2021 VAB Young Rising Star Award Winner!
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Shining a Light on Changemakers:

The VAB Young Rising Stars Award

The VAB Young Rising Stars Awards shines a light on young professionals who are not only succeeding in their roles but are igniting change in our industry and community. The VAB mission is to inspire marketers to think differently about their strategies. With the Young Rising Stars Award, we are celebrating those individuals who provoke new thinking and challenge us all to more deeply embrace the ideal of inclusivity in marketing, in the workplace and within our communities.

VAB Young Rising Star Award Winner

Edwina Morales

Media Director

“Understanding the need for marketing practices to be inclusive and culturally relevant is imperative, not optional.”

Born and raised in New York in a multigenerational Hispanic household, Edwina is proud of her Puerto Rican roots and diverse upbringing. This personal passion is what led Edwina to join the Multicultural practice at Horizon Media in 2018. 

This drive for inclusive media practices has led Edwina to lead purposeful projects on behalf of HMI. Edwina introduced the Non-Discrimination of Media Vendors training based on the 2018 4A's Fair Play Charter issuance, which is currently being refreshed to incorporate the newly released five-point commitments in support of equitable consideration and investment with BIPOC media.  As part of this initiative, Edwina now sits on the 4As committee tasked with striking “General Market” and introducing a new inclusive approach to planning and buying diverse audiences for the industry.  Edwina aided the successful Potential Energy Coalition’s Vote Like a Madre 2020 campaign by applying a cultural-first lens approach to activate Hispanic women to vote. Connecting the different layers of culture and developing 360 partnerships with trusted cultural authorities made #VLM a part of the target audience’s Hispanic culture and created a movement by infiltrating Hispanic culture using tactics and channels that connect with Latinas in an authentic way. Despite COVID-19 and the cluttered 2020 Election media environment, this campaign ultimately influenced +550K Latinas to register and +800K Latinas to vote in a key Presidential swing state, Arizona. 

In 2020, Edwina partnered with Horizon’s internal client teams to reinvent multicultural storytelling by re-evaluating audiences, media plans, buys and creative through a sharper multicultural lens.  This resulted in increased investments across minority-owned and targeted media and set the stage for additional diverse segment planning in 2021. 

Edwina embeds herself within the Horizon DEI DNA as a member of the UNIDOS Business Resource Group, as well as Horizon’s DEI committee, working towards ensuring equitable and inclusive planning and buying across minority-owned and targeted media partners. She’s also a member of Horizon’s Limitless Communications committee which was founded by Horizon’s top female executives to empower and inspire employees, clients, and partners by striking out the “N’T” inside women’s heads and hearts. 

Congratulations, Edwina!

VAB Young Rising Star Honorees

We are also proud to showcase 3 Rising Star honorees who demonstrate commitment to furthering the ideals of diversity & inclusion in workplaces and communities and inspiring the industry to think more inclusively.

Alyssa Gilet

Ad Sales Partnerships Manager

“Once I got invited into the room, I realized that I had an opportunity, and a responsibility, to not only advocate for those not there, but to open those doors for them.”

Being one of few, if not the only black person in the room can be a daunting and isolating experience, especially earlier in one’s career.

When you don’t feel like you have a voice or a support system, it’s easy to feel overlooked and overwhelmed and to want to fade into the background. Having gone through those experiences earlier in her own career, Alyssa committed to making the workplace feel more inclusive and welcoming for those coming in behind her. As she’s gained her own voice and access into certain spaces, she’s been grateful to be able to share what she’s learned along the way with younger colleagues and industry peers.

Alyssa currently leads her department’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion task force and also serves as an active member of A+E Networks’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force. This platform enables her to advocate for underrepresented voices and meaningful solutions to complex issues around DE&I.

Congratulations, Alyssa!

Morgan Conroy

Senior Campaign Manager

“Diversity and inclusion allow society to reach its grandest, idealistic potential. It’s a world that I won’t see, but I approach every day with the thought that every action of mine, big or small, brings us closer to that future.”

Morgan’s experience at Ampersand is profoundly informed by her identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. She sees herself as an advocate and ally for fairness and equality in the workplace as well as the broader world.

As an active member of the Ampersand Culture Council, Morgan has been courageously vocal in standing up for the kind of workplace she believes in. She champions inclusivity through her advocacy for creating educational allyship programs for employees to benefit Ampersand’s LGBTQ+ colleagues. She is currently creating a transgender educational workshop for the company on what it means to be transgender, the legislation that will affect the transgender community and standardizing appropriate pronouns for transgender staffers.

Congratulations, Morgan!

Marlessa Stivala

Manager, Content Marketing

"It’s extremely important to me that each and every one of my colleagues feels valued."

Marlessa believes that, too often, women hesitate to share their opinions at work or begin sentences with an unnecessary ‘sorry’ or ‘this might be a dumb comment/question, but …’ To help foster a workplace that actively supports all voices, Marlessa actively encourages her colleagues to embrace their opinions and points of view. She believes language is power and no one should ever be given the power to silence another's voice.

At TVSquared, Marlessa an active member of the Culture Club, working to further the goal of inclusivity in the company.

Congratulations, Marlessa!

In our recent VAB IMPACT Diversity Leadership Summit, we invited leaders from organizations like P&G, Clorox, AARP, AIMM, iSpot, A+E, Univision, UM Worldwide and Olympic gold medalist, Apolo Ohno to our virtual stage to share their unique insights, inspiration and experiences. These candid conversations encourage us to think differently about how we create a more inclusive industry and community. In case you missed any of these compelling discussions, you can view them here.

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