Actress and producer Zoe Saldana is launching a digital media company that will focus on empowering Latinos.
BeSe (pronounced "bee-say") will debut by the end of 2017. The start-up will create cultural storytelling targeting millennial and Gen Z audiences, for distribution across social and digital platforms.
Saldana will serve as the founder and CEO of the company, with media and entertainment veteran Daniel Batista as president and COO. Backing BeSe is Plus Foundry, which partners with influencers and brands to ideate, develop and launch transformative ventures.
The name comes from the verb "to be" in two languages — in English "be" and in Spanish "se" — meaning to exist and know yourself. Its mission will be to amplify the voice and untold stories of cultural pioneers reflecting and shaping the collective American experience.
"Latinos are a growing community in America, but Latino stories have remained historically marginalized," said Saldana. "I'm so excited to be leading BeSe, a truly uplifting brand that fills a niche for young audiences craving positive portrayals of the modern Latino experience in America. I'm grateful to partner with Daniel, Monica and Plus Foundry so that more voices can be heard and empower others to actively create their own futures."
Latinos comprise an estimated 18 percent of the U.S. population. They represent only 4 percent of the newsroom workforce and less than 2 percent of news producers. Real-world stories around the Latino community constitute less than 1 percent of news media coverage, with the majority portraying Latinos in a negative light.
BeSe investors and advisers include Monica Lozano, former editor, publisher and CEO of La Opinion and its parent company, ImpreMedia, and current board member of Bank of America, Target Corporation and The Rockefeller Foundation, and Kevin Yorn, co-founder and managing partner of Morris Yorn.
In support of the launch of BeSe, Saldana, Batista and Lozano will appear at Worldz 2017 on July 31 in a special Town Hall, "Empowering the Latino Voice in Media" moderated by Christian Martinez, Facebook's head of multicultural. Worldz is an annual cultural marketing summit and year-round community uniting rising stars with leading business and cultural icons.
Saldana, known for starring in the Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Trek franchises, is also a producer and principal, along with sisters Cisely and Mariel, with Cinestar Pictures (Gone Missing, Rosemary's Baby). This June she was honored with an Outstanding Achievement Award at the Latino Media Awards and Gala, culminating the annual NALIP Media Summit.
Batista is a 15-year veteran of media and entertainment, specializing in digital media start-up ventures. He most recently spent three years as head of content licensing and business development at mitu, a leading digital-first media brand for Latino youth. Prior to joining mitu, he headed up corporate strategy and business development at theAudience, a social media publishing start-up, and spent two years as a management consultant at L.E.K. Consulting, focusing on digital media casework. He previously held positions at Universal, Paramount and Warner Bros. studios.
"I'm incredibly excited to partner with Zoe in building BeSe into a media brand that creates purpose-driven content, helping fill the significant gap that exists in today's media landscape," said Batista.