I’m pleased to welcome onto my blog, the lovely Lina Usma, who runs the largest newspaper in London for the Spanish speaking Latin American community. Originally from Colombia, Lina has lived in London for over 20 years and has been active in the local community. I wanted to ask Lina some questions about her newspaper and her career as a journalist … as well as her fashion tastes! Hi Lina and welcome!
Hi! I am Lina Usma (short version of Lina Maria Ospina Usma) I was born in Colombia, in the beautiful city of Manizales, I am wife ( not much a housewife!) a mother and a professional working woman.
What was it like growing up in Colombia?
I grew up in a matriarchal family with 3 mothers: My mum, my auntie and my cousin all full of love, passion, hardworking and warm hearts. Although there was no paternal figure in my house I have an uncle, but my mum was the dominant role in the household. She passed away in 2012 and even in the last days of her illness, she was so strong and wise. I married quite young, to a great guy, who is very passionate about life. We have a beautiful daughter who is my proudest achievement – maybe all mothers say that, but for me personally she represents all that my mothers taught me about being a woman: strong, professional, independent with a good heart and determination to do something good with her life.
We all have preconceived ideas of what a country will be like – what took you by surprise in England and what was totally opposite of what you thought it would be?
In 1996 we travelled to the UK, looking for a better opportunities for our family. We were a young couple with a baby. At the beginning it was quite difficult, adapting to the new city especially the weather and the society, as we come from a place where you can talk with someone in the street without any prejudice, but here even approaching someone to ask for directions was so difficult (remember 20 years ago there was not google maps). But as time passed and we worked our way through life, like many other people doing different jobs that we have never done in our lives: like a waitress, cleaners, shop assistants etc.
What made you decide to launch Extra International?
I studied business management in Colombia, but here in London my profession focuses around media; together with my husband William we started a magazine as a business investment, since then we have run other publications and other related projects such as Extra International newspaper which is now the most popular publication in the Spanish speaking communities in London. I am an editor and journalist, and as my mother always said “never stop learning”, and as a way of respect with the profession and colleagues, I studied Media and Journalism in East London University, to learn and be able to do my job in a more efficient way.
What do you enjoy most about running a newspaper?
One of the most interesting things about working in media is the opportunity to meet interesting people and talk to them on a level of closeness, where they can feel confident to talk and open up for more questions. I had the opportunity to interview figures like Shakira, Celia Cruz, Michael Schumacher ex F1 driver, Boris Johnson former Mayor of London, some presidents such as Juan Manuel Santos from Colombia. I met Hugo Chavez; writers like Isabel Allende and Vargas Llosa; Cressida Dick,head of Scotland Yard Police; also so many other important and relevant personalities, which is a privilege in this profession. Running a newspaper is challenging, especially in the world we are living now with the multimedia. I was very much into writing and editing writing articles – not so much visually; but today journalists need to have a digital presence so I am still learning how to deal with the cameras and lights, but it is interesting and you learn every day something new, especially when working with new technologies and devices.
Another string to your bow is your radio station. How did that come about?
To be able to reach other audiences and create an online presence, I started a radio show called “Mujeres al Dia“ (Women Today) which also has its own blog/website. The aim of the show is to give voice to all fantastic women doing great things out there. I believe everyone has something to tell and that is why I am so happy to host this radio-show.
You are involved in many projects, apart from your job. Can you tell us a bit about them?
Besides my job, I have been involved in many projects related to our Latin communities, migrants and women. I am a trustee member for Su Mano Amigo ONG providing support for victims of domestic violence in the UK, also I am a trustee in FUNDAV an ONG giving support for people suffering rare diseases in Colombia.
And in the last local elections in London, I was a candidate with the Green Party. We came second in our ward, which was a great experience for me and put a frame to ideas and projects I have supported all my life.
Talking about myself is not easy, as usually I am the one asking questions but this interview has to help me a lot to review what I have done in life!
Personal now- what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I wear a lot red and black. My daughter is trying to sort my clothes with different colours!
Do you have any favourite shops or online stores?
London is a city where you can find lots of different trends and the most importantly, is that you can wear whatever you like! I am not a fan yet of buying online – I prefer to go to shops wandering around, trying before I buy.
Boots or Shoes?
Forever shoes! I am always in high heels and for me, it is just a basic in my wardrobe. I can’t get used to walking in trainers, and I leave boots just for very cold winter days.
Want to know more?
If you would like to know more about me and my work you can follow us
Thank you for answering my questions Lina … I hope it wasn’t too bad an experience! 🙂
All photographs published with kind permission of Lina Usma.