In honor of the So Northwest Women's Show at the end of February 2018, we're highlighting a couple women in our community who are making a big impact. If you want to join us at the Show, buy tickets online now!
Every weeknight, 10,000 viewers tune in to get their news in Spanish, delivered by KUNS anchor Paula Lamas. People trust Lamas for her balanced reporting and commitment to bringing them the stories that shape their lives.
The high-tech studio in Seattle where she broadcasts from seems like a world away from where she grew up, in Venezuela.
"[At] five years old I wanted to be Ms. Venezuela," Lamas laughed. "Then twelve years old I wanted to be Gianni Versace's model and then later I wanted to become a diplomat or a journalist."
She loved her life there, it was a wonderful place, with beautiful ad kind people.
But then - political upheaval changed the course of her life.
"Hugo Chavez was a dictator who came to power in 1998 and destroyed everything," she said. "We could tell from the beginning. He divided the society. He divided the country. He divided families."
For a time, her day-to-day life stayed the same. She started modeling as a teen, and competing in beauty contests.
"Every single Venezuelan that's born in the '80s, they want to be Ms. Venezuela," she laughed. "First of all it was a cultural thing, second of all if you want to be in media, radio, TV whatever - that would be easy to do that step. So I thought 'Ok I will do it!'"
She clinched the title of Miss Caracas - and was set to compete for the Miss Venezuela crown when Lamas and her mom took a fateful trip to the United States in December 2002. They used to come to the States often for vacations or special occasions, but they had no idea this time that they wouldn't be going back home.
A phone call from a friend changed their lives forever. The political situation had become dangerous. A phone call from a friend told them that her family had been put on a "list" of targeted government enemies.
"The friend says 'You should stay there [in the U.S.]. Stay in the United States. Don't come back until these people get out of power,'" Lamas recalls.
She and her mother made the difficult decision to stay in the U.S., leaving her family, friends, car, aparment - entire life.
"Sometimes I feel like Paula got stuck in time," she said. "I have to build a new life here."
She and her mom moved to Florida, where Lamas enrolled in college, and started over.
"This is a freedom country, definitely," she said. "I have new friends. I have family here."
While she was a student she fell in love with radio. She expanded to broadcasting, and has been a successful producer, reporter, and anchor for the past twenty years - with stints at Radio Caracol, Tele-Miami and CNN. And now - KUNS in Seattle!
She's fulfilled her dream of being a journalist, and then some. She's done it all - from covering world events to interviewing celebrities .
Pat Costello is the News Director for KOMO and KUNS, and Lamas' boss.
"I think if you've been around Paula long enough, you know she has this infectious enthusiasm for projects or for community," he said. "And she can get you enthused about doing work like nobody's business. I really like that about her - she clearly enjoys what she does. The other thing that is awesome and she's got this passion - passion and curiosity which is a must-have for a good journalist. And she has it in spades."
"I want to tell stories. I want do interviews with people," said Lamas. "I want to tell the things happening at that point. I feel it was very magic world, where you can open up for a person and people can tell you his story or her story. "
Her own personal experience proves her pluck and persistence, in the face of very tough times. It gives her a unique perspective.
"Life gives you obstacles in your way. Life put obstacles in your way always. But you are the only one that put the limits. So you can be whatever you want."