Contributed by CHATIA HILL
On a breezy fall morning, Comedy Central was shooting a pilot for a potential commercial. The crew was loading the equipment onto set, chatting. Then the producer arrived on set and everyone went silent. She spoke sternly as she saw mistakes or potential ones waiting to happen. A new production assistant arrived late to set.
“Hi Ms. Sepulveda! I am sorry I am late today; I had a hard time finding the location. It won’t happen again,” he said in a very timid and low voice.
“You can call me Jess, don’t be shy here, this industry doesn’t allow time for you to second-guess yourself. I am giving you one warning, just know I don’t give more then one chance, now get to work please.” she said in her very disciplined and precise voice.
Sepulveda started as a production assistant for Comedy Central in 2000. She is now the senior producer at the age of 37 years old. Her project The daily show holiday was nominated with Bruce Springsteen for a Emmy award in 2006. She has also won two Promax awards for a Timberland and Orbitz commercial in 2009. Additionally Sepulveda has strived in the music industry and managed a music group called “Screw Ball” in 2001. She has balanced a career between music and television for over 15 years.
She got pregnant at the age of 16 years old with a young man who refused to be responsible for his duties as a father. Sepulveda finished high school and received her college degree while being a single mom. Teen moms are usually expected to fail. Most dropout of school because of the lack of motivation they receive from society. According to teen pregnancy statistics about 70 percent of all students who drop out of school early, do so because of teen parenthood. They are considered to be apart of the unorthodox world. Sepulveda wanted to be the exception. She speaks to young woman who are in the same situation that she has experienced.
“I think it is sad that young women have no faith in themselves because they are teen mothers.” Sepulveda said. She has also participated in the Big Brother/Big Sister support group through volunteer work at Comedy Central.
“ It’s important to me that I give back to my community by talking to young people who are experiencing similar situations to the one that I experienced. I want to give them the support I lacked. The Big Brother/Big Sister support group gave me the chance to do that,” Sepulveda said. Her role as a manager and a producer and a mother has shaped her into the person that she is today.
On a summer day in 2012, I worked on the same set as Sepulveda, assisting with make up. The shoot was for a beer camp commercial that was shot in Sabago Cabins near the upstate mountains. The weather was humid and uncomfortable. The crew was wearing grey t- shirts and blue shorts. The talent was in similar wardrobe but multi colored.
“Quiet on set,” Sepulveda shouted and the entire set went quiet. As a producer she works close to the director and the assistant director. Sepulveda was constantly on her feet visiting each department, to make sure everyone was on the same page. In her black shirt and blue shorts she stood near the director on set with a clipboard in her hand, standing up straight. “Cut,” said the director and “ That’s a wrap, pack it up” said Sepulveda as she directed the entire set in the correct direction.
Sepulveda dresses to complement the occasion. In the office she wears a black suit with a white shirt and black heels. On set she wears T-shirts, shorts, sweats or lose slacks and sneakers. When she attends social events she dresses up but not too much, just the right amount; she might wear slacks, a silk collard blouse and black wedges. Sepulveda carries her self with dignity and respect and it shows through her long producing days.
Sepulveda was born in Lincoln hospital in Bronx, NY on January 20th, 1977. She was raised in Queensbridge housing projects in Long Island City, NY. She keeps her social circle small and the closest people to her other then her only daughter is her mother and childhood best friend/fiancé.
During an interview they were glad to reveal some facts about her. Sepulveda’s mother and fiancé both identify her as an inspiring, independent and strong woman.
“I was scared when I found out that my baby would be having a baby but I couldn’t be more proud. Jessica has always had ambition and she never let the judgment of other people stop her from reaching her goals.” said Sepulveda’s mother.
“I’ve known Jessica since we were seven years old. I’ve witnessed all of her stages in her life whether it was high or low. If I had to describe her I would say she is overall a phenomenal woman. She’s aggressive, dominant and independent. However, sometimes her pride and strength does not allow her to ask people for help and it leaves her overwhelmed. As her fiancé, its my job to make her feel supported and safe.” said Sepulveda’s fiancé.
Sepulveda was not always accepted by her family growing up in an old fashioned Puerto-Rican household. Her family didn’t approve of her choice of life style. Teen parents usually loose track of the American dream. Sepulveda proved many wrong, she said she has completed all of her goals thus far and she is waiting for her next chapter in her life to open up.
“ When I know what the next step is whether it is in my career or my personal life, I will make sure to make it happen. We all live with purpose.” said Sepulveda.
Many young moms and colleagues admire Sepulveda’s success. Her daughter who is currently in college has many close friends who are also teen moms. They tend to confide in Sepulveda for advice.
“How did you do it? How did you get here?” asked a friend of Sepulveda’s daughter who is a current teen mom from a close by neighborhood near Queensbridge housing projects.
“By never giving up.” Sepulveda said while lying down on her queen size bed in her luxury apartment in East Orange, NJ. The awards and photographs hanging above her bed were perfectly aligned. The couch to the left of her bed was white and fluffy. The satisfaction of comfort was most appealing to the fellow teen mother.