As a child, Liliana Henao dreamed of being an actress or social worker. At 15, she decided she could combine her two dreams—as a TV anchor.
Opportunities in her hometown in Mexico weren’t good. She got an internship at a Houston station but didn’t speak English. “I learned by listening,” she says.
Persistence paid off; she landed an anchor job at a Spanish-language station in New Mexico. In 2004, she came to WZDC, Washington’s Telemundo station. Henao, 32 this month, speaks English fluently.
She often gives talks to Latino students about aid and scholarships many don’t know exist. A legal resident trying to gain citizenship, Henao understands the difficulties facing immigrants: “Our people have lived in hiding too long. I’m an advocate for learning English and taking opportunities to legalize your status.”
She produces a series, “La Buena Vida,” that makes Latinos aware of laws and jobs and encourages healthy living. This year, she plans to document her quest for citizenship on the air.
Henao keeps busy off-camera. She makes time for salsa dancing with her husband and dinner with friends; tamales are a favorite.
She is also part of the station’s La Feria de la Familia, an event that provides help on everything from checking accounts to voter registration. Last year’s fair, sponsored by about 90 companies, attracted nearly 10,000 people at the DC Armory.
It’s at events like this, Henao says, that she’s happiest: “I love getting feedback. That’s the way I can really know what kind of impact I’m making.”
McLean Robbins (email@example.com) wrote about jockey Anna Napravnick in October.