Many lives have been upended by the raging COVID-19 health crisis, and media entrepreneur Jannelle So was no exception.
“My business model relies on advertising. I had deals with airline companies, fast-food chains and casinos, waiting to be signed. Understandably, they all put a halt on advertising efforts because of worldwide lockdowns. Some ongoing contracts were also canceled,” recalled So.
So is a Filipino-American media pioneer who made a name for herself with Kababayan Today, America’s first and only daily show for and about Filipinos. The program aired on KSCI-TV LA18 for more than eight years with So as host and producer, and was the longest-running Filipino daily talk show outside of the Philippines. When she left the show in 2014, So started her own production company and later launched her weekly lifestyle show called So Jannelle.
Against the backdrop of a pandemic, So and her team found it a challenge to film for So Jannelle, and had to cancel shoots and interviews. Apart from her weekly talk show that was negatively impacted, So also produces corporate videos for major brands, and these companies too had to put their projects on the back burner.
As the world braced for the worst and hoped for the best, So decided to launch virtual meet-ups, lending voice to women who are reshaping their communities, and can provide inspiration and motivation at a time of unprecedented crisis.
“While there were losses, there were also gains,” shared So.
“My team and I gained resilience. As we learned to pivot, we also discovered new and more efficient ways of doing things. More and more, people turned to media, both traditional and social, to get accurate news and information, as well as valuable tips and tools to cope.”
“And we added gathering and sharing of culturally-relevant stories to that. Things were changing right before our eyes. Our life as we knew it was being turned upside down - so my small team and I aimed to be there for our audience by giving them something comfortable, familiar stories, features and interviews told in a way that they can connect with, culturally,” added So.
In celebration of Women’s Month, So is highlighting stories of powerful women through her many platforms.
“I have always kept my door open for women for different advocacies and issues. Even when it was considered "taboo" to talk about things like domestic violence and sexual assault, I discussed it openly on my former show, and now in my new program. I recently featured a woman who spoke about being raped twice, at two different times in her life and by two different men. None of the perpetrators were arrested. Before that, I interviewed a woman who spoke up against being sexually-molested by her own father. She has since been speaking about this issue; and has even become a TEDx speaker,” said So.
This year’s International Women’s Day highlights the theme “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World” and So’s work resonates strongly with this.
“It is very encouraging helping women to find their voice, and consequently harness their power. At the end of the day, I believe that's what women power is - to find our voice; muster the courage to use it and speak up; and with our collective narratives, inspire others to do the same. It's a circle of empowering each other,” said So.
With the many recognitions and awards she has won, So is most proud of finding balance with her family and work.
“I consider this my biggest achievement in women empowerment - achieving the proverbial work-life balance - running a small business in a big US market, while being very hands-on with my 5 year old daughter and my 2 year old son. I look at myself in the mirror and I can truly say that I am very happy and content with life right now.”
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.