A Fulbright scholar from Cali, Colombia, Leila Cobo is a classical pianist, novelist and executive Editor for Latin Content and Programming for Billboard.
Ms. Cobo is considered one of the country’s leading experts in Latin music and under her tenure, Billboard has expanded its coverage of Latin Music to unprecedented levels both on its print and digital platforms. Ms. Cobo also works closely with broadcast partner Telemundo on the Billboard Latin Music Awards and the Billboard Mexican Music Awards and programs the yearly Billboard Latin Music Conference, the largest gathering of the Latin music industry in the U.S., and hosts its renown exclusive “Q&A’s” with Latin music’s biggest stars, which have included Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony and Enrique Iglesias. Under her leadership, Billboard also launched its Spanish-language website, Billboardenespanol.com.
Ms. Cobo is also host and executive producer of “Estudio Billboard,” the acclaimed TV show that features in-depth interviews with artists like Gloria Estefan, Pitbull, Laura Pausini, José Feliciano and Maná, among many others.
Ms. Cobo has published two novels with Grand Central Publishing/Hatchette which have been translated to German and Italian and have won multiple awards, leading Ms. Cobo to be named one of the Top Latino Writers to Watch in the United States.
Most recently, her 2012 novel The Second Time We Met won this year’s Latino Book Award for Best Popular Fiction. The book was selected by MSN and Latina as one of its top summer reads.
Ms. Cobo’s biography on Jenni Rivera, published in March by Penguin, has remained among the top 10 most-sold books in Spanish in the United States for over 25 consecutive weeks. The book was named a top-read by publications like Latina and People en Español, and Ms. Cobo has presented it in book fairs in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Miami.
This April, Ms. Cobo published Apunta A las Estrellas—also on Penguina—a practical and inspirational guide to people who seek a career in the music industry.
Ms. Cobo was recently named a 2012 Hispanic Woman of Distinction in South Florida and one of the top 25 Latin Women in Media by Latina Magazine. She has also been named “one of the most influential people in Latin music” in publications such as Gatopardo, Colombia’s Revista Fuchsia and Ocean Drive Magazine, which named her one of its “Power Brokers” in 2008. She won the Nielsen President’s Award for Excellence and in 2007, she was the recipient of the journalistic excellence award from Premios Orquidea, which honors Colombians abroad.
She has served as jury of renowned international music competitions including the Viña del Mar Music Festival in Chile and Objetivo Fama in Mexico.
Ms. Cobo holds dual bachelor degrees in journalism (from Bogota’s Universidad Javeriana) and in piano performance (from Manhattan School of Music in New York). She concertized extensively before getting her master’s degree in Communication management from the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California.
Prior to Billboard, she wrote for the Los Angeles Times and was later the pop music critic at the Miami Herald. She’s written liner notes for Ricky Martin, Shakira, Julio Iglesias and Selena among others.
Ms. Cobo supports various educational projects. She collaborates closely with the Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences and the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences with Grammy in the Schools and frequently speaks to students at the high school and college level in both the U.S. and Latin America. Ms. Cobo is also a supporter of Teach for America and regularly visits schools as a guest speaker.
In conjunction with her family in Cali, Colombia, she endows the Alex Cobo annual music scholarship for outstanding music students at Conservatorio Antonio Maria Valencia in Cali. The scholarship was created as a way to foster music and arts in Cali. Now in its fifth year, the scholarship awards a year of free tuition to a top performing arts student at the Conservatory. Winners are selected by Conservatory teachers and perform at an awards ceremony in November. Ms. Cobo and her brother, guitarist Ricardo Cobo, both studied in the conservatory as children.
Together with her husband, pianist Arthur Hanlon, Ms. Cobo also supports ChildFund International. The family has supported children in Colombia and currently, in Brazil.
Ms. Cobo is a frequent speaker in schools and colleges around the country, where she talks about the benefits and possibilities of educations in music, letters and the arts and has also taught classes in writing and arts criticism. Her most recent book, Apunta a las Estrellas, was specifically designed to provide concrete help and advice to the dozens of people that contact her on a weekly basis asking for help wit their music careers.
Ms. Cobo is also one of the authors of the Billboard Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music and a guest writer on the anthology “Quinceañera.”