Inspiring Latina of the Week: ABC/Univision's National Affairs Correspondent Cristina Costantini

It's not everyday that you meet a 24-year-old who works as a National Affairs Correspondent. Then again, Cristina Costantini isn't your typical 24-year-old.

The Argentinean journalist -- who was born and raised in Wisconsin -- is not only a graduate of Yale University (where she majored in Political Science), but she's also a former editor of The Huffington Post, where she spent a year reporting on Immigration, women's issues and children's issues in Arianna Huffington's newsroom. 

After a year at HuffPo, the ambitious Cristina joined the new ABC-Univision joint venture as the website's new National Affairs Correspondent. Now, Costantini spends her days covering civil rights issues, stories of injustice, race issues and stories on movements around the world that have taken place on social media, like the recent controversy surrounding La Comay in Puerto Rico

The talented journalist spoke to about her exciting job with ABC/Univision, told us about the Latinas she admired growing up, and shared her advice for other aspiring Latina journalists!

What is your nationality/background?

My father is from Argentina, and my mother is from Wisconsin. But, like many Americans, my ethnicity is very complex -- I trace my roots back to Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Ireland, and Armenia. 

How old are you?

24. But sometimes I wish I was 83, so it'd be more socially acceptable for me to dress like my fashion icon Iris Apfel on a daily basis. Check out the Advanced Style blog for more women I aspire to be like.

Tell us about your previous work experience.

I worked for a year at {The Huffington Post} as an Associate Editor for the LatinoVoices section. I wrote a lot about immigration, and women’s and children’s issues while I was there. Before that I worked briefly for the New Haven Independent during college, and wrote for a few college publications as a columnist.

Tell us about your new role at ABC and Univision News!

Sure, I’m the National Affairs Correspondent for the new joint venture between ABC News and Univision. We’ll be launching a new cable news channel soon, with a new name, over the next year or so. But, so far I’ve covered a lot of election stories, civil rights issues, stories of injustice, race issues, class divides and so on. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of stories on movements around the world that have taken place on social media. Those have been super interesting to me. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’d love to be telling stories about issues that aren't getting the coverage they deserve in the national media. That may mean working on documentaries or on a radio show or writing long-form stuff in print, but I have a feeling I’ll still be doing some kind of storytelling five years from now. 

What Latinas did you look up to growing up?

Well, certainly my own grandmother, Yolanda Nelida Costantini, has been very important to me. Although she’s a descendant of Armenian immigrants to Argentina, she has really been the one who has encouraged me to learn about Argentina's culture and perfect my Spanish. She also taught me how to cook empanadas, milanesa, tortilla española, gnocchi, and some of my other favorite dishes. 

Funny enough, I give her credit for introducing me to Univision. When she’d babysit me when I was a kid, (which was often,) she’d always change the channel to Sabado Gigante or to some telenovela or something. She used to say she was doing it so that my Spanish would get better, but I have a feeling that it was so that she didn’t have to watch The Rugrats or Doug, which were my favorite shows on Nickelodeon at the time. 

What obstacles have come your way? Also, how did you deal with those obstacles?

I must say, I've always felt very fortunate to have grown up in a loving home with parents who ensured that I went to the very best schools they could find. They made huge financial sacrifices for my brothers and me to have such incredible opportunities. And, largely because of them, I haven’t had to overcome any insurmountable barriers in my life. I'm forever thankful to them for that.

But, I suppose there are other types of obstacles that many of us as young women have to deal with, like issues of self-doubt-- Am I smart enough? Am I pretty enough?Am I funny enough? Do I dress the right way? Do people like me? Etc, etc.

I think these are questions that many young women waste too much time worrying about and I’m certainly guilty of dwelling on some of these questions myself.  But I think, in part, what lets me wake up every morning and do my job and be myself, is the ability to say, “Oh, f*** it” and carry on with whatever I’m trying to get done.

What’s the secret to your success?

I think maybe my “secret to success,” as you say (although I have a long way to go before I consider myself successful ) would be that I dream really big, to the point that some people would probably say it’s delusional. I truly believe that if I put my mind to something, and work really really hard, there’s little I can’t do. Maybe I'm over-confident or naive, but I think perhaps the delusion has helped me. Also, I’m constantly trying to figure out how I can better myself, how I can learn more, how I can tell a story more effectively, how I can be a better friend or girlfriend, how I can dress more like Iris (just kidding, but not really).   Also, I’d say being able to laugh at myself and my shortcomings has been a big help for me. Not everything I do is brilliant, I’m not always the smoothest criminal, sometimes my jokes fall flat, but whatever, we’re all learning. 

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring journalist, what would it be?

Well, I suppose I believe in the kind of journalism that “comforts the afflicted, and afflicts the comfortable.” But in order to “afflict the comfortable,” sometimes you have to be tough. I was given a really good piece of advice recently by a very kind female journalist at HuffPost on being tough, which was this:

Allow yourself to have a reporting persona, which is different from who you actually are in your daily life.  As a reporter I can't always be as kind and supportive as I'd like to be.  Sometimes I have to ask questions that are impolite. Sometimes I have to be pushy, and nosy, and persistent.  So I'd say to young reporters that you should treat people respectfully, but if you’re braver in your questions, your stories will reflect that. And if acting the part helps do that, I say, go for it.