by Jeremy Gerlach
When entertainer Yvannia “Yaya” Garcia ’07 first came to the powerhouse Spanish-language network Univision in 2017, she was given two iPhones and told to create a hit TV segment.
“Our producers were shooting other shows; they had no camera or crew available,” Yaya says. “I thought, ‘How in the world am I going to create something great?’”
Spoiler alert: Yaya didn’t just come back to her producers with a show—she came back with an Emmy nomination.
Her creation, Saboristas Al Ataque, Atrévete A Probar, revolves around “hidden food gems of San Antonio.” Yaya goes to restaurants with her two phones to shoot 4K video, tasting the best food the Alamo City has to offer. She produced the first segment in one day, then her second. Audiences started loving it, and ratings climbed. She released her third segment, then a fourth, and onward until the show received an Emmy nomination just a year later.
“That show is my baby!” Yaya laughs. “Just me, two little cell phones, and a hand-held light, and I was able to prove to everyone I could make a hit show—and I was my own multimedia talent, my own producer, my own writer, I set my own shots. So to me, this nomination means everything.”
And for Yaya, the hits keep coming. Her recent success with Saboristas comes alongside an Emmy victory in August 2018 for her work on sports segment Contacto Deportivo on Fire-Lo Mejor de 2017. She’s also up for another Emmy in the Newscast-Morning/Daytime Show category for her regular work on Edición Digital San Antonio.
Fans will also know Yaya for her ongoing appearances on Univision’s national show, El Gordo y la Flaca (translated as “the fat and the skinny,” a show similar to E-News), as well as her daily, five-hour radio show on 95.1 FM, “Latino Mix,” where she interviews renowned celebrities and musicians.
As a budding Spanish-language broadcast icon in her own right, Yaya’s warm voice, bright fashion style, and on-screen charisma are instantly recognizable to her audience. But for all her current star power, it’s easy to forget that Yaya came to Trinity as a self-admitted “shy girl” and a first-generation college student from the Rio Grande Valley.
“I came to Trinity looking for a challenge, and I ended up having a bit of a culture shock my first year,” Yaya says. “But what I found was that at Trinity, I didn’t have to lose myself: I was still calling people ‘chica, chico,’ letting people know I was Latina and proud of it.”
Yaya ended up as a double major in business administration and communication, with a minor in art. She also served as president of Trinity’s Multicultural Network, Latino Exchange, and even found time to serve on the board of the San Antonio-Mexico Friendship Council (a nonprofit run though San Antonio’s Mexican Consulate).
“Trinity taught me to love and communicate with people from all walks of life, whether I was communicating with Latino student leaders, members of the Black Student Union, or Chinese Culture Group students,” Yaya says.
After graduating, Yaya found copywriting and voiceover work with Bromley Communications, partnering with clients ranging from Coca-Cola to CoverGirl. But Yaya was destined for more than voiceovers: By pure chance, she eventually found her way in front of the camera.
Yaya turned up for a casting call at a studio for what she thought was more voiceover work, and stumbled into an on-camera audition for an ABC affiliate music television show, Zonido. Even on accident, Yaya still shined under the bright lights: out of hundreds of other girls up for the audition, she got the part. “It was like God sent me at the right time, right place,” Yaya says.
After Zonido launched Yaya into the regional spotlight, she broke onto the digital scene with an appearance on MSN’s Anoche En La Tele, and then the national scene with Univision in 2016. Here, Yaya started creating TV that seems like every broadcaster’s dream.
While Saboristas nourishes Yaya’s inner “foodie,” and El Gordo y la Flaca takes on current events and celebrity, Contacto Deportivo, a sports program, gives Yaya a chance to explore the entertainment side of sports. “We talk about which soccer player has the hottest cars or makes the most money,” Yaya says. “And I try to put my own spin on it to make it funny, like ‘Who has the nicest derrière, or who’s the biggest Casanova?’ And so we look past the numbers and the technical side of sports to make it a little more attractive for ‘las chicas.’”
And while Yaya’s TV production is painstakingly planned, shot, and edited, her 95.1 “Latino Mix” radio show lets Yaya have a little more unscripted fun. She may interview musicians and celebrities, but interacting with callers and fans is her favorite part of the gig.
During one bad day, Yaya heard from a caller who listens to her radio show to cope with lengthy dialysis treatments. “She told me, ‘Your positive energy is what gets me through my most painful days. I love laughing, I love listening to people yell on the air when you give them tickets to shows,’” Yaya says. “And let me tell you— boy, do I make people jump through hoops to get those tickets—they have to sing, they have to send in crazy videos, simply to prove they’re the biggest fans.”
That genuine connection with fans, Yaya explains, is the best part of working in the entertainment business.
“Fans always surprise you,” Yaya says. “When we do TV and radio gift card giveaways on Saboristas al Ataque, people go crazier for those gift cards than they do for our biggest concert tickets.”
“That’s probably why our ratings are so high,” Yaya adds. “Seems like San Antonians care more about good food than they do about Marc Anthony. Crazy, right?”
But beyond the glamour, the celebrity, and the fine cuisine, Yaya says her life is more of a grind than people realize. “People see the luxury, but they don’t see the work, the long hours I stay up writing and editing segments,” Yaya says. “They’ll see a three-minute segment, but they don’t know it took 20 hours just to create.”
That drive and creativity, Yaya says, is what truly matters for broadcasters—whether they have an entire studio at their disposal, or just two iPhones.
“That’s what I took from Trinity: When things are competitive, you’ve got to find a way to stand out,” Yaya explains. “Yeah, I wear nice dresses, I’m talking to celebrities, but my comedy and creativity, my heart and drive, that’s what draws the crowd in.”