La Banda: Marketing Confusion, Cultural Hybridity, and Nostalgia in Univision
Manuel G. Aviles-Santiago / Arizona State University

La Banda

La Banda, a reality music competition in search of the new Latino boy band, was Univision’s latest effort to reach millennials.

Marketing Confusion

When I heard about La Banda, Univision’s latest reality music competition, I was immediately intrigued by its promotional strategy. The show was initially introduced to the audience by its name—La Banda—and marketed as a joint effort between internationally acclaimed music mogul and producer, Simon Cowell, and Latin superstar, Ricky Martin (the latter advertised as both executive producer and judge). My immediate reaction was one of confusion: why is it that Ricky Martin, a Puerto Rican pop-music star, will co-produce and judge a show devoted to Mexican music? For those of you who are not familiar, in Spanish the term “banda” refers to “a brass-based form of traditional Mexican music [that] performs a wide variety of songs, including rancheras, corridos, cumbias, baladas, and boleros, [and is] composed of 10 to 20 members.[ ((Candelaria, C. (2004). Encyclopedia of Latino popular culture (Vol. 1). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.))]

bands

The use of the term “banda” in the title of the show lead to confusion during the early stages of the promotion of the show. A Google search of images for the term “banda” visually defines the concept.

As I was doing some preliminary research about the show, I called some of my colleagues to gather their opinions on the upcoming reality competition. Some of them expressed their interest in it while claiming their keen passion for “musica regional Mexicana.” Others stated that even though they were not avid followers of the music genre, they would watch it just for the presence of Ricky Martin. At this point, the marketing confusion was holding captive diverse segments of the Latino audiences who were intrigued by branding innuendos of the show.

A few days later into my inquiry, the doubts were clarified when Univision released their press kit describing La Banda as a new take on the singing competition format in search of the ultimate Latino boy band. Like other music reality shows, such as American Idol, The Voice, and X-Factor, La Banda consists of a series of auditions all over the U.S. and Puerto Rico followed by live shows with weekly eliminations. This process will narrow the group to five young males (14 years old and up) who will form the new Latino boy band and win a music contract under the Sony Music label.

The formula is aimed at Univision’s goal to reach millennials, or what the network refers to as billennials—a concept formed through the symbiosis of bilingual and millennial. This term was coined by Univision’s advertising and marketing strategist team in 2015 in reference to the increasingly millennial audience that consumes their media mostly in English but grew up surrounded by Latino culture.[ ((Retrieved from: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-latino-millennials-univision-20150719-story.html))] In that regard, marketing cultural hybridity seemed like a logical step toward attracting that audience.

Marketing Cultural Hybridity

channels

Bilingual-bicultural networks like Tr3s, mun2 and SiTV tried to reach Latino youth since the early 2000s.

Since the early 2000s, cable networks like MTV Tr3s, mun2, and SíTV have attempted to reach the bilingual-bicultural segment of the young Latino audience. For over a decade, these channels have experimented with an array of lineups consisting of primarily music and reality TV programming. As explored by Viviana Rojas and Juan Piñon (2014), the televisual landscape configured by these niche networks produced a nourished landscape of representations of cultural hybridity, particularly instances of linguistic flexibility.[ ((Rojas, V., & Piñon, J. (2014, August). “Spanish, English or Spanglish? Media Strategies and Corporate Struggles to Reach the Second and Later Generations of Latinos.” International Journal of Hispanic Media 7 (August 2014). Retrieved February 26, 2016, from http://www.internationalhispanicmedia.org/spanish-english-spanglish-media-strategies-corporate-struggles-reach-second-later-generations-of-latinos/))] By linguistic flexibility, I refer to the variable use of Spanish, English, and Spanglish within the programing of the networks. However, the bilingual and bicultural approach of these channels was not a guarantee for success. For example, mun2 had a lack of traction with the bilingual-bicultural audience that resulted in a full rebranding of the channel into NBC-Universo, a Spanish-language channel with an emphasis on sports.[ ((Retrieved from: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-latino-millennials-univision-20150719-story.html))] Similarly, what started out as SíTV in 2004 was rebranded as NUVO TV in July of 2011 and then absorbed into Fuse, a network targeting the “new American audience”[ ((Retrieved from: http://www.mediamoves.com/2015/03/nuvotv-to-be-phased-out-as-it-merges-with-fuse.html))] that distanced itself from the Latino-theme. Therefore, creating networks specifically for Latino millennials was not the right pathway. Departing from unsuccessful models to approach billennials, what can Spanish-language networks like Univision do to attract this complex segment of the market without losing their regular audience?

The year 2015 was a paradigm-shifting moment in the history of Univision. That was the year they realized—after more than five decades on air—that Sábado Gigante was an outdated and somewhat obsolete show. That same year, the network came to understand that marketing cultural hybridity was imperative for the network’s traction with billennials. That meant breaking the sanctity of the monolingual and Spanish-only network approach to embrace linguistic flexibility. After all, according to data from Pew Research and the U.S. Census: a) billennials represent 21% of the overall millennial population in the U.S., b) English is the predominant language in 34% of Latino households, and c) projections show that by 2020, one-third of Latinos ages 5 and older will speak only English at home. In that regard, La Banda became Univision’s most aggressive step toward marketing cultural hybridity.

In contrast to the traditional monolingual-Spanish-only approach, La Banda distinguishes itself from the regular programming of Univision by a linguistic flexibility.

In La Banda, the marketing of cultural hybridity takes center stage through the linguistic flexibility of the show. Even though La Banda is primarily in Spanish, the content is constantly dashed with instances in which the contestants, their coaches, and the judges will interact in both English and even Spanglish. The show also includes content in both English and Spanish through other media platforms, such as Univision’s YouTube channel and the smartphone app Univision Conecta. Also, the app’s element of interactivity allows audiences the power to decide if they want the contestants to sing in either English or Spanish. It was precisely through the app that the winners of La Banda were selected.

CNCO

CNCO was the boy band one formed by the winners of La Banda.

At the end of the season, a Dominican-American from New Hampshire, a Cuban-American from Florida, a Puerto Rican native, a Mexican-American from California, and Ecuadorian-American from New Jersey formed the new boy band that was named CNCO. The name of the band is an intentional misspelled of the word “cinco,” which in Spanish means five but when spelled in English sounds like Spanish word. The name received mixed reactions. One fan suggested that the name Menudo would have been a better option. Why?

tweet

The name CNCO, while embraced by some fans, was highly criticized by others.

Even though the core of the show seemed to be aimed at billennials, it implicitly triggers some sort of nostalgia to those pre-billennial Latino audiences—particularly those of Generation X—to whom the notion of a boy band immediately gets associated with the name “Menudo.”

Marketing Nostalgia

The current success of groups like One Direction and its predecessors, Back Street Boys, NSync, and New Kids on the Block during the ’90s and early 2000s, reinforces the idea that boy bands have had their momentum during the last two decades.[ ((Some cultural historians may include family groups like The Osmonds and the Jackson Five in the category of boy band.))] In that regard, making a reality music competition in search of a new boy band could have made total sense marketing wise. This asseveration acquires special significance in the Latino context where Menudo, a Puerto Rican boy band that began their successful international career during the late ’70s, became a game-changer in the cultural history of boy bands for over two decades.

Menudo was the original Latino boy band. The inclusion of Ricky Martin, a former member of Menudo, triggers the nostalgia of the Menudo fans all over the U.S. and Latin America.

Just like CNCO, Menudo was composed of five teenagers known for wearing skinny jeans in coordinated flashy colors, achieved selling out national venues like Radio City Music Hall, gathered 200,000 fans at a soccer stadium in Rio de Janeiro, and united over 500,000 fans in Mexico City. When discussing the notion of Latinos making a crossover to the U.S. market, Menudo should take center stage. In fact, Menudo was the platform that catapulted Ricky Martin to international stardom even before the so-called Latino boom of the ’90s. For that reason, including Martin in the entourage of producers and judges of La Banda make sense both artistically and historically. Most importantly, it triggers some sort of nostalgia for those who grew up with Menudo from the late ’70s until the end of the ’90s, when the group vanished from the public scene after legal battles between members of the band and the producers.[ ((In 1997, the rights of the name Menudo were sold and the band changed the name to MDO. This version of the group was less successful than the original band.))] Interestingly, that nostalgia has worked as a marketing opportunity for Latino media enterprises.

Making Menudo

Before La Banda, MTV Tr3s produced the reality show Making Menudo, a failed attempt to re-launched the Latino boy band.

In 2006, MTV Tr3s produced the reality docu-series Making Menudo, an attempt to re-create a Pan-Latino version of the group. Just like La Banda, the cast of the show included a second- and third-generation of Latinos from all over the U.S. and Puerto Rico. As with other MTV Tr3s productions, the show followed the bilingual and bicultural approach and aesthetic. As other Tr3s productions, Making Menudo had a very limited audience, and the formed boy band never achieved the success of the original Menudo.

However, La Banda, a concept that would never have been able to find a space in a network like Univision in 2006, a decade later managed to reach 5.1 million viewers during its finale, out-delivering networks like ABC and CBS with billennials (18-34) and adults (18-49).[ ((Retrieved from: http://corporate.univision.com/2015/12/univision-networks-la-banda-finale-reaches-5-1-million-total-viewers/))]

Image Credits:
1. La Banda
2. “Banda”, courtesy of the author
3. Bilingual networks, courtesy of the author
4. CNCO
5. CNCO Twitter, courtesy of the author
6. Making Menudo

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How To Save a Beauty Pageant: Donald Trump, Steve Harvey and The Memeticization of Miss Universe 2015
Manuel G. Avilés-Santiago / Arizona State University

Steve Harvey Miss Universe

Steve Harvey’s mishap at Miss Universe 2015

Be it Miss America or Miss Universe, there is a point at which TV critics and academics intertwine. They both contest that beauty pageants are sexist, outdated formulas built upon clichés that promote highly questionable platforms of women’s empowerment. In an attempt to update pageants, TV networks along with pageant organizers have worked relentlessly to transform these events into a more relevant and attractive format.

From a structural and narrative perspective, pageants have evolved from the traditional formula of a swimsuit-evening-gown-final-question type of event to a more reality-based style of competition. From an audience standpoint, pageants like Miss Universe have opted to capture the Latin American and U.S. Latino/a markets with the incorporation of their symbolic capital into the production, distribution and circulation of the pageant (e.g., Latin American venues, Latino/a celebrities as host/judges, etc.). This is what I refer to as the Latinization of Miss Universe.[ ((http://flowjournal.org/2015/10/nuestra-belleza-latina/))] The process started in 2001 with the celebration of the Miss Universe pageant in Puerto Rico in a prime-time homage to Latinidad that had Ricky Martin as special guest and Miss Puerto Rico winning the pageant.

Donald Trump and Olivia Culpo

Donald Trump and Miss Universe 2012, Olivia Culpo

However, this Latinization reached its highest peak in January 2015 when the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) announced a new alliance with the Spanish network Univision. Former pageant owner, Donald Trump, made this unprecedented announcement right after the crowning of Miss Colombia, Paulina Vega, as the new Miss Universe at a pageant that was celebrated in the Latino/a cultural hub of Miami, Florida. With this new merger, Miss Universe cut ties with the NBC-owned Telemundo in order to house the pageant at the number one Spanish-language network in the U.S. As pageant president Paula Shuggart stated, the alliance would “bring unmatched entertainment to the most passionate, loyal audience that Univision offers to one of the fastest growing and important demographic communities in the U.S.” [ ((http://corporate.univision.com/2015/01/univision-enters-into-long-term-partnership-with-the-miss-universe-organization/))]

The Inevitable Overlap of Pageants and Politics

But this Latino love affair ended abruptly when in June 2015, presidential Republican candidate and then-pageant owner Donald Trump said during his presidential announcement that: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”[ ((http://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/donald-trump-2016-announcement-10-best-lines-119066))] The comments became a social media storm not only among Mexicans but also of Latinos of all nationalities. One by one, major sponsors canceled their association with the MUO, which resulted in the biggest blow the pageant ever had. It ended up with Univision backing out of a $6 million contract with Miss Universe and NBC dropping the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. Shortly after, the city of Bogotá withdrew the bid to host Miss Universe 2016, and several contestants from Latin America stated their disgust with the comments and threatened not to participate in the upcoming edition of the pageant.

Things changed in October 2015 when WME|IMG bought the pageant from Donald Trump, and, several weeks after the transaction, Fox Network announced that they had acquired the rights to air Miss Universe in December 2015. With Donald Trump out of the picture, the MUO had only two months to plan an event that needed a major public relations plan. However, their approach was to use the same space where the Trump storm started for their own benefit and turn social media into a haven for the pageant.


As I was conducting participant observation and online ethnography during the most recent celebration of Miss Universe in Las Vegas, Nevada, I was able to identify four social media strategies implemented by the MUO:

1. Social Media Ranking and Take-overs
Upon their arrival, the 80 contestants were asked by members of the MUO to share their social media handles. Then, the MUO gave the delegates with the most followers the opportunity to do take-overs for a day of one of the MUO official accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and/or Snapchat. Some of the contestants selected to do this task were the delegates from Australia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, India, Philippines, Thailand and USA. The contestants would announce their participation on their personal social media before taking over one of the MUO official accounts. All of these contestants (with the exception of Miss India) were semifinalists.

Clarissa Molina's Instagram

Miss Dominican Republic Clarissa Molina’s Instagram account

2. Contestants as Content Producers and Curators

All 80 delegates were asked to act as content producers and curators. They were emphatically encouraged and guided on how to produce videos and pictures and use the #hashtag when uploading pageant material. From the first day, they were encouraged to use #missuniverse, #confidentlybeautiful and to include the major sponsors of the pageant. They were also told to include the tune-in information in both, English and Spanish.[ ((TUNE-IN to the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant LIVE Sunday December 20, at 7/6c on FOX. In Spanish: Miss Universe 2015 en VIVO. Sintoniza el dom. 20 de dic. A las 7/6c por FOX.))] In that regard, the contestants became not only independent storytellers, but also a global advertising platform for the pageant.

3. Live Audience Online Participation

Online voting is not foreign to beauty pageants. Since the advent of the Internet, Miss Universe has included online voting for special awards like Miss Photogenic. However, this year, the MUO gave special emphasis to online voting. From the beginning of the competition, the delegates were asked to request their followers to stay tuned for an online vote. The first rumor was that the audience would be in charge of selecting one of the semifinalists by popular vote. Then, the dynamic changed to the audience acting as one of the five judges during the live telecast. The online voting system was called the Miss Universe Global Fan Vote, and the scores produced were added to the vote of the celebrity judges Emmitt Smith, Niecy Nash, Olivia Culpo and Perez Hilton [ ((http://www.missuniverse.com/news/view/749#.VplO48rUJBw))] .

4. The Possibility of a Viral, Memetic Moment

During the last decade and after the invention of YouTube in 2005, beauty pageants have become a central space for producing so-called YouTube moments. The live element of the pageant leads to situations like the failed attempt to answer the final question formulated to Miss South Carolina Teen USA 2007 and the two-years-in-a-row misstep of Miss USA (2007 and 2008) that lead them to fall on stage.

This year’s Miss Universe needed to become a central scenario for a viral moment. The pageant added the figure of comedian Steve Harvey as a host who peppered the event with funny—often irreverent—comments throughout the competition. Also, there was not only one round of questions, but two. The first one revolved around controversial topics such as gun control, drug trafficking, terrorism, the legalization of marijuana and the U.S. military presence around the world. However, up to the final round of questions, no YouTube moment was produced.

It was not until the crowning moment that probably one of the most memorable YouTube moments in the history of beauty pageants was prompted by Harvey announcing that Miss Colombia was the winner and then realizing he had made a mistake. She was actually the first runner-up, and Miss Philippines should have been crowned. The situation was even more complicated because it confronted two of the biggest factions of beauty pageant audiences: Colombians, who wanted a back-to-back win, and Filipinos, who were looking for their third crown since 1973. In fact, the Philippines produces not only the largest but also the most passionate audiences. For example, the annual video of the live-reaction of Filipino fans during the pageant has become a YouTube sensation generating millions of views.

Something similar happened with Steve Harvey’s incorrect announcement. The video of the live mistake has not only generated millions of views but has also achieved memetic spreadability, which means an “extensive creative user engagement in the form of parody, pastiche, mash-ups or other derivative work.” [ ((Shifman, L. “An Anatomy of a YouTube Meme.” New Media & Society 14.2 (2011): 187-203. Print.))] Social media exploded with images from the event, and thousands of memes, Photoshop jokes and other graphics on Imgur have been circulating for weeks. As never before, Miss Universe achieved occupying a prominent space in traditional forms of media by becoming the hot topic in the news and other variety shows with an unprecedented massive coverage of the event. Everybody knows who the winners of Miss Universe 2015 were.

Steve Harvey memes

The Memeticization of Steve Harvey

Low Ratings but High Spreadability

The Miss Universe pageant did not manage to produce more ratings in comparison to the previous edition. Fox’s telecast had 6.2 million viewers and a 1.7 rating among adults 18–49 on Sunday night, which represented 15 percent less in the demo and 18 percent less audience compared to last year. However, #missuniverse became a trending topic, and the pageant is still a topic of conversation almost a month after the event. The social media spreadability of Steve Harvey’s mistake has made the 2015 Miss Universe one of the most memorable and memeticized live events in the history of television. While writing this column, it was confirmed that the MUO invited Steve Harvey to host the 2016 Miss Universe competition, which is expected to take place in the Philippines.[ ((http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/for-some-reason-steve-harvey-was-invited-to-host-miss-universe-again_567ac90de4b014efe0d7aca9))]

Image Credits:

1.Steve Harvey’s mishap at Miss Universe 2015
2. Donald Trump and Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo
3. Miss Dominican Republic Clarissa Molina’s Instagram account
4. Collage produced by the author

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Nuestra Belleza Latina and Why Pageants Are Still a Thing Among Latino Audiences
Manuel G. Aviles-Santiago / Arizona State University

Viewer participation with televised beauty pageants

Viewers engage with a televised beauty pageant

Beauty pageants have been commonly described as an old-fashioned cliché and are parodied, in films like Miss Congeniality (2000), and ridiculed as a favorite subject on YouTube. Who can forget the viral moment of Miss South Carolina Teen USA 2007 struggling to answer the final question with the iconic phrase “like such as”? [ ((To see the viral moment of Miss South Carolina Teen USA 2007 trying to answer the question, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww.))] However, these types of competitions are immensely popular in Latin America. [ ((When I use the term Latin America, I include the Spanish Caribbean.))] With a population struggling to reach—or maintain—middle class status, pageants became a possibility for social mobility. The success stories of countries with the highest number of international beauty queens, such as Venezuela and Puerto Rico, have propelled pageants to a prominent level within their national media landscape. [ ((Venezuela has a total of six Miss Universe winners (from ’78, ’81, ’86, ’96, ’08, ’09, & ’13); Puerto Rico has five (’70, ’85, ’93, ’01, & ’06); Colombia has two (’58 & ’14); and Mexico has two (’91 & ’10).))] This passion is not only on a national level, but also a transnational phenomenon. The flow of immigration between Latin America and the US has made beauty pageants an intrinsic component of the symbolic capital of the US Latino mediascape.

During the 90s, Univision network produced their own beauty pageant, known as Nuestra Belleza Internacional (Our International Beauty), [ ((Nuestra Belleza Internacional lasted four years, 1994-1997.))] that gathered girls from all over the Americas and Spain to compete for a regional crown. But after four years, Univision canceled the production, which limited pageant fans to only re-transmissions of national pageants like Miss Venezuela. [ ((Nuestra Belleza Mexico is the event that selects the representative of Mexico for Miss Universe and other secondary pageants.))] However, things changed in 2002 when NBC outbid CBS on the rights to transmit the Miss Universe (MU) pageant, and Telemundo was purchased by NBC. This transaction gave Telemundo the rights of airing the Spanish-telecast of MU and by default, a lot of production opportunities for the Spanish network. For example, the day of the pageant, Telemundo dedicates most of its original programing to news and gossip related to MU, including a one-hour pre-show devoted to one-on-one interviews with delegates from the Latin American region. [ ((Camino a la Corona (En Route to the Crown).))] These events positioned Telemundo as a once-a-year pageant force. [ ((In 2015, Telemundo’s telecast was the #1 Spanish-language program among adults 18-49. More information on these numbers is available on: http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2015/01/26/telemundos-broadcast-of-miss-universe-reaches-over-4-7-million-total-viewers/355721/))]

After the NBC-Telemundo merger, MU experienced a Latinization that transcended the Latino boom of the 90s. The pageant has been hosted by Latino celebrities [ ((Daisy Fuentes (2003 & 2004); Carlos Ponce (2006); Mario López (2007); and Natalie Morales (2010, 2011, & 2015).))] and included Latino stars, not only among their menu of celebrity judges but also as musical guests. During the last 15 years, the pageant was celebrated in five Latin American countries [ ((The pageant has been celebrated in Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, and twice in Puerto Rico.))] and two Latino cultural hubs in the US: Los Angeles and Miami. Strikingly, during the last two decades, 10 out of 20 MU winners have been from Latin America. These trends have turned MU into a celebration of Latinidad.

Telemundo MU

Since 2002, Telemundo has been broadcasting Miss Universe while creating many production opportunities for the Spanish network and more exposure to the pageant.

The yearly ratings success of MU on Telemundo prompted Univision to once again enter the pageant circuits in 2007 with the creation of Nuestra Belleza Latina (NBL). NBL did not follow the traditional formula of its Telemundo competitor, Miss Universe. The format of the show changed the face of pageantry by incorporating elements from other reality shows like America’s Next Top Model, Big Brother, and American Idol. Twelve girls, chosen through a series of auditions in cities around the US [ ((Latino cultural hubs like Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Miami are some of the cities in which the auditions take place. In contrast to Miss Universe, the women selected to be in the pageant do not carry a sash with the name of their country of origin. In the show, they are refered to by their name, their nationality or nationalities, and the city where they auditioned. For example, “Name-Last-name, the Dominican from New York.”))] and Puerto Rico, live together in a Miami mansion competing in weekly beauty, fitness, and talent challenges. Critiqued by a panel of experts, they face weekly eliminations based on a popular vote through calls, texts, and social media. It has proven to be a successful formula based on the ratings of the show’s ninth season; Univision is rated first among Spanish networks and fourth among the other commercial networks in the Sunday night slot without the help of telenovelas. [ ((More information on these numbers: http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2015/03/03/univision-networks-nuestra-belleza-latina-is-delivering-double-digit-year-over-year-audience-growth-in-adults-18-49/370629/))]

As a weekend program, NBL fills the void left by the weekday telenovelas by continuing the melodrama through a series of narrative tropes that include:

1. The Story of the Immigrant. A favorite storyline is how the roots and routes of the immigrant experience, together with the show, become a transformative element in the lives of the competitors.

2. The Cuban Exiles. Since the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution (1953-59), Cuba has not competed in any major beauty pageant. However, Cuban women who migrated to the US have found in NBL a stage on which to compete and represent the island while bringing into perspective the narrative of the American Dream and US-Cuba relations.

3. The Wife. In contrast with traditional beauty pageants like MU, NBL allows married women to compete. This change in the conventional rules of pageants prompts dramatic instances in the show. The idea of a married woman abandoning her home in pursuit of her dreams is always a matter discussed, not only during the audition process but also during the live telecast.

4. The Mother. In addition to married women, NBL allows mothers to participate on the show. The notion of transnational motherhood is relevant in US Latino communities [ ((Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette, and Ernistine Avila. “”I’m Here but I’m There”: The Meanings Of Latina Transnational Motherhood.” Gender & Society 11.5 (1997): 548-71. Print.))] where many immigrant women have moved while their children remain in their countries of origin. The tragic aspect of the abandonment of the child in order to become a provider is something that the show will tackle throughout the season.

5. The Purity of Language. Univision, out of the rest of the Spanish TV networks, protects the use of “unaccented, generic, and universal” Spanish, also known as Walter Cronkite Spanish. [ ((Dávila, Arlene M. Latinos, Inc: The Marketing and Making of a People. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2012.))] This poses a particular problem to those competitors who were born in the US with English as their first language. Also, it becomes a challenge to the contestants from the Spanish Caribbean whose accents are characterized by a rapid pace and the dropping of ‘s’ sounds.

The Mother trope

Nuestra Belleza Latina changed the traditional beauty pageant formula by incorporating elements from other reality shows, but also by allowing married women and actual mothers to compete.

Beyond these narrative tropes, which operate every season of NBL, the transmediatic platforms for production, distribution, and consumption of NBL play a major role in the success of the show. According to Spangler, Facebook activity around Latino programming was significantly higher than other social networks combined, and NBL is a true testament of that. [ ((Spangler, Todd. “Facebook Users More Tuned to Broadcast Than Cable Shows.” Variety. 23 July 2013. Web. 18 Apr. 2015.))] The ninth season finale of NBL in 2015 had 12 times more activity on Facebook during the on-air window than all other social networks combined, according to Trendrr. [ ((More information on this issue: http://variety.com/2013/digital/news/facebook-users-more-tuned-to-broadcast-than-cable-shows-1200566879/))] In terms of ratings, the finale surpassed the premiere of Games of Thrones (HBO) and the MTV Video Music Awards (MTV).

In conclusion, the success of NBL revolves around three main elements: the flow of beauty pageant passion from Latin America, the performance of narrative tropes that appeal to the Latino population in the US, and the transmediatic configuration of the show. However, one of the most important elements of the show’s success is the positioning of Univision as a brand and the NBL winners as an embodiment of that brand. NBL winners obtain a two-year contract with the network, which allows audiences to see the continued artistic evolution of these women after the competition. With the contract, the winner joins the network as a presenter, news anchor, model, or even as a telenovela actress. In that regard, the winner of NBL becomes part of the Univision family and, therefore, an intrinsic part of the US Latino imagined community.

Image Credits:

1. Image courtesy of the author
2. Since 2002, Telemundo has been broadcasting Miss Universe while creating many production opportunities for the Spanish network and more exposure to the pageant. (Copyright © Miss Universe L.P., LLLP) (author’s personal collection)
3. Nuestra Belleza Latina changed the traditional beauty pageant formula by incorporating elements from other reality shows, but also by allowing married women and actual mothers to compete. (Copyright ©2015 Univision Communications Inc.) (author’s personal collection)

Please feel free to comment.