Local public-relations specialist Christina Ferraz provides nonprofits and small businesses with “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace” (DE&I) tools to help them thrive in today’s competitive business environment.
“I created Thirty6five to diversify media outreach and partnerships so clients reach a broader audience—not necessarily to grow market share, but because it’s the right thing to do,” says Ferraz, a queer, nonbinary Puerto Rican who uses they/them pronouns.
Ferraz coaches clients in public speaking, what to share during interviews, how to form partnerships with specific groups (like the LGBTQ community), and more.
Local advocate Jenna Pel first met Ferraz when the two volunteered together on the University of Houston LGBTQ Alumni Association’s board of directors. Pel describes Ferraz as a creative, meticulous, and passionate person whose Thirty6five platform is a key resource for historically marginalized and underrepresented groups.
“Thirty6five serves as a strong and vital voice on topical social issues,” Pel explains. “It takes a holistic and authentic approach to PR, crisis communications, and media relations.”
Ferraz was born in Brooklyn, New York, but spent their formative years in Houston. They received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Houston in 2007.
Growing up, they always felt different due to their gender and cultural identities. Spanish was Ferraz’s first language, so English was a struggle in early childhood. “That played a big role in shaping my identity as a person who works in communication today,” they note. As Ferraz learned English, their Spanish transformed into “Spanglish,” which informally combines the two languages.
Ferraz quickly realized the importance of clear communication, which sparked a love of storytelling. “I really enjoy sharing other people’s stories, and being entrusted with that gift.”
They started their communication career at Houston’s Pacifica radio station KPFT at age 17, reporting on the conditions of the local Latinx community. Later work in TV, marketing, and advertising convinced Ferraz to become a public-relations specialist.
“While I wasn’t aware of my gender or sexuality, I understood I didn’t feel comfortable with the public consuming me as a journalist [in front of] a camera. I was hyper-aware of how people were perceiving me,” they admit.
Public-relations work allowed Ferraz to continue telling stories while avoiding the judgment and hyper-sexualization that women and other marginalized groups often experience on television.
“You had to exist in a very specific way if you wanted to make it in [broadcast] media. While you could be a woman, it was a man’s world, and I did not feel comfortable knowing what could happen to me in those environments,” Ferraz says. “Working in PR was taking my power back.”
However, that PR work wasn’t without its issues. Early on, Ferraz worked with many organizations that claimed they were committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, only to ignore Ferraz’s suggestions for increasing their impact on marginalized communities.
“It took me some time to understand that I never wanted to sit at anyone else’s table. I wanted to make my own,” Ferraz says. So in 2013, they created Thirty6five.
They’ve helped many organizations in the past decade, including a group that serves LGBTQ youth struggling with their gender identity, sexuality, and faith. Ferraz stepped in and convinced local news outlets to highlight the organization’s services and mission.
“I talked [to the media] about not perceiving people as a monolith and giving the youth agency coverage because young people shape the future,” Ferraz shares. They say forming Thirty6five has been fulfilling.
“It gives me the opportunity to give back to my community by staying local and creating change in ways that make a difference for people who share the same vision of diversity and inclusion for Houston.”
To continue giving back to the community, Ferraz is organizing a partnership program to engage with local graphic designers, photographers, and other marketers who need increased PR exposure to launch their businesses.
Ferraz is also putting together a space for Latina and Latinx folk who work in communications, helping them network, share their experiences, and create an inclusive, empowering community.
Since startingThirty6five, Ferraz has learned many important lessons. “You have to be open to being a constant learner—otherwise, you will no longer be relevant. I learned that things continue to change in the field of communication. When I started working, we were sending press releases through fax machines and having to chase down journalists,” they laugh.
“I also learned that there is strength in diversity.”
For more info, visit thirty6five.com.