Whenever Jessica Priego is confronted by an obstacle, she instinctively does what her mother ingrained in her: “Forgive yourself, understand what happened, and move on.”
The 38-year-old owner of JPriego Communications and director of advertising and multicultural marketing for the Chicago White Sox says everybody makes mistakes, but mistakes aren’t always a bad thing. Afterall, it was because of an unfortunate occurrence that she found her calling.
“In 2005, I was working for Sears Roebuck as a PR manager, and I got laid off,” says Priego. “I was crying on the way home, and I had a magazine sitting next to me and I started reading about this guy Scott Reifert — the head of communication of the White Sox.”
As she was reading about his business development opportunities, she says she realized he didn’t mention Hispanic outreach at all.
“I called 411 in the car and asked for the number for the Chicago White Sox,” says Priego. “The point of my call in my mind was that I wanted to tell him that they’re missing an opportunity, and I’d like to help them. He takes my call, invites me to lunch, and I walked out with a project.”
She says he asked her if she had an agency so that they could work together. She didn’t, but Priego says she left that lunch meeting and went straight to establish one.
“I went to pay the fees, got a Tax Identification number,” says Priego who, with the help of her sister, founded JPriego in 2005, along with Chicago White Sox Latino College Night, which still occurs every year in June. “It just so happens that 2005 was also the year the Chicago White Sox won The World Series.”
After that experience, Priego recommends to always make that phone call that might embarrass you, because you never know what good can come from it.
“Some days I have a plan, and some days I’m going to tackle things as they come,” says Priego. “I’m a Leo — I have a very free-spirit, but another part of me is very pragmatic and am a planner. I don’t [plan] too far ahead though.”
Since she’s divorced with a 5-year-old named Max, she says she’s realized your future doesn’t always work out the way you expect. However, she takes her life by the horns as opportunities arise.
While working for Ogilvy Public Relations in Washington, D.C. a few years back, she founded the first spoken word group at Rumba Cafe during her free time.
“It went on for at least five or six years…,” says the Mexican-American born and raised in Chicago who used to bus it up to New York at 23 to go to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe to listen to poets. “I think we’re just such an expressive community and culture that it sort of lends itself to spoken word and poetry. I think my calling is writing and communicating. I write a lot of poetry…I feed my soul through the arts.”
She says one of her favorite writers is the Mexican Elena Poniatowska.
“She’s bad ass,” says the light-hearted, yet assertive Priego. “It’s the most direct and honest social commentary. ‘No tiene pelos en la lengua.’”
Priego, who also loves to write social commentary, says life is really all about balance.
“I work a lot, but I know how to relax – I make sure that I do,” says the busy woman who wakes up before 6am and stays up till 1 or 2am to fit in getting her son ready for school and having wine with her boyfriend at night. “I’m a big napper, whenever I can get one in.”
She says of all of her work experiences, she’s still taken aback by the time she and her sister inaugurated Latino College Night at Chicago White Sox’ stadium.
“To see 800 Latino kids dancing – they loved it, and it made me so happy, says Priego. “It’s about our place in America. We’re here, and we’re just like everybody else. We just love our culture.”
Sometimes Priego, who used to go to White Sox games with her blue-collar dad as a little girl, says she enjoys sitting in the stadium and watching a baseball game by herself.
She makes time to center herself in her busy day and repeat a Mayan concept in her mind, “I’m good, I’m really ok.”
“You have to believe in yourself, because a lot of people won’t,” she says.