The Sitdown: Leda Santodomingo, TV producer, reporter

SHARE The Sitdown: Leda Santodomingo, TV producer, reporter

As told to Sandra Guy, Staff Reporter

The Chicago-based award-winning TV producer and nationally known investigative TV reporter in her native country, Venezuela, has overcome a challenge that baby boomers are confronting daily: What do I do when I grow up? Four years ago, at 57, she felt as though she would have a panic attack just thinking about having to go to work. So she resigned, even as everyone told her she was crazy. She had hosted and produced two highly rated shows in Venezuela and as a reporter was known to 70 percent of Venezuelan TV viewers, especially for a live on-air negotiation with a masked hostage-taker whom she had interviewed when he was in prison. Her latest public service announcement campaign promotes speaking out against domestic violence and was planned long before controversies erupted earlier this month with NFL players. The spot features more than 150 women dressed like Audrey Hepburn.

You are thinking and praying, ‘What’s coming?’ Just take the first step. Be ‘with’ you. I’m doing this because I love myself.

I don’t like to be sad, doing things I don’t like. I cry a lot. I write a lot.

I went for three months to France, where my brother has lived for 30 years. It’s a nudist camp. I always wanted to live in a nudist camp in the south of France.

I made a proposal to do a 30-minute radio show, to be broadcast in Miami and Venezuela, to promote the camp. We called it “Nude Chronicles” or “Cronicas.”

People are afraid of nudity. But I had to find stories to tell, and it was easy to talk about life, people who get nude just because. There are 6,000 people there. The result was a media and public-relations campaign for English Lingua Institute of Tampa to reach Latin American and U.S. businesses, and a marketing program to increase U.S. and South American tourism to the city of Cap D-Agde in southern France.

I was able to give myself space to create things, such as “Cuando sea Grande,” a show promoting women’s “golden years.” The story starts with a woman at age 30. She has to be married and have kids to meet society’s expectations. She says, ‘Today, I’m 30. I have all those things, but I’m not happy.”

She fights with her kids and her husband. She tries to find her place in life as a woman, as a mom of teenagers and as a wife of a busy husband. Next, at age 44, she’s a professional. She has everything that society tells you to have for career success. She’s not happy.

She gets divorced. She travels. Every time she has to do something different, she is afraid. Now she’s 54. She talks to the mirror. Once again, she wants to change.

It’s that question all the time. The message is to be allowed to change and to listen to yourself.

As journalists, we question all the time. For Gary Chico’s mayoral campaign, I had to say everything was beautiful and sell that. He is an amazing man, but people around him were not. That was my first and last client in politics.

I was hired by Gift of Hope to produce 26 half-hour shows for Univision Chicago and, later, for FOX Latino. “Sin Condición” is the name of the program that promotes organ donation in the Latino community.

As I was performing my monologue [for the domestic violence announcement], I thought to myself, “How can I use this to help women, and to stop any kind of suffering?” I want to help people to grow. Women of any age — they can be 14, 30, 40 or 50, can be or may have been abused.

One in four women 18 and older in the United States has experienced abuse.

I thought to myself, “Everyone has a black dress and pearls. It’s not too expensive to do. Everyone will look the same. Everyone can wear sunglasses.”

It evokes that, often in intimacy, there is something dark. They will take off the sunglasses to reveal (black eyes) violence. Then we will all be a voice of women who have no voices.

The poster we did with information and a phone number,“Stop the Silence,” will be on 250 CTA buses in Latino neighborhoods in Chicago. It will be great if a woman riding the CTA bus reads the number and calls.

I have a wonderful boyfriend who is a musician. My life is fun. I have one grandson here, Sebastian, the son of my son Camelo, who splits his time between singing as a lyric tenor and working at Truman College, helping immigrants find their way, and two grandchildren in Venezuela, Samantha and Salma, the children of my daughter Veronica Rasquin, a TV journalist.

Every year, I challenge myself. In 2013, I walked for six days on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, and this year, I learned how to windsurf in Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, in Spain.

Pay attention. Listen to your soul. You will find many things that will give you the next answer and the next answer, and you’ll be surprised by how easily the universe will conspire.

Life will conspire with you when you have a dream that you support.

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