born.

1967: Emigrated to the United States.

1982: Became host of Checking It Out, a teen news show on PBS.

1989: Created and hosted Bravo, a talk show.

1990: Established Tropico Communications, a television production company.

1992: Signed production deal with HBO Independent Productions and formed Tropix, a production company.

1994: Signed production deal with Fox Television and formed Galán Entertainment, a production company.

With Fox, Galán established a new production company, Galán Entertainment. She planned to complete projects she had started at Tropix and to develop new ventures. She produced on-air and promotional graphics for the Fox Latin American Channel. Her video spots won many awards, including the 1994 Gold Award from the Broadcast Designers Association. Other new projects included a Miami-based dance show and two Latino sitcoms. One of the sitcoms, Sabrina, was being developed for ABC. It was about a 13 year-old Latina growing up in the United States. The other sitcom was expected to feature a Latina professional, similar to The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Social and Economic Impact

Successful in both the broadcasting and production areas of television, Galán serves as a role model for other Hispanic women. She is respected and admired for her knowledge of both American and Hispanic cultures. In meetings she speaks English and Spanish interchangeably and has a talent for translating ideas into entertainment projects that are meaningful to the Latino market. Galán’s cultural sensitivity is evident by the attention she pays to such projects as a three language anthology about three families, one Mexican, one Puerto Rican and one Cuban. Each segment was written by a native of each country because only then would the cultural shadings be clear.

Her influence on a show’s content has enabled her to develop television programs aimed at younger Latinos. Her concern was that traditional Spanish-language networks were directed mainly at older viewers, and that they failed to address younger audiences. She told The New York Times, “The trick for me is to reach masses of people with a message that’s universal but at the same time really sounds like a true Latino voice.” One program aimed at this younger audience is a dance show set in Miami titled “Salsa Til Sunup”, which may appeal to young adults.

As someone who speaks English and Spanish and understands both the Anglo and Latino cultures, Galán has the potential to become a key player in the television industry. Her experience is indispensable to movie, network, and cable television companies that are trying to develop shows in English as well as Spanish that will appeal to the ever-growing Latino market.

Galen [next] [back] Gajdusek, Daniel Carleton

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