Jessica Flores is a musical artist, songwriter, and radio and digital personality. The daughter of a Mexican father and a Colombian mother, Jessica began performing Latin folk classics at family gatherings, karaoke bars, and open mics alongside mariachis and salsa bands at an early age. A stellar athlete in high school, Jessica was recruited to play soccer at the D1 collegiate level for USC.
Early on she became involved with USC’s outstanding entertainment program earning her own USC radio and television show, as well as the opportunity to create and package stories in the newsroom.
She went on to become Radio Disney’s newest and youngest on-air personality at the age of 19. She is currently running her own show on Cali 93.9 LA which airs from 7pm-12am Monday through Friday!
We sat down with Jessica to talk about how she made it in the industry, following her passion, and what she’s learned along the way.
The following interview has been condensed for clarity.
Talk to us a little about you + your journey. How did you start your journey in music?
Well I grew up singing. I always loved mariachi music. I always knew I loved to perform, but I was also a soccer player - so my journey brought me to USC where I [played soccer]. From there, I quickly realized that the music space was what I wanted to do long term. I stopped playing soccer. I interned at Univision and I did a lot of stuff at USC. I did whatever I could get my hands on.
In my sophomore year in college I landed my show on Radio Disney. From Radio Disney, I was at Power 106 as a producer with The Liftoff and with The Cruz Show. With that experience and my relationships that I had made in the industry, I then worked at Musical.ly, now known as TikTok. I was the Latin Partnerships Manager there.
I launched all the campaigns, worked with the labels, got a real big understanding on social media and music, and how the digital platforms are seeing music forward. It was so amazing to be on the forefront of that, but I also then realized at that point in my career that I didn't want to be behind the scenes. I still very much loved being on air, connecting with artists, interviewing - all that stuff.
From there I worked at Telemundo. I had a show there, came back to LA (because that was in Miami)...I did some stuff for Nike, built my own personal brand online, and now I have my own show on Cali 93.9, which is it's own station here in LA. So it's been quite a journey, but it has been honestly amazing.
What made you land specifically in radio?
Well, I mean that's a good question because I always loved singing and I always loved performing. In middle school, I was always singing the national anthem & in elementary school I was in choir. I loved singing with mariachis at family functions - so when I got to college I just remember being on the soccer team and being like, wait a minute, I need to get back into music.
I need to talk. I need to use my voice. I know I can do it. That was the inspiration for me - I guess tapping in to USC radio and all the little things that I could do. There were like three listeners on USC radio, but I did it, and that kind of catapulted me to a bigger gig and then a bigger gig. But yeah, like that's what it is: my love for music.
Can you talk a little about your slot on Cali 93.9? What goes into your daily prep since this is a very important time slot; people are getting off work, getting ready to go out. What helps you stay in that mode?
I was doing mornings previously, but my boss kind of recognized a young energy in me and a digital presence and she felt like that would be a good fit for night. She gave me my own show - 100% up to me to build my team; build the brand, build the imaging, build the vibe, build everything.
At first I'm not going to lie, I was a little sad because I loved mornings, but it has been nothing short of a blessing and I could not be happier with having the night show.
"On our fourth week - we hit the number one show overall market for women 18 to 54 - or it was something insane. It was like women, like millennial women, which is amazing!"
How do you decide what’s worth fighting for? Not only for yourself but for artists?
That's such a good question. When I first started in the industry, I was so relentless that I didn't care. I would go into any situation, whether it made me happy or not; whether I was getting paid or not. I was just hungry. I just wanted to get there.
I think as you get a little bit older, you just want peace of mind. You just want to be happy. You need to be able to find a balance. There comes a point in your life where you say, you know what, this doesn't make me happy, I'm going to stop doing it. I love what I do now on the radio, but I will not do things that no longer feed me, or make me happy, or make me feel filled.
What’s a key piece of advice for someone who aspires to work at a radio station - whether it be an on air personality, a program director, a DJ, etc?
"Look, I just remember coming into this knowing that anybody that I met, any hand that I shook, any situation I was in - it doesn't matter how big or small [a task] is. I've gotten coffee for people. I had to clean up the trash. I had to take out the trash when I was interning at different spots. I was there to grab water for the guests. I did all that, but I was so hungry for it. I just wanted to be in the room."
Just being in the room, just being exposed to that, it felt like an honor that they allowed me into that space. The relationships you have with people, the impressions you leave on them, how they see your work ethic - that's what's gonna be the differentiator when somebody asks, "Hey, you know somebody that could do this?” “Oh yeah, my intern Hannah. I like my intern, she killed it. I would totally recommend her." And that's what opened up the most opportunities for me - just networking and being relentless.
Reach out to people. Work hard, don't be thirsty and annoying about it, but make sure you're ready when that opportunity hits - that you're prepared. I would say that's my biggest advice.
And I''m going to be honest with you - out of the opportunities I've gotten, I've never walked into them feeling prepared, but somehow you just are. If you've done the work, you just are. You're going to doubt yourself.
"Every job I got into, like Radio Disney, I did not feel prepared for that. I had never had a show, but I did it anyway, and it was amazing. Power 106, I had never produced a show, but I did it anyway. Musical.ly, I'd never worked in tech, but did it anyway.
You're always going to have your first never-done-it-but-I-did-it-anyways. I did my best, and it was successful - AND I was nice to everybody, and that's honestly what it comes down to.”
What is the biggest challenge for you at the moment?
My biggest challenge I would say is navigating how to be a leader in my own right. I've led teams before, but this is my first time leading an on-air team. My biggest challenge is figuring out who the right people are for that team, given my budget and all that stuff, and leading them in a way where they feel like they're growing - where they feel valued.
At the same time, understanding that I'm running a show and we need to get down to business. This isn't just something for fun, like this is real work. So just really understanding what it takes to be a great leader in that room every single day, that's my biggest challenge right now. But honestly I'm having fun getting to know myself in that aspect every day. So it’s a challenge, but I'm cool with it, you know?
Which artists are you excited for this year?
I'm all about the people that are a little bit underground, vibe-y, and different. I listen to a lot of R&B. I listen to a lot of Country - I listen to everything.
I've always been really excited about Becky G because she is someone that is from LA, she's like this melting pot. She is somebody that dips and dabbles in so many different genres and she's such a chameleon. I'm a little bit of throwback 90s, I'm a little bit about like early 2000s music, I'm a little bit of country, and I just feel like I relate to her in that sense. I think I'm always just kind of curious to see what she's going to do next. I feel like she always releases from the heart.
Looking back, what would you tell your younger self?
Career related, I would tell myself to value yourself more when it comes to relationships because man, I've been through the ringer in that sense. Have enough confidence in yourself, be more secure. You're dope. Don't feel like somebody can just be taking advantage of you.
"Look, you're either gonna fuck up or not. If you fuck up, what's the worst that's going to happen? You're going to move on and 10 years from now, it's not gonna matter, so just be fearless and just be a good person - that's all you can do."
How do stations track data/research?
They have a program where they can see what demographics are tuning in. You can really see what time slot is doing well, who's out performing - it gets pretty specific too.
What do you or the station take into consideration when adding a song into rotation? What determines when it's time to drop a record?
We have a music team that determines what's on, what's not, and they have software that helps them choose that. Of course they have their ears in the streets, so they're really instant with that.
My job as a radio personality is to be dope on air and give good content, relate to people, connect to people, make them feel something with my message. On the music aspect, I leave that to the DJs and the music programmer.
Can you explain the process of labels coming in and pitching their records?
From what I understand, they have mixer meetings. I know they have that at our sister station. They have mixer meetings where an artist or maybe a label will come in and play a record for the DJs and kind of talk about all the new music coming out.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I care a lot about my community and people in general - animals, the environment....I'm vocal. I will stand up for the things that I'm passionate about. I'm not afraid to shy away from those topics, even on air. Even though I have my own demons, I fight to be happy every day and I hope anybody that ever comes across my page understands that like, all right, this girl, like, she isn't just living this perfect life.
Even if I were to tell you what happened this morning, like I had a whole ass breakdown, and I was crying, and it was just like horrible. I want people to remember me as being open, and authentic, and just not tryin' to, you know, I guess pretend like everything was great all the time.
What are you most proud of in your life + career?
I'll start with my career. I'm most proud of how much I hustled in college, and how relentless I was in following my passion. Every year I told myself I'm going to elevate. Every year something crazy is going to happen to me. Since then, every year I've had a new position, a new thing that I've done, a new company that I conquered, a new fear that I conquered. I entered 2020 with such a bang with even this show! I'm just proud of myself for just being fearless. I didn't know I had it in me until I just got the ball rolling - and now I just expect nothing less of myself.
"When it comes to life, I'm proud of overcoming a lot of my depression and anxiety. Being in an industry that is not exactly the most friendly to our mental health - I'm very proud of myself for fighting through that by being relentless and just wanting happiness above anything else."
All the fancy shit, like that's great, but I’d choose a day out with my friends over any type of event any day. I'm proud of myself for being grounded because of my parents, and because of my family.