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Latina music exec behind Maluma, CNCO has new, personal mission: breast cancer awareness

"We just don’t think it could happen to us, or that it only happens to older women,” said Pablo, who's 37 and recently battled breast cancer.
Image: Clara Pablo
Music executives Clara Pablo has been spreading the word about the importance of breast self-exams and routine checkups after she was diagnosed and was treated for breast cancer.Courtesy Clara Pablo

Clara Pablo is a music executive who has been "living the dream" when it comes to working with top Latino talent, from Ricky Martin and Shakira to Carlos Vives, CNCO and Maluma.

Yet Pablo, 37, a marketing executive for Walter Kolm Entertainment and a former Univision director of talent relations, has been involved in her most personal and important campaign to date — spreading the word about the importance of breast self-exams and routine checkups after she was diagnosed and was treated for breast cancer.

Pablo used the power of social media to launch her own campaign, “Te Toca Tocarte,” meaning “it's time to touch yourself," inspired by her blogger friend Nalie Augustin’s breast self-examination video “Feel it On the 1st.”

“I wanted to replicate Nalie’s campaign to the Spanish market, and tell women that early detection is key,” Pablo said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer is the number one cause of death in Latina women, particularly women under 40.

For Pablo, Latino communities don’t have enough conversation about cancer despite of how much it affects them.

Music executive Clara Pablo poses with 'Despacito' hit-singer Luis Fonsi and model Agueda Lopez.Courtesy Clara Pablo

“There’s so much shame, not enough awareness in the Hispanic community. We just don’t think it could happen to us, or that it only happens to older women,” she said. “We have to change the stigma because, yes, it can happen to anyone.”

With positive spirits and over 101K Instagram followers, Pablo has helped raise awareness among Latinos.

The campaign encourages women to put their hand on their breast to do a self-exam, and take and post a photo using the hashtag #TeTocaTocarte on the first of every month and tag others to do the same — hoping to show that self examinations can be simple. The campaign also seeks to encourage women of all ages to get a mammogram, get tested for the hereditary BRCA gene and communicate with others.

Spanish on-air talents such as Evelyn Sicaros, Carolina Sandoval and Clarissa Molina posted selfies in solidarity with the cause. Even Puerto Rican-pop singer Luis Fonsi ("Despacito") and his wife, supermodel Águeda López, showed support for their good friend during her appointments, even after she finished her radiation.

'Like someone punched me in the gut'

It was in August of 2017 that Pablo felt a lump on her right breast while watching television.

“I was immediately alarmed,” Pablo said. “I texted my gynecologist, went in to see him the next morning, and within the week I was getting a mammogram and ultrasound," she told NBC News. "I remember the lady doing the ultrasound, just seeing her face change.”

After a biopsy at the Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida, the doctor told Pablo they had found a stage 1 tumor in her breast. She was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), a common type of breast cancer last summer.

“It felt like somebody had just punched me in the gut, really hard,” Pablo recalled.

Although she has two aunts who are cancer survivors, the thought of having breast cancer had not really crossed Pablo’s mind.

Music executives Clara Pablo receives treatment after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.Courtesy Clara Pablo

Pablo traveled regularly for work and was in the middle of planning a trip to visit her boyfriend’s family in Europe.

“One week, I was planning this trip, and the next, planning how my entire life had suddenly changed,” Pablo said. “The timing of it all was poetic — it showed me your life could change in any second.”

On Oct. 1, 2017, Pablo commemorated the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month by posting a a photo on Instagram to announce her cancer diagnosis. Within 48 hours, the post went viral.

Pablo described the post's reactions as an “outpouring of love.” Close friends, followers, and the artists she’d worked with at Univision and Universal Music Group reached out to show their support.

“I knew I had to fight," said Pablo. "I just asked for prayers and to help me spread the message that breast cancer can happen to anyone.”

Pablo said she's been "blessed" to have a supportive boyfriend as well as family and friends throughout the process of surgery, doctor’s appointments and regular visits to her oncologist.

On January of this year, Pablo finished her last week of radiation at the Miami Cancer Institute, finally getting to ring the bell that signaled she was officially in remission. Pablo celebrated by throwing a huge party with family and friends on her 37th birthday.

Music executive Clara Pablo celebrates being cancer free.Courtesy Clara Pablo

“When I was going through [the process], I had so many questions, but I knew I wasn’t going into this alone. I didn’t want others going through cancer to feel like that," Pablo said.

This past September, Pablo’s lymph nodes were removed and she had a lumpectomy, followed by reconstructive surgery and radiation to treat the cancer. Doctors recommended she undergo fertility treatments in case she wanted to have children in the future.

'I'm there for them'

For Pablo, the most important response to #TeTocaTocarte was from other women — both cancer patients and survivors — reaching out on Instagram and messaging her to tell her they identified with her campaign.

“I get so many messages a day from women asking for advice and support. I’m there for them, messaging them health and self-care advice, keeping them company at their appointments,” she shared. “I tell them to first breathe, it’s okay to cry, and fight. Just take everything step-by-step, and in turn they teach me so much about myself.”

One of these women is Patricia Flores. She lives in Orlando, Florida and was diagnosed with the same type of breast cancer just 20 days after giving birth. Flores had both a mastectomy and chemotherapy, all while raising her firstborn son, Nicolás.

Music executive Clara Pablo.Courtesy of Clara Pablo

Flores found Pablo's community through the hashtag #TeTocaTocarte. The two began to message back and forth, sharing advice and support.

“When you become a mom, your whole life changes," said Flores, who's 33. "I fought for my life because I’m a mom; I never had time to complain or cry. After surviving it, I thank God everyday to be here for Nicolás when he needs me.”

Pablo hopes to one day turn #TeTocaTocarte into a non-profit foundation or even create a Latino talent benefit concert.

She's also the first Latina ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, where she helps raise funds to provide mammograms to women in need. So far, the efforts funds have provided free mammograms to 15 women.

Since being cancer free, Pablo has made several public appearances — most recently on Telemundo’s “Un Nuevo Día” and on the cover of Escena Magazine. Her hope is to continue spreading awareness by doing so and give Latinas a space to talks about their experiences with cancer.

“My advice to everyone? Just live your best life,” Pablo says. “The word ‘can’ is literally written in cancer. You can fight and overcome it.”