Today we’d like to introduce you to Cecilia Elizalde.
Cecilia Elizalde has dedicated her professional life to creating captivating content and top-quality productions with renowned celebrities. As a Producer and Talent Relations Consultant, she has worked with programs like Estudio Billboard, Billboard Latino and El Factor X (The X Factor). On-screen and online she is known as CECELIZ (CECilia + ELIZalde). She hosted, wrote and produced Nota Musical, a one-hour TV music show that aired nationally in the United States on the PBS Spanish-language network, V-me. She has blogged and interviewed artists for AOL Latino and has contributed to Fusion – ABC |Univision.
Soon after she became a mother of a child with Down syndrome in 2011, she found a new passion and mission in life:
To guide, motivate and empower other parents of children with disabilities, or rather, different ABILITIES. She learned how to see the ‘glass half full’ and inspire others to do the same. She has shared her experience at conferences and on one-on-one guidance sessions with parents around the world. Her topics range from parenting and child development to positivism.
In 2018 she launched her own YouTube Channel named CECELIZ, with content dedicated to families of differently-abled children. This channel contains recommendations to maximize the child’s potential, interviews with specialists, and ways to solve any challenge that may arise in the journey.
People Magazine, CNN, Huffington Post, RTL (Germany), ABC (Spain), Vanity Fair -Italy, Cosmo Girl -Indonesia, Univision, Telemundo, Cosas, and the Today show are some of the media outlets that have highlighted her altruistic endeavors. Through strategic partnerships, and with platforms such as traditional and social media, CECELIZ has designed numerous campaigns to raise awareness, and funds for various organizations in Ecuador and the U.S.
Cecilia has been honored with a letter from the President of her country, Nobel Peace Price nominee, Lenín Moreno, recognizing her work and congratulating her for her achievements. She also inspired and became the first recipient of the Journey of Dreams Family Empowerment Award from Parent to Parent of Miami.
She lives by her favorite quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”- Gandhi.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Breaking stereotypes is never easy. When I set out to change the perception of Down syndrome I decided to start through the fashion and entertainment world because what you see in the media (especially through repetition) is what you accept as “normal” and most times even as “cool”. When I paired my daughter Valentina with European fashion designer Dolores Cortes, she became the first person with Down syndrome to be the main model for a prominent fashion designer. The PR campaign I designed for the DC KIDS 2013 line eventually served its purpose and went viral, making news from Brazil to Israel. With attention and success, you are bound to receive positive comments, as well as some negative ones, which wasn’t always easy to digest, but we decided to focus on how blessed we were already. Little by little, I kept knocking on doors and Valentina continued modeling for different brands like Carter, Target, Walmart, GAP and Little Cotton Dress. Now she is signed with a top modeling agency and most importantly, it is much more common to see other individuals with Down syndrome modeling, on TV shows and movies.
Please tell us about your work.
I created the YouTube channel CECELIZ because every week I would get messages from people from around the world, mainly the Hispanic community in the US or Latin America, asking me for guidance. Through my daughter’s social media (@BraveWarriorVG | FB, IG, Twitter) I show the life of a person with Down syndrome can be like nowadays.
Through my social media (@Ceceliz | FB, IG, Twitter) I show what the family’s life looks like, and I share tips, and advice based on what has worked for me. People where seeing what Valentina is capable of doing: speaking two languages clearly and fluently (English and Spanish), taking Portuguese lessons via Skype, swimming, going to a traditional Montessori school with typical peers, traveling, learning to play the violin, going to birthday parties, etc etc.. and many of them wanted to know how that was achieved: clear speech, bilingualism, sports, inclusive education.
I felt that families of individuals with Down syndrome in the Hispanic community wanted ‘my recipe’ and I was ready to share it. I am a mom, that has taken every course and book she could find on disability or child development to improve her daughter’s life, and I want to share the information that I find valuable with those who need it.
My daughter has taught me infinite lessons, but amongst the most important ones is the fact that every single one of us can change someone’s life with our own experience. Many of the messages I get are from mothers that have just found out that their child has Down syndrome, and I usually stop whatever I am doing because I KNOW what that moment feels like, and I do everything I can to craft the proper words that will shape her view of the years to come for her and her child. I take it with immense responsibility and humility.
I also serve as a Consultant now for organizations, schools, businesses and individuals who need guidance in either marketing different abilities, implementing inclusion, or helping a loved one.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Playing TV Producer, Director or Host. I would always get my friends to be the cast of my latest telenovela, movie or news show, I would put up posters of the artists on my wall and then report about them. I would create music videos for my brother (who is a musician) and later, with him and my cousin, we would produce our Award show, where of course, we’d win most of the awards, lol.
The beautiful thing is that as a grown up, I got to materialize those games. I ended up hosting and producing my own TV music show and interviewing those very artists whose posters I would put up on my wall.
Little did I know that later on, I would go on to study marketing at Parsons (NYC) and be able to use that knowledge and the experience in the entertainment industry, to exercise my passion in helping the differently-abled community.
- Email: Cecilia@ceceliz.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/ceceliz
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/ceceliz
- Twitter: www.facebook.com/ceceliz
- Other: www.youtube.com/ceceliz
Nota Musical, Laura Bernal and HITN