Finding “The New You”
TV producer Nely Galán’s prime-time hit helps women find inner and outer beauty.
by Dan Carrison
“Becoming an American citizen certainly requires a lot of interviews!” mused the dignified man as he led his family into yet another bureaucrat’s office. A successful businessman in Cuba, he had spirited his wife and young daughter out of the country when it was turned upside down by Castro’s revolution. And now they were safe in America, in a town called Teaneck, New Jersey. The government official behind the desk spoke loudly, hoping sheer volume would convey his message. “I do not speak Spanish,” he boomed in English, “and a translator is not available. Can you come back?” “I will translate,” offered the daughter as she confidently took her position between the desk and her parents. The official raised an eyebrow and leaned forward to better inspect the child standing before him. Neat, with dark hair and solemn brown eyes, she did not elaborate. She seemed to be patiently waiting for him to say something important. Clearing his throat, he explained to the little girl some of the compliance responsibilities of political refugees living in the United States. Expressionless, she listened, then turned to her parents to translate. When her father or mother had a question, she listened to it in Spanish and then turned to the official and repeated it in perfect English. And so the interview passed through the ears and lips of the child. Afterward, the father-who had just begun his own study of English- beamed at his daughter with pride. “That’s my girl,” he said. But the mother’s eyes were sad as she stroked her daughter’s hair. “She’s only a child,” she said in Spanish, “and yet in situations like this, she is the par-ent. She hears for us and speaks for us.” Her fingertips touched her daugh-ter’s upturned, serious, pretty face, and her thoughts continued, unspoken: Little girls should be happy and carefree, but already she is burdened; already she is called upon to be an adult.
A Natural-Born Businesswoman
Little Nely Galán, who would grow up to become a prominent network exec-utive, television producer, and director, didn’t have a lot of time to just be a kid. Her father had landed a job at the nearby Ford plant in Red Bank, New Jersey, while her mother -formerly a teacher in Cuba-set up an in-home preschool for neighborhood children. Nely, attending a private school she knew her parents could ill afford, was determined to contribute to the family financially. “When you grow up in America, you feel entitled to a life here. But as an emigrant, you don’t feel entitled to anything. You feel as if you have to work for it,” she says. When Nely was 13, a lady in her neighborhood asked her if she’d like to sell Avon products after school in exchange for free makeup. “I told her I’d be happy to sell the product,” laughs Nely, “but for money, not makeup!” Soon she was making $200 a week. “That helped the household budget considerably.” An excellent writer, Nely also submitted stories to Seventeen magazine. Not only did she earn additional income, but she was also offered a job as guest editor at the popular publication-at the tender age of 15! By 17, she had received a prodigious phone call from the producers of 60 Minutes, who were developing a teenage version of the show. “They were looking for young reporters who could write and offered me a job,” Nely recalls. Drying her mother’s tears, she kissed her parents good-bye, hopped into her car, and drove alone all the way to Austin, Texas, to begin what would turn out to be an unbelievably exciting career. At 19, she was recruited for the coveted CBS Producer/Correspondent train-ing program in Boston. While on track to becoming a journalist, she met Norman Lear. The legendary television producer owned a Spanish-language radio station in New Jersey. He needed a competent manager. His gut feeling that Nely was that person was confirmed by reports of her energy, work ethic, and poise. At 22, Nely Galán became the youngest TV station manager in the United States.
All Work and No Play
Nely’s career path continued to follow a telling pattern: from her display of excellence arose a wide array of opportunities. After making a name for herself at radio station WNJU, she embarked on a joint venture with HBO to help the network introduce Spanish-language programs to the Latino com-munity. In 1994, that led to a deal with the Fox Corporation, launching chan-nels for Latin America. That year, her lovely face appeared on the cover of the New York Times Magazine, in which she was dubbed the “Tropical Tycoon.” Over the next few years, Nely also produced more than 600 episodes of original content that have aired around the world. Before long, Sony Corporation asked her to take over as president of entertainment for the entire Telemundo network. Nely worked like a woman possessed, clocking 12- to 15-hour days. Invariably, she could be found in her office on weekends, and she spent one week per month working in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, or Mexico City. “I worked so hard, I actually developed nine lumps in my breasts,” recalls Nely with a shudder. “My doctors told me they were stress-induced. By now, I was also a single mother of my beauti-ful son, Lukas. But I had broken up with his father, which of course added even more stress.”
A Fairy Tale Becomes Realityâ€¦TV
Exhausted and somewhat dispirited, Nely was nonetheless an attentive mom; she read bedtime stories to Lukas every night. One night, she happened to pick up a book of Hans Christian Andersen sto-ries. When reading the beloved fairy tale about the ugly duckling that turned into a swan, something stirred in her very soul. “I felt like an ugly duckling myself,” laughs the Latina beauty. “I was so tired and so down emotionally, I really related to that element of transformation. And then I realized that every woman could relate to the story of an ugly duckling turning into a swan.” Then she had a brainstorm: This is a television show! she realized. She didn’t know all of the specifics yet, but she knew-as only an experienced entrepreneurial producer could know-that the theme of transformation would draw a prime-time audience. Excited, Nely visited an executive friend at FOX and pitched the idea. Her presentation was so dynamic that the concept was purchased on the spot. The Swan became an instant prime-time hit for the network. Fifteen million viewers tuned in for the premiere episode, in which 16 women began the transfor-mation into healthier, happier, and more attractive people. Not only did the popular show change the lives of the contestants, but it changed Nely’s as well. “I realized that the first half of my career, dedicated to producing shows for the Latino market, was probably over. The second half of my career would be devoted to helping women stay well, live longer, and feel beautiful.”
Finding Her Niche
To that end, Nely is in the final stages of producing The New You-a groundbreaking daytime talk show whose goal is to help transform the “old you” into a new you, inside and out. “Think of it as The View but with a dream team of doctors and specialists working to help real people overcome real-life obstacles,” Nely explains. When Nely talks about transformation, she’s referring to more than just what meets the eye. “Oh, if a woman wants a tweak here or there in terms of cosmetic surgery, that’s her decision to make. But the important thing is before you start fixing the exterior, you’ve got to make sure the foundation is intact. Every woman should ask herself: Have I had all of my medical checkups? Do I floss regularly? Do I work out and eat healthily? Do I get enough sleep? Do I meditate? Once you take positive action in these directions, you may be surprised to find you don’t need a nip and a tuck.” Today, Nely is busier than ever, launching The New You brand, includ-ing a Web site, related events, and an upcoming book. Additionally, she has authored The Swan Curriculum. But she has learned how to manage her schedule. In addition to caring for her seven-year-old son, she’s dating a wonderful man and feels that she owes much of her inner peace to their blossoming relationship. “Love is really all about find-ing someone who shares your values,” she has learned. And Nely has done the work to define what her own values are. To support her high-octane energy levels, Nely watches what she eats; works out three days a week; and supplements her healthy diet with vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts. And perhaps equally important, she has learned how to relax while she works. “Because I entered the business world at such a young age, I felt the need to project maturity. I would dress in business suits, wear jewelry, and have my hair done in a no-nonsense executive style. Now,” she says from her corporate headquarters in laid-back Venice, California, “I feel as if I’m established, so I don’t have to act so grown-up. If I want to wear jeans to a meeting, I’ll wear them.” The CEO of Galan Enter-tainment concludes with a giggle, “I’m a lot younger now than I was then.” JOL
Visit www.thenewyoutv.com for more information about Nely’s shows.