Ana Sheila Victorino is an introvert with a podcast and a mission: to help others live healthy and authentic lives, free to be who they truly are. A queer Latina who immigrated with her family from Mexico at age four, Ana Sheila is breaking free from societal pressures to bring queer Latinx visibility and help her community live healthier and more fulfilling lives.
“I’ve spent most of my life trying to follow a very linear definition of success in order to be a model immigrant and feel ‘worthy’ of being here,” Victorino tells GO Magazine. “I became attached to recognition, awards, and money as a marker for success without really stopping to think about whether what I was doing was truly fulfilling.”
Following that linear definition of success led Victorino first to Stanford University and then to the University of California, Los Angeles, where she earned an M.B.A. After graduating, she landed in the tech industry, where she had a thriving career. She was often the only Latina in spaces dominated by cis white men, feeling extra pressure to prove she deserved to be there.
Victorino once described herself as a “Gold Star Chaser,” constantly pushing herself to earn titles, awards, and recognition; ultimately, however, her efforts left her feeling unfulfilled. She was finally forced to pause from her life of achievements when a spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid leak left her bedridden for months. Unable to work or do basic tasks, Victorino was gifted with the time to reflect and meditate.
During her recovery, Victorino realized that she was not really passionate about the work she was doing. She started to unlearn the typical definition of success as one that is attached to degrees and bank account balances. Victorino decided to leave her career in tech, including many of the lucrative perks that came with it, to instead help others live authentically fulfilling and healthy lives. She co-founded a wellness start-up helping individuals remove the barriers that get in the way of their health.
View this post on Instagram
This new focus still left her searching for a deeper connection to others like her, so she decided to focus her wellness work on her community. Victorino embarked on a path that led her to become a life and well-being coach specializing in Latinx empowerment. Today, she is a leadership coach with Launch Latinx, where she and founder Harry Lopez help leaders eliminate barriers that get in the way of living more fulfilling lives. Victorino takes her coaching to the airwaves through a bi-weekly podcast called “Tamarindo,” which she has co-lead with Brenda Gonzalez since 2019.
Speaking to thousands of listeners twice a month on her podcast is not an easy feat for Victorino, who suffered from paralyzing performance anxiety, often losing sleep ahead of big presentations. To face this fear, she said in an interview with VoyageLA, she set an intention at the start of 2018 to “step into visibility and own my imperfect but important voice as a queer Mexican immigrant.” As a practice in manifesting her intention, Victorino accepted speaking opportunities, including on a panel on LGBTQ+ representation, where she met Gonzalez. The two joined forces as the co-hosts of “Tamarindo,” a podcast that aims to inform, inspire, and impact Latinx listeners.
Seeing a gap in Latinx representation in the wellness space, Victorino began providing culturally relevant well-being coaching and recommendations through a podcast segment called “Calma,” or “calm,” in Spanish. She also created the hashtag #CalmaMoment to capture educational and inspirational posts shared by the podcast’s social media.
View this post on Instagram
“I didn’t see very many offerings that were accessible to our communities or that really connected with our particular experiences and background,“ Victorino says. “We can’t always just go have a spa day or pretend like we can just wish away our trauma. I wanted to think about how we provide offerings that were conscious of our resources and also considered our particular life experiences and culture.”
The idea of self-care is growing in Latinx spaces, and Victorino is encouraged by it. “It’s important that we spend more time reminding our community to focus on our well-being because it tends to be something we put very low on our list either because we weren’t taught to prioritize it or because we don’t have the time or resources for it,” Victorino says. “My mom is the perfect example of that. Even now, she has a hard time thinking of doing things just for her, because as the oldest daughter of seven, she was my Abuelita’s main assistant, and she transitioned from that to doing everything she could to give my brother and I a comfortable life as immigrants in this country.”
Victorino’s focus on well-being resonates with listeners who come to “Tamarindo” to learn about issues impacting the Latinx community and find ways to get involved. The podcast was recognized by Oprah Magazine as a resource to learn about race and racism in America. Victorino’s work is especially timely following four years under the Trump administration where hate, racism, and homophobia were emboldened, including against immigrants like herself.
“Taking care of ourselves is essential so that we can be our healthiest selves and have the greatest impact on the lives of others,” Victorino says. “It’s also revolutionary, because unfortunately, taking care of ourselves has often been frowned upon in our current model of capitalism where stress and burnout are seen as a badge of honor and where wealth has often been created at the expense of Black and Brown labor.“
In addition to the focus on well-being, Victorino owns her “imperfect voice” through vulnerable moments, where she might share from her coming out story, talk candidly about her relationship with religion and spirituality, or of the joys of finding love during the pandemic.
On a recent episode, Victornio talked about the pain and rejection she felt growing up Catholic while knowing she was queer. As a perfect Mexican daughter addicted to achievement, Victorino hid her sexuality for many years, including praying for her gayness to go away. Victorino’s raw and authentic voice brings urgent and necessary visibility to the experience many queer Latinx face.
One listener shared on an Apple podcast review dated January 16, 2021: “As a first generation Latinx woman, as a BROWN woman and as a QUEER woman, I’ve never felt so heard and understood as this episode made me feel, I find myself feeling very lonely and misunderstood as I don’t have any other family or a lot of Latin queer friends at that. My struggle with my sexuality, spirituality is very present in my confusion and struggle. Thank you for this podcast. I’m a first timer and I’ll be here forever now.”
Victorino is fueled by the powerful ways listeners connect to her experience. “Reading those messages has reminded me how important our work is,” she says, “and why we must keep sharing our stories, being vulnerable, and elevating the voices of other Latinx people.”