As a first-generation Latina born in the U.S., I spent my formative years living with my extended family in Mexico and Colombia, eagerly devouring a blend of classic telenovelas and popular American entertainment, all, unfortunately, absent of any Latino images I could relate to. When I returned to the U.S. and reassimilated to life here, I became acutely aware of my multi-layered identity. I found myself in search of something I could relate to as a bicultural awkward teenager with an accent. Little did I know, I had discovered my superpower - to seamlessly bridge the complex nuances of two very different, yet, coexistent cultures.
I was fortunate to benefit from my first true mentoring experience in college at Loyola Marymount University – a savvy communications professor encouraged me to leverage valuable internships for key insights and networking potential. In fact, a top internship at Lifetime led to my first industry job, learning from an amazing team of female executives. To this day, I credit the mission-focused programming at Lifetime with inspiring me to believe in the possibility of achieving great creative work with social impact. I knew it was time to activate my superpower, so I joined the team at FOX, diving into the explosive U.S. Latino and Latin American international markets in a significant way. This was a dream come true — the incredible work, the passionate colleagues, and the opportunity to grow personally and professionally, while proving that diverse audiences were not a random niche but an extremely powerful demographic. Mentors such as Nely Galan and Don Browne helped guide my career as I continued to tap into my superpower as an entrepreneurial independent producer, programmer, marketer, NBCU corporate executive, and GM running the popular cable network for young Latinos, mun2. These memorable experiences have anchored my career-long dedication to ensuring everyone feels included and represented, both in front of and behind the camera, across all cultures and identities.
As General Manager of Stage 13, a six-time Emmy Award-nominated original content studio under the Warner Bros. umbrella, my primary goal is to shepherd our commitment to storytelling that reflects humanity as it really is—endlessly diverse and always evolving. Our mission is not just to amplify non-traditional voices but to meaningfully connect with audiences that are fast-changing, even more diverse, and cross-cultural in their tastes and interests. Year after year, studies show that more people identify as multiracial and multiethnic. Audience interest and appetite for diverse and inclusive content has long been growing, and now has entered into the mainstream conversation, not just in the U.S. but worldwide, creating a surge of demand.
At Stage 13 we do not subscribe to a "one size fits all" approach to creating content. We curate multicultural, intentional, and intersectional storytelling at all levels. This means actively shape-shifting alternative formats, genres, IP, business & production models to maximize storytelling opportunities. The most exciting and critical part of our mission is meeting dynamic storytellers from all walks of life. From the first day we launched in 2017, this has been built into our ethos: as our mission notes, we are "United by a mindset, not an age, gender, race, or orientation." We encourage creators to unapologetically be themselves, and this is reflected in our storytelling and production approach.
I'm especially proud of our horror anthology series, Two Sentence Horror Stories, which tackles complex, highly topical social issues in a thoughtful and entertaining way. The show's creator, Vera Miao, brings her intersectional vision to the genre with the clear purpose of featuring BIPOC stories and talent. From the first meeting with Vera years ago as she was shifting to writing/directing in Hollywood, her passion and craft were palpable. In its four seasons with the CW, the series has featured over 35 remarkably talented writers and directors from all backgrounds. By design, representation in front of and behind the camera has been nearly 100 percent diverse (BIPOC, female, LGBTQIA+) while our current season has 100 percent BIPOC female representation in the writers room and an all-female LGBTQIA+ executive producing team. It's so gratifying to see the outstanding results that are possible when everyone on the team is focused on creating the right opportunities and infrastructure for creators to succeed.
We have also had the privilege of collaborating with the gifted Ryan O'Connell on Special, an inspirational story about his life as a gay man with cerebral palsy. I distinctly remember hearing Ryan's personal vision for the show, feeling the goosebumps, and saying YES, we are all in to see your unapologetic story fully realized! Seeing how Ryan's story connects with millions of viewers around the world on Netflix is the genuine impact we all dream of making.
As humans, we are ALL multidimensional. We have a thousand passions and stories to tell and shouldn't be defined by just one of them. As storytellers striving to push the boundaries, our goal is to tap into our true humanity and celebrate every high and low in the most resonant way. As an industry, we must connect with these consumers and tell their stories in an authentic and specific yet universal way in order to remain relevant. In success, I am hopeful that our collective work is helping others discover their own cultural superpower. This is not just good business, but an opportunity to carry forward a tradition of powerful, humanist storytelling that can transcend and unite cultures.
Together across this industry, we must shepherd projects of all shapes and sizes, nurture voices of varying experience and origins, and cultivate a new generation of storytellers who authentically speak to the hearts and minds of quickly evolving audiences. The future is here and we must seize the moment.
Diana Mogollón is Senior Vice President and General Manager of Stage 13, an original content studio of Warner Bros.
The statements and viewpoints expressed in the article above are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions or viewpoints of the Television Academy, the Television Academy Foundation, or their members, officers, directors, employees, or sponsors.