Patty Rodriguez always had her eyes set on the bright lights of entertainment. While not directly under the burning spotlight, the dream-filled L.A. native found her best fit working behind-the-scenes with America’s go-to-entertainment host Ryan Seacrest, who recently celebrated 10 years of being on air. It hasn’t been easy road, at one time juggling school, two jobs, an internship and a heavy commute, but you know how the saying goes – hard work pays off.
Through her position as Senior Producer on On Air with Ryan Seacrest, she has been able to represent the interest of Los Angeles’ multicultural community by booking guests outside of the show’s usual Top 40 playlist and genre. Through her jewelry line MALA by Patty Rodriguez (worn by trendy starlets Miley Cyrus, Rihanna and Latina’s February cover star Becky G), she has been able to empower women to represent where they come from with gold-plated fashion. What may look like a risk to some is a foolproof plan for Patty. It seems she’s right where she needs to be.
Tell us a little bit about your upbringing.
I was born in East L.A. It used to be called General Hospital but now it’s the USC Medical Center. And then I think at the age of 4 or 5, my parents moved to Lynwood, California, a little southeast of L.A., and I’ve been here since. I was raised in Lynwood and I’m a Lynwood girl, forever.
Lynwood to Burbank, where most of the radio stations are, is a long commute. How did you end up working at KIIS FM?
Growing up, I knew my mom wanted me to be a teacher or a lawyer. I just felt like I needed to be something different. I wanted to be in the entertainment industry and wanted to be a writer. I had a dream of writing for Rolling Stone magazine. I was listening to Rick Dees and I just said, ‘why don’t I just drive over there?’ So I just drove up there. I don’t know what got into me, honestly. I was a senior in high school. I think it was just meant to be because I when I got there, I met one of Rick Dees’ producers and he asked what I was doing there. I just told him, ‘I’m interested in how things work here and if you ever need an intern or someone to help, I’d be more than happy to come up here and work.’
How did you end up working on Ryan Seacrest’s morning show?
I got hired at the station in the promotions department. I did that for a few months then Ryan took over the morning show and it was such a huge deal. They were looking for someone to complete the team. I knew that it was something I could do so I asked around about what they needed and they gave me a shot as an assistant. I started off part-time, which was a little struggle for me, but then moved up to full-time within a few months. I’ve been there since 2005. I was born to do this. I feel like I can do so much behind the scenes with someone as amazing as Ryan and the ability to be able to help the community in so many ways is such a blessing. I wake up everyday and I think, how can a girl from Lynwood have this amazing job? I’ve had this job for almost 10 years and every day, it’s still kind of unbelievable.
What is an example of helping the community?
Our station is so amazing and able to do little things, which may not be a big deal to some people, but for example, giving away tickets to Disneyland. I never went to Disneyland growing up. It sounds really simple but for many families, it’s not. For those kids, it’s like a dream.
On a larger scale, how do you represent the Latino community on Ryan Seacrest’s show?
I’m able to book celebrities and musicians that I grew up with, for example, Pepe Aguilar. Even though we don’t play his music, it doesn’t matter. He’s so known in the community that having him on the show and having him do an interview in English was a moment of pride. To have someone like Ryan, who’s so iconic and the epitome of entertainment, interview Pepe Aguilar was pretty epic. We haven’t had the chance, yet, to interview Vicente Fernández but we have given away tickets to his show and it’s one of our more popular promotions. Any time he’s here in L.A., our phones just explode. It’s not even about music anymore, it’s about what he symbolizes to the community. We’ve also had some of the members of Maná on the show. They performed at Staples Center and we gave away tickets to the show. We had them talking to us in a language they don’t sing, which is English. I feel proud that I’m able to do this and be the voice of the L.A. community. I live both worlds. You live both worlds. We watch “American Idol” and then, we automatically flip it on Univision to watch the novela with mom, dad or your tías. It’s just who we are. We’re able to, without even thinking, flip the switch.
Let’s flip the switch and talk about your jewelry line, MALA by Patty Rodriguez. How did the name and the line come about?
I’m very proud of where I come from. I always have been and I think as Latinos, we are all proud of our rich culture. I wanted a necklace that said Lynwood, but where was I going to find a necklace like that? So I made it and I made a few for my coworkers. They all loved it. For my coworker Nelson, I made an 818 area code necklace because he’s from the Valley. Miley Cyrus was in the studio and she saw it on him. I’m not sure how the conversation went because I wasn’t there at that moment but he ended up giving it to her and she loved it. Next thing I know, a month later, she’s on the cover of Rolling Stone wearing it.
Wow! That’s the magazine you wanted to write for and a piece of your work made it on the cover.
Exactly. I went from wanting to write for the magazine to, by some twist of fate and God’s work, ending up on the cover of the magazine. Nelson, the coworker who gave Miley the necklace, told me, ‘Patty, you need to start making your own jewelry.’ So far, the reaction has been beyond my wildest dreams. When I was thinking of the name, I wanted something strong, tough and with a lot of passion behind it. The word mala is passionate, dark and beautiful at the same time. I just want us to be proud of where we come from and I want us to embrace it. I want people to see that we’re more than just gardeners and nannies. I also wanted to have my name on it because I wanted to make sure people knew that there was a true Latina, Mexican-American, behind it.
What advice do you have for young Latinas trying to get into the entertainment industry?
Nothing worth having comes easy, don’t take things personally and listen to your heart. Let that guide you because it will take you to where you’re supposed to end up but you also have to help by not giving up. One more thing, treat everyone with respect, regardless of who they are, and you’re golden.
Any final words you’d like to share?
At the end of the day, I do this for my mother and my son. I want my son to look at his mom and when he tells me he wants to be an astronaut, he won’t feel like he’s talking crazy. He could be an astronaut if he wants to, because his mom made many of her own dreams come true.