By Andrea May Sahouri, Des Moines Register
Jessica Trinidad fell in love with the art of the voice while listening to to the radionovela “Porfirio Cadena” in Mexico with her grandfather, Abuelito Hilario.
It was a cowboy radionovela with a Robin Hood-type character that would steal from the rich and give back to the poor, Trinidad said. It was her abuelito’s favorite, and it became hers, too, as she listened to sound effects of shootouts and horses’ hooves
“It was incredible how the show made your mind wander, just by using voice. Just by using sound effects,” Trinidad, 38, said. She’s dyslexic, so listening to “Porfirio Cadena,” gave her stories that would have been a struggle to read.
“It would make you feel like you were there,” she said.
That was before Trinidad moved to California in 1995, and eventually made her way to Iowa in 2000. Fast forward to 2021, and Trinidad has become an award-winning voice actress. She has started her own company Jessicat Productions. Her voice is in four national campaigns. And she’s voiced for brands like Pandora and McDonalds.
But her success as an international bilingual voice actress didn’t come easy.
Her start: $20 per radio ad
Trinidad was first introduced to the business of voice acting when she was in high school in California. A teacher, who was a voice actor, noticed her impersonating characters from Mexican soap operas, she said. He invited her to do two commercials for a radio station — which she did, for $20 each.
“I fell in love with it,” Trinidad said. Soon after, she moved to Iowa. The dream of becoming a voice actress was tucked away. But it stayed in the back of her mind.
Then, in 2009, after 10 years of working 9 to 5 jobs, Trinidad was driving on Bell Avenue on Des Moines’ south side and thinking she wasn’t happy at work.
She said to herself: “I’m just going to do it.”
Trinidad looked up the English word for voice acting and quickly found a coach in New York City, with whom she visited in the winter of 2009 to create her first demo. Her coach, and others in the business she would soon meet, told her she needed to be in major market to make it — like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York.
“If you tell me I can’t do it, I’m going to find a way to do it,” Trinidad said.
She created a home studio in Des Moines and found her first gig on Craiglist — creating audio instructions for a nursing home. She continued to work the business by networking and attending conferences.
And by 2014, she quit her 9 to 5 job and accomplished her first national campaign for Mega Bus advertising $1 trips.
Trinidad now has coaches nationwide and internationally, with clients in Spain, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, she said, and has been accepted to some of the nation’s top talent agencies for voice acting.
More recently, she was chosen to voice Telemundo’s bilingual campaign Hispanic Heritage Month, which, she said, “was huge.” And her voice — which she describes as “sensual, conversational, authentic, natural, friendly, caring, motherly, relatable, sexy and sassy” — in an iHeartRadio campaign won her a 2021 One Voice Award for best female performance in radio.
“I love the ability to engage with an audience. To convey a message and bring it to life. To leave a legacy for my children,” Trinidad said.
And in October, Trinidad and her five-year-old son, Simon, were nominated for a Society of Voice Arts and Sciences Award for an outstanding radio public service announcement in Spanish.
“They’re like the Grammys in voiceovers,” Trinidad said.
Together, she and her son voiced an Iowa public service campaign raising awareness of the dangers of lead in children for the state’s Latino community.
(Award Nominated PSA – CUIDADO CON EL PLOMO)
The national recognition for her work, from her Iowa hometown, is a thrill.
“For me to say, ‘I did it from Iowa,’ when people said I wasn’t going to make it — it was huge,” Trinidad said.