You may think that successful people are born into riches, or have exponential powers that boost their profile above all others, but in a revealing interview with Nely Galán, the Latino New York Times dubbed “The Tropical Tycoon,” I discovered that it’s not who you aspire to be, but who you are in the now that determines true success. Who would have thought that being suspended and expelled from an all-girls Catholic school, fighting for her right to Freedom of Speech, would open the doorway to starring in The Celebrity Apprentice, producing The Swan, or running Telemundo? Not Nely!
As a world-renowned entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and inspiration to millions of Latinos, Nely Galán is here to dish the dirt on how to learn from her trials and tribulations, and take inspiration from her many challenges, it happens to the best for a reason.
I hope you’ll enjoy this deeply revealing and honest interview as much as I did!
How did your rise to Latina Mogul start?
When I was little, like many immigrants, my parents were people you had to translate for and help manage their affairs. Without knowing many other Latinas or Latinos in our new community, I became the “CEO” of my family. In hindsight, when looking at the puzzle that is your life, these events all make sense. It can be frustrating when you are younger having to always rise to the occasion to help them with adult tasks all of the time, but really, it’s preparation for a life of leadership.
When I talk to other Latinos, I always say, “In your pain is your answer.” Even though it can seem horrible at the time, or we have trouble identifying with things that happened to us when we were little, in the end, it all makes sense. Everything that happens to you when you are younger is preparing you for certain things; so that you can prepare for the bigger mission of life. I had a couple of bad things happen to me when I was in high school that really changed my vision for life.
Can you share one of those experiences with us?
I was accused of plagiarism in my freshman year of high school; it was an all-girls Catholic school. Of course, the accusations were not true, I was actually a ‘goodie-two-shoes,’ but going to my parents with that news was difficult; the school told me I was suspended for three days. My parents told me to go back and “Ask for forgiveness.” Instead, I decided to write an article for Just Seventeen on why you shouldn’t send your kids to an all-girl Catholic school. I sent it in, forgot about it, and two days later I was approached by a very nice nun who said, “I’m sorry, you didn’t plagiarize this, it’s actually a great story, and we’re giving you an A plus.” I figured it had all blown over.
What happened next?
A few months later, I got a $100 check in the mail from Just Seventeen, telling me they were going to publish the article. When I went back to school after it was published, I was called to the principal’s office who expelled me. Again, I had to go home and tell my parents, who were freaking out. I called the Board of Ed., and I asked them, “I thought my parents brought me here, from a Communist country, for Freedom of Speech. Are they allowed to expel me?” They said technically, as it was a private school they could, but suggested doing an interview with a newspaper. So then, the local newspaper did a huge story (in a time before social media, remember); I sort of became this famous teenager fighting for my First Amendment Rights. The crazy thing is the nuns actually took me back and graduated me a year and a half early. Just Seventeen then offered me a guest editorship, which happened to be the youngest guest editorship they had given for their magazine at that time; so all these good things happened because I stood up for myself.
How have those experiences changed your perspective?
I honestly feel as if every time something bad happens it’s for a reason; something better always comes out of it. Truthfully, I didn’t think of it as I was catching a big dream back then, they were just the circumstances that led me to where I am today. I believe they are character-building moments.
Why do you think some people find it hard to see challenging experiences as opportunities?
I think we all do that to some extent. I know I didn’t see it as an opportunity then, I really didn’t, but for me, I think the driving force back then was justice. I felt that the accusations were unjust, and I felt like I had to fix it. I think everyone has to find their avenue into the light; into why this is happening, what can I do about it, and what is the thing in me that will allow me to push forward because it’s not for everybody. Most people feel it is human to go into darkness and make excuses or see the negative, but I went into wanting to save myself. It is hard because you always have to look for the light. For me, that was thinking, “If my parents brought me to this country, and this country is all about the First Amendment, then this is who I am and what I want to fight for.”
In this interview with Nely Galán, we discovered that true success is not determined by who you aspire to be, but who you are in the present moment. Nely's rise to becoming a world-renowned entrepreneur started from humble beginnings. Through her experiences of being expelled from an all-girls Catholic school and fighting for her freedom of speech, she learned that every challenge is an opportunity to build character and grow. Nely's story is proof that with perseverance, determination and a willingness to stand up for yourself, anything is possible.
The interview was originally posted on Male Standard.