Lissette Campos is a close friend of mine, she has been a big part of our events, the annual Cuban Sandwich Festivals -helping to make them a success!
Lissette Campos is a 7time Emmy award winning journalist and writer…she is a public speaker… telling the stories that inspire and empower. This is part of her story….
LTM: What part of Florida do you live in – are you from Florida? If not – what brought you to Florida? I’ve lived in Tampa since 2001.
Lissette Campos: We moved here from Miami, where I grew up.
LTM: Tell us about where you were born and raised and where your family is from.
Lissette Campos: I was born in Long Island, NY. I’m the first in my family born in the USA. My parents were born in Cuba. Mom left Cuba in September 1961, two days after her 19th birthday. Mom’s name is Miriam. She thought she would be leaving Cuba with her mom and little sister. Instead, Cuban soldiers refused to allow my grandmother to board the flight after confiscating all the jewelry they were wearing and taking their suitcases.
My Dad, Sergio, arrived in the U.S. a few weeks later, alone. He was 18 years old. My grandparents were not allowed to leave the country with dad, their only son.
It would be YEARS before they were reunited! Mom and Dad fell in love and married in NY. Six years later, I was born! We moved to Florida when I was five years old because Dad couldn’t take another winter in NY! Over the years, the shared their stories of trouble and triumph, the kindness of strangers, and overcoming obstacles! I can honestly say that my love of storytelling can be traced back to those stories! I grew up on them and asked for them again and again, at the dinner table.
LTM: Tell me about what you do for a living.
Lissette Campos: I’ve been a journalist and communications professional for 30 years. I started in local television news when I was just 20 years old. I wasn’t old enough to get into nightclubs in Miami but you’d find me at crime scenes chasing down stories! I was the youngest, and most of the time the shortest, reporter on the night beat! Fast forward to 2019, I’m not a reporter or news anchor anymore. I’m a story teller, public speaker, community relations expert, corporate communications professional, an advocate for domestic violence awareness and a champion for local non – profits! Like a big ol’ cup of café con leche, I’m a blend of all these things! The last ten years of my career, producing and hosting “Positively Tampa Bay” at ABC Action News, taught me the power of storytelling! The more I worked with community groups and businesses engaged in community service projects, the more every day heroes I discovered. Telling their stories and inspiring others to get involved was my “lightbulb” moment! I could use my passion for storytelling to effect change, positive change, in my community! I was hooked! I want more of that and it’s what drives me as I contemplate my next career move.
LTM: Tell me about what organizations you are a part of
Lissette Campos: I’m involved with Working Women of Tampa Bay, Girl Scouts of West Central Florida, Hands Across the Bay, Feeding Tampa Bay and the Ybor City Museum Society. I currently sit on two community advisory boards – at WEDU Public Broadcasting Station serving west central Florida and at the Junior League of Tampa. Each September and October, I volunteer with The Spring of Tampa Bay, CASA St. Petersburg, Sunrise of Pasco – all state certified domestic violence centers in our community.
LTM: Tell us about the biggest highlights of your career.
Lissette Campos: I’ve been blessed with amazing experiences over the years. Hands down, are the stories behind the 7 Emmy Awards sitting on my shelf, the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Suncoast Chapter, and the Service to America award by the National Association of Broadcasters.
There was the undercover reporting I did in Moscow, following the journey of Cubans living there in hiding, overstaying their Cuban visas to study in Soviet universities. I travelled there alone, worked with a freelance photographer in Moscow. I was terrified. Every time Moscow police were in the vicinity, the Cubans would disappear into the crowd, leaving me to fend for myself.
The undercover reporting in Havana Cuba was another surreal experience. My TV station sent me and a photographer to Havana on a tourist visa. Our earlier request for a press visa was denied and we needed to get in to see what was going on after the shoot down of two civilian planes over international waters. Everyone onboard, all Cuban exiles flying with “Brothers to the Rescue”, were killed. The shoot down was the talk of the island. Everywhere we went, Cuban men and women talked to us about it. Our hand-held camera, in plain view, did not bother them or keep them from talking to us. By the time we left, 5 days later, we had caught the attention of hotel security and police who had started to “tail” us to see what we were up to. On the day we left, we hid our notes and video tapes in our jeans and under-garments to avoid confiscation.
The domestic violence awareness campaign started out as an assignment for me. It was my first big project of the new job as community affairs director at ABC Action News in the fall of 2008. I knew nothing about domestic violence and was unprepared for the life-changing experience that lay ahead. Every interview with survivors, local advocates at the domestic violence centers and first responders made an indelible mark on my heart. A year into the dv awareness project, it became a calling. I volunteer with local DV centers, do public speaking and public appearances to help year- round.
LTM: How important is being a Latina to you?
Lissette Campos: Very! It’s part of who I am.
LTM: What is your favorite type of musica and what is your favorite song?
Lissette Campos: I love modern Christian music a lot! I boogie to Jordan Felis’ “Down to the River” and anything by Hillsong United! Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett are favorite hits at home too! When it comes to “mi musica” Latina I love the oldies but goodies of Ernesto Lecuona, Desi Arnaz and Celia Cruz! Azucar, baby!
LTM: If you can go back to let’s say 18-21, what are some of the pivotal decisions that you have made that you would do differently.
Lissette Campos: Education is the great equalizer. I dreamed of being a reporter/writer since I was a little girl. Going to college to pursue a journalism degree was a must. If there’s only one piece of advice I can give young men and women in that 18 – 21 age group is this. If you’re lucky enough to know what you want to do when you grow up, get the best education you can to succeed in that! Go after it with all you’ve got! Research what degree you’ll need once you graduate from high school and just do it! If it means going to college, go! It it’s a trade school you need, do it! Get the best training/education you can for your chosen profession. Then go out and be the best at it! Don’t wait for a better time to go… or life to get easier. Start now. Don’t wait.
LTM: What do you think some of the best career choices are for young Latinas.
Lissette Campos: Anything they want! Young women have so many options today, there’s no excuse not to become your best- self. God gifts each of us with certain talents and abilities. Astronaut, accountant, “anchor” (ie. News anchor) or arborist – whatever you choose to be, commit to being the best. It’s advice I give to all young women – regardless of ethnicity.
LTM: Tell us about what kind of projects you currently have going on.
Lissette Campos: As I explained earlier, I’m moving from broadcast news & community affairs into the world of corporate communications. There are so many companies and non-profit doing extraordinary work in our community. I want to help tell those stories and inspire more of them. Ultimately, our community wins.
LTM: What can we expect to see from you in the future.
Lissette Campos: Stay tuned…
LTM: What is your comida favorita?
Lissette Campos: Anyone who knows me will tell you it’s “cannolis”! OMG I can’t resist cannolis! Second on my list are fried plantains! The crunchier the “tostones”, the better! Add a little salt, and I’m in plantain Heaven!
LTM: What did I miss? Tell me something you want us to know!
Lissette Campos: Faith has taught me that my most IMPORTANT accomplishments don’t happen at the office. They happen at home. My husband Angel and I believe our MOST important work is raising our daughters, Sophie and Audrey. Parenthood is the highest calling of all. No amount Emmys will ever hold a candle to Sophie and Audrey. Being their mom is, hands down, the most precious part of my life.
Favorite quote: “Rest is found, not when you try to understand all the confusing twists and turns that shape the timeline of your life, but when you trust the One who is writing your story.”