Mother’s Day with Ilia Calderon

1. Ilia, please tell us about your upbringing and formal education.

I was born in the small town of El Choco, Colombia in a humble and modest household. We were poor but very happy. My mother, Betty, was a school teacher and single mom. She raised me and my two sisters to be strong and independent women, which is why at an early age I decided to move away to Medellin to pursue my studies. I knew I would have better opportunities in a bigger city. I was able to study and become a professional, but I also faced discrimination because of the color of my skin. It was the first time in my life that I had to deal with that.

2. When did you move from Colombia to the United States? Was the transition to the US difficult?

In 2000 some Telemundo executives traveled to Colombia to do castings for a news anchor position, but I was not called for the casting. The person in charge (a Colombian journalist) called every news anchor, except me. It hurt me but since I didn’t know anyone that could help me with contacts, I moved on assuming they had found the talent they were looking for.

Eight months later, I came to Miami on vacation and I was curious to know how news teams worked in the United States. So, a friend that knew a friend working in Telemundo, invited me over and the day I visited, I was introduced to the President of News, Joe Peyronnin. He immediately invited me to a casting. Of course, I took the opportunity (the one someone had denied to me before) and although I was nervous, I took the risk. They liked my casting so much I was offered a job and my life completely changed. I moved to the US in March and I welcomed the new adventure with open arms. The most difficult part of the transition was leaving my family behind. I am extremely close to my mother and sisters, and not seeing them often was emotionally difficult. We now all live in different parts of the world, and thanks to technology I am able to easily communicate every day with them.

3. How did you meet your husband Gene?

I met my husband Gene through my trainer Allan Angeles. He was supposed to be setup Gene with another friend of mine, but when I heard about him and saw him, I was immediately drawn to him. Gene is caring, fun and ambitious. We had a lot of things in common, and it flowed. He also wanted a family and that was an important thing for me as well. He is a very smart, disciplined and a dedicated physical therapist. We have opposite personalities, but we complement each other in the things that really matter. He is a son of immigrants that came to the United States chasing a dream. Seeing him succeed and accomplish so many milestones in his career makes me proud and happy to have chosen a wonderful partner that is also a role model for our daughter and our nieces.

4. You and your husband are a beautiful couple. Being an Afro-Latina woman and your husband being a Korean-American man, has that diversity brought challenges in your lives?

The Jang-Calderon household is VERY diverse! We eat traditional Colombian cuisine such as a delicious bandeja paisa, but also love the traditional Korean kimchi. We speak Spanish and English, and we are raising our daughter Anna in a bi-racial, multicultural environment. At home we embrace our Black, Colombian, Korean and American roots. We are always focused on what we have in common and what is important for us. We share the same principles and morals and that is what we want to pass on to our daughter Anna.

5. The fruit of your love is your daughter Anna. Which values are the most important for you as a family that you apply to raise her?

Anna is the most important person in our lives. We teach her the importance of tolerance, acceptance and caring for others. She loves her friends, her family, teachers and even her neighborhood pets.

We make sure she knows and cherishes the privilege of being a mix multi-racial child and encourage her to embrace differences. We also try to explain to her the political and social environment that we are living in the country, and in the world now. She has already expressed her thoughts about social challenges. We are proud of the caring person she is and to be honest, we really care more about raising a “straight A human being” than a straight A student.

She is an “outside of the box” thinker and we love that!

6. You have a great profession and are dedicated to your career, you also won several awards during the years. How do you manage your time as a mom and as a professional?

In order to balance a successful career and motherhood, the key is balance and patience. I travel a lot and work long hours, but I know that when I am home it is important to dedicate time to Anna. We talk about school, friends, her favorite books and television shows. We also talk about what I do at work, important interviews and although she is still a small child (she is 8) she is aware that I take my job seriously and love what I do. I know she is proud of me and all I hope is that I am being a good role model to her.

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