vamos ladies (a community to lower the latina wage gap)
scared to speak english
Social media used to be a place where I explored my creativity. A home for my experiments and unfiltered thoughts. In 2017 I turned to instagram when in some ways, I felt like I had no one else to talk to. No, no don’t feel sad for me. Of course, I had friends and family. But, something was brewing inside of me that I couldn’t quite understand. It felt too vulnerable and raw, not ready to be shared with the people in my life. In that process, Instagram became a refuge for my thoughts and ideas.
As I’ve started to lean on Instagram more heavily for my business, it started losing its magic. Which is fine, it’s easy to hate on social media for allll the things. HOWEVER, the part that’s been bugging me is that there are parts of me, that I realize I have not shared on here. Mostly around spirituality and my more “radical” beliefs. I can talk business and share my stories all day long. To speak on more nuanced topics gives me a ton of anxiety. I’m afraid to say the wrong thing.
I often feel intimidated by words. I think it comes from the trauma of learning a new language at the age of ten. Learning a new language is messy, doing it with an audience of monolingual kids was brutal. And despite the fact that I’m now fully bilingual, the fear of saying the wrong thing still haunts me.
✨I’ve made a commitment to write every day in December. Something small, a little story, a thought. And to post it in my blog. I’ll share some of it over on instagram, but I’m mostly writing for myself. I’m forgiving my future-self who might use the wrong words or write awkward sentences. I’m extending myself grace to explore and see what comes out. ✨
ps. one time in fifth grade, we made valentines for a retirement home. The instructions said to “create a valentine, and add a phrase about love and some hearts”. The only English phrase I could think of was “You are breaking my heart”. I had no idea what it meant, but it seemed to fit the requirements. I decorated it all cute (With bubble letters, duh) and was heartbroken when my teacher told me it was innappropiate.
There I was sitting on the couch of my art therapist’s office, telling her the same thing I’d been saying for months.
“I feel like I’m a pie. I have all these different slices and fragments, I don’t feel whole.”
My identity felt very fragmented. I worked full time in a job, where I felt like I couldn’t be myself. I was one person at home, one person with my family, one person in my home country. I spent all my free time volunteering, trying to fill in the gaps. And I was so exhausted. Keeping the different areas of my life separate and trying to keep the peace. I desired to just “be myself” but to be honest, I had no idea how to start.
After years of surviving as an immigrant in a foreign country, the only thing I knew how to do was to assimilate. This worked, it kept me safe. Until it didn’t. Not being myself became painful.
So, I started my journey to take back the pieces of my identity I had left behind.
The first piece of my identity I wanted back was my Latinx / Ecuadorean identity. I had done too good of a job assimilating and I found myself far away from anything resembling my cultura. I never spoke Spanish. I code-switched all day at work and with my roomates. My family felt like the last flimsy thread I had to a previous version of myself. (And I only saw them once a month)
So, I did what I knew how to do. I built a brand.
Vamos Ladies, an invitation, a call to action, so that other mujeres could find me. I thought, for sure, I’m not the only person feeling this way. I poured my story and myself into this brand.
I embodied the thing I longed for. And over time, I became known as a leading latina. I created a community for people, who like me, needed it. I showed up. I wrote I spoke, and over time this part of myself didn’t feel like a fracture anymore.
When my family lost everything, education changed my life.
Upon arrival to the U.S. my whole family lived in one bedroom of my aunts house. Shortly after that, a relative allowed us to camp out in a house he had been struggling to sell. One day, it sold and we had to move quite abruptly.
I remember the lady that was helping us look for a place to live, told my parents how this house she had found was “in a neighborhood with good schools”. I remember thinking 🤔 what difference does it make? We are still broke.
Welp, it actually made a huge difference. My high school had a bougie fine arts program. This means I got to learn about graphic design software starting at age 14. (Here’s me in my marching band uniform with my parents!)
I believe my life would have been so different had I ended up in a different school. My parents worked all the time, and pretty much since the age of 10 school became my responsibility to figure out. I believe the school environment formed me and empowered me to become a lifelong learner.
———————————————————————Fast forward to college graduation, my graphic design degree allowed me to land a 38k job offer which was transformative for a family like mine.
At my first job, an educational policy non-profit, they referred to education as “the great equalizer”. I don’t think it truly equalizes us, but I do know that my life would not be the same if it wasn’t for education. This is why I nerd out and always want to share what I learn!
your weird makes you great
The thing that makes you weird is the thing you need to center as the pillar for your brand.
When you first start building your brand, you think that you have to “make it look a certain way”. It must have polish, it has to be professional. People fail at their first attempt of building a good brand because they make it look like everyone else. (Um, hello, how are you supposed to stand out when you’re trying to blend in!?)
To create a brilliant brand, you must let that “weird” part of you lead the way.
What’s my weird? I was born into a business family. I used to be so embarrassed about it too. Here’s me, 4 days after migrating to the U.S. feeling so awkward and out of place. When we moved, our suitcases were full of things to sell once we arrived. Not clothes, and definitely not toys. For 20+ years, I’ve watched my family build + rebuild our life through business.
The fact that I grew up surrounded by the business is what makes me different. As a child, I got to see amazing things about owning a business, AND I also got to see the toxic side of owning a business. When I set out to start my business, I didn’t want to start any business. I wanted to start a business that allowed me to LIVE my life the way I wanted to.
how i treated my dad to Hamilton
What do you believe is possible? I used to believe that seeing Hamilton in SECOND ROW seats was impossible. But somehow, it happened. And this is the story of why believing that something is possible is THE FIRST STEP.
In 2018, right around Memorial Day, I was sitting in a hot patio eating take-out and sulking. I resented summer “American” holidays, (For many reasons, that I’ll tell you about some other day.) One of the reasons, was that for working-class families like mine, summer holidays did NOT mean going up to our lakehouse and chilling all day. For families like mine, Memorial Day meant that business would be slow. It meant that my parents would still work and try to make whatever cash they could for our family. I resented the fact that we couldn’t have family vacations like everyone else. That May in 2018, I was mad that I couldn’t treat my parents to the fabulous day off that they deserve. So, as I sat in that patio, I wished for better days. I dreamt of a future where I would make so much money that I’d be able to take to all the luxurious places they deserve!
Back in 2018, Hamilton was in Atlanta. My dad has ALWAYS loved theater. It’s one of the few things that stayed in our family tradition after we migrated to the U.S. Every few years, my dad would manage to get us all orchestra seats to see a play at the Fox. It was always a big deal. I loved going to the theater, but I especially loved how happy it made my dad. For a day, we could pretend to be the kind of family that could afford casually going to the Fox.
I was dying to see Hamilton, and I heard that you could apply to get lottery tickets. I did NOT think I was going to win, but still, every day, I’d wake up and enter my name into the lottery. There was a tiny part, deep in me, that believe it WAS possible for me to win. There was enough of a belief for me to keep showing up. …. until it finally happened! As soon as I saw the email saying “You’ve won the Hamilton Lottery!” I started bawling!!!! HOW WAS THIS POSSIBLE? I knew that I had to take my dad.
When we went to the window to pick up our tickets, the lady whispered to me with a huge smile.
Hola, I’m Pamela Barba! (she/her)
Pamela Barba (she/her/ella) is a brand strategist and coach, and has spent the better half of the last decade leveraging her skills in Communications for justice. She’s a passionate advocate for immigrants.
As a brand strategist, Pamela helps BIPOC and Latinx folks uncover their gifts and share their story. She believes that each of us have magic that the world needs to know about.
In 2017, after completing over 200 interviews of Latinas in the United States. She founded Vamos Ladies, an online community dedicated to increasing wealth + wellness in Latinx communities. Vamos Ladies has hosted book clubs, small conversations and even co-curated an art show in Atlanta all with the goal of helping Latinas own their power and increase their wealth. In 2020, Vamos Ladies rebranded to The Brilliant Brand Club with the goal of being more inclusive to BIPOC of all genders. Currently, the brilliant brand club is a membership where Pamela helps founders build a brand strategy based on their personal story.
She is a speaker and has shared her personal narrative on the stages of SXSW, Plywood People, Mailchimp, AthenaHealth. Her expert advice has been featured on Forbes.
Professionally, Pamela has worn many hats: a strategist, a project manager, a start-up founder, an adjunct professor, an activist, and a graphic designer. She’s also been a part of some of Atlanta’s greatest companies and is a proud Georgia State BFA alumna.
In short though:
Her work is always viewed through the lens of her roots.
As an immigrant and first-generation college graduate, Pamela has dedicated her cross-industry experience to understanding how to bring resources, connections, and thoughtfully designed offline (and online) spaces for communities to thrive.
Sometimes that looks like vulnerably sharing her story on panels, talking money and negotiation on her podcast, or coaching and arming a client with the tactics on building a rock-solid, unapologetic brand.
Whatever the case, wherever the wifi is connecting, Pamela is on a mission to get others to believe in their wildest dreams (with the proper templates and strategies, we don’t sell gimmicks in this family).