Meet Anamaria Sayre, the Youngest Host in NPR History

Anamaria Sayre’s enthusiasm for storytelling has been ingrained in her for years, stemming from her tenure as editor-in-chief of her high school paper and her involvement in a college podcast. Yet, while her affinity for music ran deep, she never imagined it could evolve into a professional pursuit. “Music has always been a love, a passion, a hobby. It was one of those things that was a fundamental part of my life and who I am, but never made it on a resume,” she shares.  

Sayre’s introduction to music came from her Mexican-American family, and she recalls listening to her older sister’s Grammys CD, her tía’s Juanes album, her mom’s classical music, and her grandma’s boleros and rancheras. Music was critical to Sayre’s discovery of herself growing up, and it has become even more important at this stage of her life. 

Working her way up from intern to co-host of Alt.Latino, Sayre has revived the radio program’s engagement on various social media platforms and been essential to the growth of shows like “El Tiny” (the Latine music version of Tiny Desk), bringing artists like Ivy Queen, Villano Antillano, J Noa, Maluma, Karol G, and so many others to the NPR show. At only 24, Sayre has won a Webby award and a People’s Voice Award, along with being the youngest full-time host in NPR’s history.

Anamaria Sayre spoke to Remezcla about succeeding in the music industry as a young woman and trying to gain respect in a profession dominated by older men. 

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 don’t know that I ever thought I was in the wrong space. I spent so much of my youth and college years thinking about the future, what was to come, and how I would figure it out. It’s almost like dating. You spend so much of your time being like, “What’s it gonna be like with this?” And then you find the right thing, and it’s so good that you don’t even have to think about whether or not it’s right. From the second I started with this work, I was so focused on enjoying what it was because it was just too good, it was too fun, it was too fulfilling, it was too all of the things that I didn’t even know I wanted in a job or didn’t know were possible. I was like, “Well, I’m going to try to ride this out as long as possible because this is awesome.” And then it never ended. It was too good to have to stop and think whether it was right or not. 

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’ve been fortunate to have really amazing support at NPR. However, my job incorporates both working within my organization space and then working with many people externally in the music space. The music industry is an entirely other world that I knew nothing about, was unprepared for, and my family knows nothing about. No one I know ever knew anything about this business. The moments that made me question the most whether I was capable of doing this work were working with some of the more challenging people in the industry. Many people want something from you, try to push you to certain things, or operate in a way designed to make you question yourself and challenge how valid, experienced, and capable you are of doing your work. It’s really easy to question my own perspective and question whether I know what I’m talking about or whether I should be bringing this artist versus that artist.


Were there any mentors or other women who inspired or helped you get to where you are now?

So many! My manager, Suraya Mohamed. She’s been at NPR for years and years and years. She’s such a badass. She’s one of those people who have built such a career for themselves, and you have to drill her to figure out what she’s done or her accomplishments. She puts her head down, does the work, and has opened so many doors for people in that way. 

Another person at NPR who has been a really huge mentor for me is Lauren Migaki — also, Christina Cala, Sidney Madden, and Lori Lizarraga. You have to lean on other women there to help you realize you’re not being crazy and that it is as crazy as it seems, but also, it’s fine. I am the product of a gazillion women who have come before me and have been incredible supporters of me. My sister is my entire rock, my best friend, my everything. She works with kids in school; she’s a therapist. She knows nothing of anything I do — it’s the best thing ever because she doesn’t care, listens to me, tells me what’s up, and supports me. 

What’s one of the biggest hardships you’ve faced as a woman — or even as a Latina — in the music industry?

Not feeling enough. Not feeling capable, not feeling adequate. Not feeling strong enough, not nice enough, not gritty enough, not tough enough. It’s always an “enough” thing. Not feeling Mexican enough, not feeling American enough. One of the hardest things for me is figuring out how to balance being assertive and kind. The thing I care about the most is that, at the end of all of this, or in the middle of all of this, or whatever, people will look at me or see my name or think of me and be like, “I worked with her one time, and she was really kind.” In this business, so many people want so many things and are in it for so many reasons, and we have to remember at the end of the day that we do this work because it’s joyful work designed to make people feel seen and bring them joy.

What’s one of your favorite parts of where you are now in your journey?

Lately, I’ve figured out how to have fun with my job in an unguilty way. For a while, I was like, “Well, if I’m having too much fun, I’m probably not working enough, and I should fix that.” And that’s not a thing that needs to be fixed. I’ve realized that the more fun days I have, the better. I’ve realized how to have fun with it, how to enjoy it, and how to dial up the pieces of it that I really love, which is the people aspect. I love working with people, meeting new people, learning through people. That is where I shine. I’ve figured out ways to identify and amplify that in my work. By doing that, I get to have more fun, and that’s been a really cool thing that I never thought I would have in a job, ever.

Women need to feel safe in order to work properly, to create properly.

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?

I’m really lucky to be positioned where I am. I’m adjacent to the music industry. I’m a union-protected employee of NPR — I love NPR’s union. I’m a massive NPR union proponent. I’m fortunate in that sense. I have so many friends in this business, and I have heard so many stories, and it is disheartening sometimes. I know it’s getting better, but the exploitative nature of this industry — it is both men doing it to women, it’s women doing it to women, and it’s definitely very present on the Latin music side.

Many of my co-workers work in different parts of the music industry, and sometimes I share stories with them, and they’re like, “I haven’t heard things like that.” I don’t know as much about what’s going on in other parts of the industry, but I do think it can be dangerous to be a woman to a certain extent in the Latin music space. My perspective on it is that none of it is acceptable. Obviously, women need more protection in this business. Women need to feel safe in order to work properly, to create properly. I don’t think there’s ever a justification. I also try to set limits. If I know that someone has been notoriously abusive in this industry towards women, I won’t work with them. And that’s a general thing that people should apply. People like to paint the picture of, ‘It’s music, it’s fun, it’s light, it’s happy.’ And it’s really important to acknowledge and talk about it.


What can be done to make the music industry feel more safe and collective for women?

I do believe in believing women first and foremost. And people should be held accountable for what they do and how they conduct themselves in this industry. As someone newer to it, I don’t have X years of experience working with such and such a person. “Oh, look at all the artists they’ve supported and everything they’ve done.” I don’t care. I don’t care if you started blank, blank, blank careers, and music wouldn’t be the same if you hadn’t done this. If you have been abusive, if you have been controlling, if you have been manipulative, if you have been any of these things, your contribution has nothing to do with whether or not you deserve to have a position or a seat at the table or power in this industry.

I am very much invested in working with, supporting, and providing spaces for people who conduct themselves in a respectable and humane way. I don’t think that there’s such a thing in this industry as separating the person from their work in that regard.

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 — “If I can’t have it, neither can you” — is harmful to women?

I was not prepared for how much I would see this. Not on the journalism side but on the music side. I don’t want to say it’s because we’re Latinas, because it happens with everyone, but there is that energy of like, “Well, I’m the only Latina to do it.” Or, “I’m the Latina who’s the jefa, and I’ve done it, and no one else can.” For whatever reason, for all the traumas that we all carry, this happens. And in some regards, I see this happen to me, and I have to look at that and be like, “K,” and move on.

The best defense that I have against it is to do my best not to be that person, be conscious of it, and think of ways to support other Latinas. There’s no such thing as “We can’t all be doing it.” That’s ridiculous. There are approximately a million spaces for white men, so I think we can make a space for every Latino who wants to be here. I’m constantly trying to check myself and be like, “I get to have fun, I get to be joyful, I get to do this amazing, passionate work — what have you done for someone else today, this week, or this month? Have you taken time to ensure that someone else enjoys this kind of work, too?”

There’s no such thing as ‘We can’t all be doing it.’ That’s ridiculous.

What do you hope to personally change about the music industry, especially for the next generation of women in this space?

I want to normalize difference. The beautiful and most challenging part of my work is that I represent not just myself and my experience and my family, but in many ways, I am trying to represent and make space for an entire diaspora. I work at a primarily white publication. I’m essentially one of two people covering Latin music strictly. I bring people on a show; I get people to the tiny desk. A lot of my curation directly impacts what this publication covers. I’m constantly aware of what I know, but more importantly, what I don’t know.

I [also] hope to help continue to normalize that you can be a woman, you can be young, you can be from X country that doesn’t have as much popular music, doing X tradition, from X background, X race, whatever it might be. It’s hard right now not to be the stereotype of the person who should be in charge, running things, or making decisions. I want to support as many people from all over as possible and try to make that feel normal.