The Designing Chica
To meet Susana Sanchez-Young is to meet an energetic and passionate woman as dynamic as the city she was born in— Hollywood.
She has a love for dance, an eye for color and a talent for design. Her talent is such that after spending seven years at East LA Community College, and without actually graduating, she landed some of the most sought-after newsroom jobs in the nation, including an 8-year gig at the Washington Post, where she designed and illustrated breaking news and feature pages alongside editors and writers who have won numerous Pulitzer Prizes.
“I knew early in my life that I was different. I had too much energy and I drove my parents crazy,” says Sanchez-Young.
In time, her immigrant parents of Guatemalan and Nicaraguan descent realized their daughter was crazy about life.
“At parties when I was a child, my mom would have to drag me off the dance floor. At school…I practiced the Cabbagepatch, the Wop, the KidnPlay and all those 80’s hip hop moves,” she recalls.
“I wanted to be a dancer, but I didn’t have a dancer’s body, but it never stopped me from actually auditioning for the dance drill team in high school and the dance company in college, both of which I nailed!” recalls Sanchez-Young.
Her strong connection with dance has never left her. As she prepares for her 40th birthday this summer, she’ll be rejoined with her tap dance shoes after a 20-year break.
A few months ago, during a mother’s day social event in Downtown LA, Sanchez-Young cheerfully greeted customers and kids who stopped by her table. The table had a rich display of colorful prints, greeting cards and other artwork she has designed as part of her own business, the Designing Chica. Her mother stood by her side assisting with the sales of the prints and answering questions from curious shoppers.
“My parents taught me I had to work for every penny,” says Sanchez-Young. “I had to earn everything and that was my mantra in life: Work extra hard to stand out and grow.”
In the early 2000s Sanchez-Young was working at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, quickly moving up the ranks and landing a position in management when her boyfriend accepted a job offer in Virginia. Without thinking twice and despite not being engaged, she left her comfortable job to follow her heart.
“I found the man I was looking for in South Florida and he was leaving for Virginia. I decided to follow him” she recalls. “Much to the chagrin of my friends!”
But something about Sanchez-Young’s approach to life and her undeniable talent for graphic design resonated well in the nation’s capital. The visual journalist from Los Angeles was suddenly interviewing with some of the nation’s top editors for a position that her colleagues would only dream of, at the Washington Post.
As she explains it, “I was a nervous wreck but I was myself”.
The editors loved her and they loved her work. In 2009, she won the prestigious Society of News Design award for a body of work from the Washington Post. That same year, she got married to her Asian-American boyfriend, the man she had followed from Florida.
Eventually the couple and their two kids made it back to California and Sanchez-Young currently works for a design group that supplies artwork for 30+ newspapers. She also designs her kids’ birthday party decorations and frequently gets hired by individuals and companies as a freelancer to design logos and artwork. She also sells her own line of unique prints at festivals— all while managing a household and raising her son and daughter to embrace both their Asian and Latino cultures.
She attributes the success that follows her everywhere, to one thing: “I never stop dreaming of my next step while kicking butt in the moment.”
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