Her name isn't a household word, but thanks to Jenny Alonzo, "Television for Women" is a reality. Part of the team responsible for the tagline and the cable net's success, she also helped launch Lifetime Movie Network and Lifetime Real Women. Not content to rest on her laurels, Alonzo kick-started six network franchises with more that 28 original series and some 12 acquisitions of high-profile net series.
Call her a high flyer.
As a child, en route from her native Dominican Republic to the U.S., she "wanted to run the plane." But plans to join the Armed Forces after high school were sidelined when destiny intervened: a high-school TV production class.
With two cameras and three tripods, the 12 students brainstormed ideas, shot talk shows, and took turns in front of and behind the cameras. Alonzo fell in love with TV and grounded her flight plans. With a focus that rivals Tiger Woods', she stuck with the class until graduation. "This is what I want to do."
And she persevered, despite difficulties. Because her father's health was failing, she attended nearby St. John's University to oversee his care. "That was probably the best decision I've ever made in my life," she says softly. Her dad died just months after she graduated.
While in college, she interned as a production assistant in the promotions department at WNBC New York. There, she created promos, gained a passion for the technical aspect of TV and got to joke around with Al Roker. Alonzo even persuaded her supervisor to let her remain in the position—without pay or school credit.
After graduation, Alonzo made a brief television detour. She went to work at ad agency Lord, Geller, Federico, Einstein as a receptionist. Two months later, she was offered a position as assistant account executive on the company's largest account, IBM. Soon, though, a feud with a sister company put the firm in turmoil. Three principals walked out, employee count dwindled from 200 to 75, and Alonzo was unemployed.
Destiny stepped in again.
A former WNBC supervisor took maternity leave at the same time and asked Alonzo to fill in. She quickly parlayed the opportunity into a position as on-air promotion administrator, then was promoted to on-air promotion manager.
In 1994, the then-new head of programming at Lifetime Judy Girard (former program director at NBC and now president of Food Network and Shop At Home) was setting up a new team. Guess who was her first choice for director of promotions?
Having married her college sweetheart Luis in 1990 and had a baby in 1992, Alonzo says the offer worked with the changes in her life. "I didn't have to worry about sweeps, which was a wonderful idea for me."
Alonzo made the most of the move, becoming a vice president of production and operations by 1996. In 2000, she helped produce a PSA for National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) focused on the digital divide. She also obtained in-kind donations from MTV and Lifetime.
So successful were her efforts that NAMIC invited her to join the board of directors in 2001. There, she developed the Executive Leadership Program for senior managers. Appointed president in 2002, she is keen to institute a multi-ethnicity initiative that welcomes Asian-Americans,
Native Americans and Latin Americans into the fold.
Now Alonzo has been asked to serve on the FCC's Advisory Council, which helps companies put together programs to include minorities.
Alonzo fights the good fight—on all fronts.
Broadcasting & Cable Newsletter
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below