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Mixed Media : HEAD A New Rallying Cry for Latinas

October 04, 1994

For too long, they say, their voices have been ignored, their faces overlooked and their stories stereotyped.

The creators of several new, Los Angeles-based quarterly ethnic magazines are hoping to change all that, targeting markets they say are largely untapped.

Charles Squires, director of the New York-based Ethnic Magazine Coalition, notes that most new magazines fail because they are either underfinanced or poorly distributed. "To give voice to an ethnic group is . . . empowering," he says. "To not have the money or the know-how is not."

But these local entrepreneurs have accepted the long odds, launching Image, a magazine for men of color; Que Linda! an English-language beauty and fitness magazine for Latinas, and YOLK, a popular-culture periodical targeting young Asian Americans. Times staff writer Michael Quintanilla tells their stories.

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When I was younger, there were not many Latina role models that I could identify with. I felt out of place and ignored. --Linda Guerrero Peebles, publisher/editor of Que Linda! in a letter to readers

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Four years ago, Linda Guerrero Peebles did an about-face.

After years of trying to pass as Anglo--hiding, denying and lying about her Mexican heritage--she came clean. While attending a college where she was surrounded by Latino professors and students, Peebles proudly claimed her Latin roots.

Today, as co-publisher and executive editor of Que Linda! (translation: How Beautiful!), a fashion, beauty and issue-oriented magazine published in English, Peebles is sounding a rallying cry for Latinas.

"In a perfect world, ethnic publications would not need to exist," she says while sitting in her Culver City living room between her dogs, Sumo and Sparky. "But we do not live in such a place. We never have."

Peebles, 26, can attest to that.

Her father abandoned her mother even before Peebles' birth in Guadalajara, Mexico. Her Mexican mother and white stepfather made sacrifices to provide their only child with a good education. But the best schools brought the worst experiences.

She first encountered racism as a child in El Centro. "I was called a wetback, a beaner, a spic. I became really ashamed of being Latina. I just felt so alone and isolated."

She remembers ignoring her mother's advice: " 'Don't forget that you are Mexican and you have to have pride in who you are.' "

But "when you're a kid you only care about what your friends think," she says. So as a teen-ager, she lied about her ethnicity, telling classmates at a private school in Los Banos, north of Fresno, that she was Italian, "because I didn't want any trouble."

While a student at Los Angeles City College, where Latinos were the majority, Peebles did some soul-searching and realized that what she used to see as a curse--her Latin culture--was a blessing.

Two years ago, while attending Cal State Long Beach--where she is four classes away from earning her journalism degree--Peebles gathered her Latino friends and spoke about her newly discovered Latina pride. Then she pitched her vision for Que Linda!

Although most everyone loved the magazine's concept, naysayers thought it a risky business.

"Some of my friends told me, 'You're going to lose all your money.' And my family was very concerned. They said I was going to work myself to death."

Her husband, Nick Pliagas, a watchmaker, two other partners and Peebles have contributed about $40,000 toward the business, including $15,000 for a prototype her volunteer staff of college friends put together. The magazine, which made its debut this past summer, is distributed in more than a dozen states and is sold through subscription orders and newsstand sales for $2.25 per issue.

"All the money I make I put into the magazine," says Peebles, who works 25 hours a week as a waitress. When she's not waiting on diners or studying, Peebles is at her computer, on the phone with free-lancers, selling advertising or scouting for models.

At a recent meeting of a group of professional Latino publicists, Peebles defended her magazine's mix of fashion, beauty and social issues.

Latinas, she told the group, want beauty tips but also were interested in articles about sexuality, teen pregnancy, AIDS, alcoholism and machismo.

"For a long time I have felt that doing this magazine was my destiny," she says. "I don't want any teen-age girl to experience the shame and pain that I went through as a young woman. We have to realize that we need to be proud of who we are, color and all."

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