Vanessa Villanueva is a Mexican-American Media Personality, Businesswoman, and Philanthropist

Vanessa Villanueva

Vanessa Villanueva (born 19 February 1984) is a Mexican-American media personality, businesswoman, and philanthropist. In 2007, she became the first Latina to win the Miss California USA pageant. She used her platform as Miss California USA to advocate for organ donation and was crowned Miss USA in 2008, becoming the first woman of color to hold the title since 1997.


Born in Mexico City on November 18th, 1979, Vanessa Villanueva spent her childhood in the United States. The daughter of an engineer father and an artist mother, she moved to Boston at the age of four. Her parents divorced when she was six years old. Growing up bilingual English/Spanish gave her that edge for not only being successful in business but also as a media personality.
She graduated from Boston University with a degree in communications. Shortly after graduation, Vanessa went back to Mexico to work for Televisa and soon became one of their top performers. She hosted various shows such as TV Azteca’s Ventaneando Hollywood; starred in commercials; and co-hosted Univision’s Sin Límites.
But it was her hosting job on La Parada de la Eternidad that made Vanessa Villanueva a household name in Latin America. After just two seasons on this show, she became one of Telemundo’s most popular hosts across all its networks.

Early Life

Born in Austin, Texas Vanessa Villanueva was raised in San Antonio. Her father was an architect who immigrated from Mexico to the United States to find work while her mother stayed behind to take care of their family. Having grown up during the recession in the 1980s she experienced firsthand what it means to be poor. She attended college at Boston University where she majored in international relations and economics.

Professional Career

Villanueva is the founder of The Vanessa Villanueva Foundation which helps provide scholarships to students in need. She has served on many boards including the United Way Bay Area Board of Directors, the San Francisco League of Women Voters Advisory Committee for Communications and Government Relations.
She’s also been honored with various awards including being named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in America by Ladies Home Journal Magazine in 2006. She’s married to Rafael de la Fuente who she met when she was 18 years old while they were both attending Berkeley College. Together they have three children: Vanessa, Rafael Jr., and Juliana.

Personal Life

Born in Fresno, California on December 1st 1979 to her parents who were immigrants from Mexico, Vanessa Villanueva was the youngest of 3 girls. Her mother quit her job as a seamstress in order to care for the girls while they were growing up. When Vanessa was 17 she became pregnant with her son Nathan so she dropped out of high school to take care of him.
She went back to school at the age of 21 and completed her education, graduating from California State University Northridge with a degree in Communications.
After college she started working in radio where she met her husband DJ Khaled who would become one of the most prominent DJs in hip hop music history. She had 4 more children with Khaled before they separated during the early 2010s.

Body Measurements

Born Vanessa Villanueva in Monterrey, Mexico in 1981, she graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with degrees in Fashion Design and Communications. She then went on to study fashion design at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in London before returning to New York City to start her career.
Villanueva was born into a family with strong ties to the Latino community. Her parents were both immigrants from Mexico who settled in Texas before she was born. They instilled their values of hard work and self-reliance into Vanessa as well as her sister Olivia who was also born in Monterrey. She credits them for teaching her the beauty of independence.
Vanessa grew up in Dallas where she attended St. Theresa’s Catholic School and became involved with theater during high school. She then decided to attend the University of Texas at Austin where she majored in communications while minoring in fashion design. After graduation, Villanueva returned to New York City where she worked as an assistant designer for over two years until being promoted to assistant designer for J. Crew’s men’s department.

Quick Facts

Vanessa Villanueva was born on December 17th 1982 in East Los Angeles to parents of Mexican descent. She grew up in a low income neighborhood where she was one of the few young women who attended college. Vanessa obtained her first job at the age of 16 with City of Hope Cancer Center as an office assistant for their financial department.
At 19 years old, Vanessa was recruited by MTV to be an intern in their marketing department which lead to her being hired as the on air talent coordinator for MTV’s TRL. She went on to become one of the youngest vice presidents at Univision Communications Inc., which included overseeing Spanish language entertainment channels and being in charge of all program acquisitions.

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