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DOWNEY - Growing up, Patty Rodriguez wasn't quite sure what she wanted to do, but she always knew she wanted her voice to be heard.
"Knowledge is my hobby -- I love learning new things," she said. "I wanted to do something fun where I worked behind the scenes to deliver news to people."
Today, Rodriguez reaches millions of Angelenos every morning as the senior producer of KIIS FM's "On-Air with Ryan Seacrest," but the Lynwood native -- and recent Downey transplant -- is hopeful her new jewelry line Mala will inspire millions of young women to be proud of where they come from.
"If someone would have told me last June that I'd be starting a jewelry line, I would have laughed in their face," said Rodriguez, who started as an intern at KIIS FM almost 14 years ago. "But I decided to throw the ball and see where it lands."
As senior producer of "On-Air," Rodriguez says her task is very simple: come up with creative ideas
"It sounds easy, but it's hard. Ryan [Seacrest] is just a hard worker and a professional -- he creates magic," she said. "I work with a team putting together the show every morning...a show everyone can relate to. You have to think in and outside the box."
Rodriguez, who studied radio and journalism at Cerritos College, believes the job comes naturally to her because she understands the community she grew up in.
"I came from this side of town -- we're colorful, fun, community-oriented people," Rodriguez said. "I'm very proud of being Mexican-American, being able to shift between two cultures, between English and Spanish. It's two worlds, but it feels like one."
Rodriguez said it was those feelings of culture, roots, pride and heritage that sparked the idea for her jewelry line of gold and silver necklaces, Mala.
"Mala means 'bad' in Spanish, but it also means 'tough' or 'proud,'" she said. "It's targeted to women. I want them to be proud of where they come from. Lynwood, Compton, Downey, South Gate -- the media often shows them in a negative way, but there are good, hardworking people in these cities."
Rodriguez continued: "We shouldn't be embarrassed so I bottled up all those feelings into one tiny thing, a necklace that represents our colorful culture."
Since their launch last September, Rodriguez's flashy necklaces, which depict city names, area codes and staple Latin American foods, have already struck a chord among young women in Hollywood, including Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and Kobe Bryant's wife, Vanessa.
In fact, on the cover of Rolling Stone last October, Cyrus is wearing an "818" area code necklace from the Mala jewelry line.
"Everyone dreams of being on the cover of Rolling Stone -- I didn't think it would happen this way," Rodriguez said with a laugh. "I feel very blessed and humbled, I feel like I'm living in a dream."
Since launching her line, Rodriguez now has more than 10,700 followers and counting on the popular social network Instagram. Although the Mala jewelry, which can be viewed on malabypattyrodriguez.com, has garnered attention, Rodriguez continues to encourage women to embrace their roots and purchase a necklace that truly reflects their heritage.
"There was a girl who didn't want to order a Compton necklace because she didn't want people to think she was ghetto, but good things come out of Compton," Rodriguez said. "I told her, 'you need to be proud of who you are and where you come from.' She changed her mind -- and got a Compton necklace."
Published: Jan. 16, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 40