For Marjorie Garcia, protecting the rights of Latine artists feels less like a job and more like a personal mission. Born to Guatemalan and Mexican parents, her music industry endeavors began at the young age of 12. Her brush as a performing artist — discovered by singing and imitating the greats like Aretha Franklin and Donny Hathaway in her garage — and the experiences it encompassed would eventually become the torch to Garcia’s lasting and impactful change within the industry.
Ushered into the music industry after being discovered by a producer, Garcia sang backing vocals for artist recordings until she eventually began her own blossoming career. Then came a nexus in her young life: choosing between pursuing a record deal or a college degree. Opting for the college route and moving music from a profession to a passion, Garcia received a state college education in Music Business in her native San Fernando Valley in Southern California while working two to three jobs at a time to support her educational dreams financially. Lacking the luxury to take time off to determine her next steps after graduation, she set her sights on advocacy as she studied for the LSAT during her taxing last semester and moved to northern California to pursue her Juris Doctor at the University of San Francisco.
After her studies, Garcia became one of the most sought-after music attorneys today — working with artists like J Balvin, Los Tigres del Norte, Gloria Trevi, Pablo Vittar, and Snow Tha Product, to name a few. Her work falls into a world where Latines only make up five percent of the entire population of lawyers nationwide; the number goes down to two percent when narrowing down to Latinas alone. Most recently, she was named a partner at King Holmes, Paterno & Soriano, LLP, becoming the first Latina attorney to land the role at the entertainment law firm.
From navigating the path as a first-generation daughter and now mother to that of a young aspiring artist to a renowned attorney, she has experienced multi-varied levels of the industry, which only strengthens her desire to advocate for the protection of artists and women’s space at the table in the industry. Remezcla chatted with Garcia (pro-bono) to learn more about her experience in the industry, her insight into the life of a working Latina law firm partner and mother, and how to empower the next generations of artist representatives.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
When was that one moment or turning point in which you felt you were in the right space?
I’ve been so fortunate because the easy answer is getting to a place where I could financially contribute to my family. And not just my immediate family but my extended family. That’s something that we first-generation kids do, take care of our extended family. But it’s also in those moments when what I’ve contributed to someone’s career is life-altering.
A great example is what we’ve done with Snow Tha Product. She and I started working together about seven years ago. It really has been us knocking on doors, walking on our knees to grab whatever we can. Then having little wins, and then bigger wins, and then big, big wins. Watching that happen over the years and seeing her succeed [and] buy her ranch. We’re both first-generation, and I feel connected to all my clients who have lived very similar experiences to me, so it’s always been a focus of mine to represent Latinos. We’ve been underrepresented for so long, and we don’t have people who look like us, talk like us, and represent us. I understand that struggle. I understand that desire. I understand that energy. Las ganas that someone like her might have.
So often, we see people advancing in their careers or making “big moves” on social media, but we rarely hear or see those introspective moments in which a person considers quitting or transitioning. Did you ever have a moment like that?
I definitely had moments where I felt very challenged emotionally. But I just didn’t have a moment, a time, or the ability where I felt like I could quit. I just couldn’t. I felt like I needed to succeed. I had challenging moments where I felt that people around me were just ignorant, especially when I walked out of law school with a Juris Doctorate and into spaces where they’ve never seen people like me. When I was litigating, I would walk into places with my Anne Taylor suit, and people would ask me, “Are you someone’s assistant? Are you the secretary? Are you a stenographer? Are you everything but the lawyer?” I gave some people grace. When you’re 10 percent of all U.S. attorneys, why would they think I was the lawyer? I’d speak English, and they would say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish.” There was so much of that sort of stuff that I had to endure.
But it fueled me to realize how ignorant the view was. It must be sad to have these inherent racial biases about what boxes and job titles people should have. It made me want to change people’s perceptions about people of color and what sort of positions they could have.
Also, when I joined the law firm, the work and the pace were hard. I went home my first week crying and thinking, “Oh my god, I’m stupid! Why don’t I understand what’s happening?” But I just took a breath and remembered, “I can’t be stupid because I went to law school! And I did well. And I’m here now. And I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t smart.” I began to learn how to turn that part of me on again. It reminded me, “You got through poverty, got you through college, got you through law school. Those feelings, turn that on again because you need to get into a place where you can enjoy this.” Now, I’m in that place. I enjoy my job, and I love changing people’s lives.
Were there any mentors or other women that inspired or helped you get to where you are now?
Laurie Soriano at my firm kindly challenged me. And I wouldn’t say gentle, but she shook me. She made me recognize things I needed to improve on and challenged me constantly. She’s also just been such a good example of a working mom.
And my circle of girlfriends, especially from college, are all very successful. They’re all very motivating, and even though we can have weeks that we don’t see each other, the minute anybody needs emergency support, they’re at your house with a margarita at the bar. And my mom, my Queen. She’s just such a strong woman. When she came from Guatemala at 15, she came from a super abusive household. My grandma packed up all of her daughters and herself, came to the U.S. with zero money, and figured it out. She cleaned houses her whole career. She worked her ass off and taught me the importance of work ethic and how to be a good mom.
What’s one of the biggest hardships you’ve faced as a woman—or even as a Latina—in the music industry?
Getting a job was hard. I went to school in San Francisco, so coming back into entertainment and feeling like I had lost all of my connections and the people I had networked with was definitely very challenging. I never knew if it was women-specific or because I was just out of law school. But as a Latina specifically, I struggled with the feeling that sometimes I wasn’t enough. I had a lot of self-doubt that I dealt with. I had moments where I just doubted whether I had enough from the past to make me great in the future. But then I remembered that my biggest asset was not a part of the legal world but how I connect with people. The way that we have to resolve issues for our parents. When they don’t speak English, we were the translators. I was a problem solver. That comes from my role in my family, and that makes me a really good lawyer.
What’s one of your favorite parts of where you are now in your journey?
I’m much more comfortable being a role model and an example for my son and my nieces. That’s my favorite part of my career right now. To provide mentorship, an example, and a roadmap of how you can succeed. Accepting that I was in a position of power and that I was in a place that other people wanted to be in. I didn’t have those role models. I had people who worked hard around me, but I didn’t have people with positions of power that I could say, “Oh, wow, she looks like me.” So for me, I’m proud that I can be that for other people.
I do a lot of mentoring. I take all the calls. I take all the emails—everybody that reaches out to me, especially Latinas. I do want to be seen for that reason. We should be showing [young girls] what lawyers really look like because if you opened up a book, you’d probably see a white dude with a suit and a briefcase.
We’re seeing more and more women artists and music creatives speak out about how their work went unprotected or their trust was abused in the industry — what has been your perspective on this, if any? Is this something you’ve seen happen?
Yes, I have seen it happen. When women come into positions of power and become dominant in their fields, the dynamics change. Traditionally, women creators, producers, writers, and singers have been significantly undermined and underrepresented. They’ve been taken advantage of constantly because the assumption is that the industry gets to tell them what their contributions are and not the other way around. It triggers something in me because women traditionally have not asserted their absolute legal right to be acknowledged and credited for the work they’ve contributed.
I’ve had moments when I’ve been up against male attorneys who I’ve worked with and known for a very long time, who will say things that I feel are very disrespectful and have undertones of calling women creators emotional or hysteric just because they’re asserting their rights. It would not be that way if a man were asserting his rights. The moment that happens, I have to call people out on it. I don’t think we’re at that time or place anymore, and I don’t think we ever should have been in that place where we allowed people to be degraded because of their sex. It doesn’t make sense to me. A creator is a creator. It’s black and white; there’s no gray space in that. I have no hesitation in asserting women’s creator rights—I give zero fucks when it comes to that, and people know it. I don’t care because I know I’m right about what I’m asserting. I’m not asserting to joder. I’m asserting because that’s the way it should be.
Women traditionally have not asserted their absolute legal right to be acknowledged and credited for the work they’ve contributed.
What do you feel can be done to make the music industry feel more safe and collective for women?
Male artists should make it their mission to work with women. A long list of women producers, mixers, writers, and artists exists. It needs to be an aggressive mission for men to become more inclusive. They should make it a mandate. The film industry did it. Why can’t the music industry get it together? We need to hire women. We need to hire people of color. We need to hire more women of color into these spaces.
But it’s not just men. Women can also affect each other’s journey or success. Can you explain why a crabs in a barrel mentality is harmful to women?
That idea or ideology is so harmful to women. Women artists against women artists, women attorneys against women attorneys. Because our community sometimes feels small, people can be very competitive. When you have so little, you always feel like something else will be taken away. I felt that way when I was a kid. I didn’t have that much, so you just had this little bit of fear that everything would get taken away from you all the time. But my parents were so generous with what they had. I think about what my parents lived off of with three kids, and they still contributed to my family in Mexico and Guatemala. They contributed to their neighbors. They never prescribed the idea that if you kicked somebody down, you would win. They didn’t teach me that.
What do you hope to personally change about the music industry, especially for the next generation of women in this space? Talk to us about your legacy of making space for others while on your journey.
I hope that when I’m about to retire, there will be so many Latina lawyers to take over that I will not feel like I’ve abandoned my clients — that they will feel like I built something, a structure, and that I proved to myself, and I proved to them, that they could do what I’m doing.
I often get asked, “How do you do it all?” And I don’t know! But I know that I have to continue to do what I do because I never want anyone to experience what my parents experienced when they were presented with a contract in a language they didn’t understand and felt like they didn’t have anybody to ask for help. We’re changing that. This firm has made it its mission to change how this looks. Even the way we seek out associates, we’re diverse in a way you won’t see at any other major entertainment law firm. And that’s my legacy. I’m doing the work here to establish what I hope it will all look like when I’m done and gone.