Hey Chica! Movement: Empowering Latinas through advocacy, self-care, and sisterhood

Story by Jennie Trejo. Photos provided by Hey Chica! Movement.

A nonprofit in Dallas focuses on advocacy, self-care, and leadership for chicas. At its core, it relies on women supporting women– celebrating amigas and hermanas from all walks of life.

The Hey Chica! Movement, founded by Veronica Torres Hazley, exists to help Latinas connect and grow while embracing their identity and culture. Their key slogan? Viva la chica!

Veronica created Hey Chica! in 2017. Its inaugural event was a Latina Leadership Summit at Southern Methodist University. Since then, it has expanded in many directions, including monthly networking gatherings called #TacosAndChill, countless community collaborations, health and wellness events, a book club, and curated programming for high school and professional women.

Veronica Torres Hazley, founder of the Hey Chica! Movement.

Regardless of the moment, Veronica’s commitment to Latina cultural expression brings vibrancy and validity to the experience that North Texas Latinas live. She uses her life experience to guide her work and ensures authenticity stays at the forefront of everything she does.

Far before Hey Chica! came to be, Veronica began her Dallas-based career in 2004 with Visit Dallas, where she had a role that focused on DEI. In this space, Veronica was building community, dealing with memberships and partnerships, and bringing diverse businesses and conventions to the city.

“It allowed me to sell the city and build partnerships,” Veronica says. “I got to attend trainings, have access to the best parties– it was fun, I was treated differently, you know? But I always knew I wanted to open the space for more Latinas like myself.”

During the time that Veronica was with Visit Dallas, she decided she wanted to put health and wellness at the forefront of her work after she had a personal health scare. She experienced a stroke at just 30 years old.

“I was always on the go and not taking good care of myself,” Veronica says. However, one of her girlfriends invited her to a yoga class. She was instantly hooked.

“Typical type-A personality,” Veronica says with a laugh. “I immediately wanted to teach. I got my certification, and I wanted to open a studio. I wanted to play my hip-hop, my Latino mix, and just make it my own.”

While Veronica was making sure to bring the buenas vibras to her new yoga studio, she knew that the hole she was filling for her community went much deeper. She was being an advocate.

“Coming from a Hispanic family, we never talked about health,” Veronica explains. “I lost my father to drug addiction. My grandparents have heart disease. I did not want to get on medication to deal with anxiety and stress, so I knew I had to find a healthier way.”

The yoga studio that Veronica began dreaming of after her first class came to reality in 2016.

“I wanted to build an umbrella group company that allowed me to do all the things that I had loved to do that I was side hustling,” Veronica says. “My husband and I started Torres Hazley, LLC, and the first part of that was V12 Yoga.”

Not only did Veronica open V12 Yoga, but she also created an online presence for herself: Healthy Latina Lifestyle. Because she was still with Visit Dallas at the time, she could not have much of her personal identity online, but she could connect with others through her Healthy Latina accounts and blog.

From there, the Torres Hazley brand continued to grow. They began to consult in corporate wellness spaces as more companies asked them to teach yoga and mindfulness at work.

All of the growth through Veronica’s career in Dallas and success in health and wellness spaces led to the creation of Hey Chica! However, while the movement exists to empower Latina women, the inception came from a moment when Veronica was not feeling very empowered at all.

“I lost a son. I had twins, and it was my boy. My daughter survived, and it was totally unexpected,” she says, “but it was the reason I started Hey Chica! It was my awakening.”
Veronica says that her negative experience going back to work after losing her child made her long for a network of people who would understand her.

“I felt like everybody was fake,” Veronica says. “I wanted to shake everyone and say, ‘This just happened to me! Why is everything still the same?’ Yet the same women were gossiping in cubicles, mean girls all over. On top of that, nobody looked like me, and I started to feel very isolated.”

As disheartened as she was, Veronica was able to take her pain and use it to fill a need in the community.

“That’s when I decided to do my own leadership summit,” Veronica explains. “Everywhere I went, they were all for non-Latinos, and I almost started to feel guilty for attending these events. I would try to bring friends along, but I knew I wanted to do my own thing.”

With the seed planted, Veronica began her planning process. At the time, she already had experience with events because she had been chairing many of the Hispanic Chamber women’s luncheons and was on about a dozen boards. She already knew what it would take to fundraise and put on an event at the scale she was imagining.

“So I had this journal,” Veronica says, her eyes lighting up. “And I started writing my life tracks.”

Veronica’s journal tracks included things like “How to Have a Side Hustle,” “How to Develop Collaborative Circles,” “How to Build a Business,” and “How to Build a Sisterhood.” She also leaned into her network of keynote speakers and mentors.

“And so, I did my first summit at SMU, and it sold out. It was like 300 women. It was 2017 by that time, and that was the birth of Hey Chica!”

After the initial event, Hey Chica! had a snowball effect. Veronica was being requested to speak in professional spaces, and even to high school and middle school-aged girls.

“It was game-changing for many of these young Latinas in Carrolton and Dallas,” Veronica says. “I remember they were crying and saying, ‘Hey, can you teach me how to love myself? Can you tell us stories about self-image?’”

Veronica believes the girls felt liberated because she could speak to them at their level.

“I can represent them– come from the hood, come from poverty, and ‘make it’ in their eyes, you know?” She explains. “To them, it’s this realization of, ‘Wow, you can be professional and still bring your culture.’”

During these visits, Veronica was working to instill a sense of pride in the Latina identity. She had discovered something within herself that she wanted others to feel as well.
Veronica also devotes some of her inspiration to her friends in the LGBTQ+ community. She had attended their conventions during her time at Visit Dallas, when she was in charge of bringing diverse groups to the city.

“I thought, ‘Wow, my gay friends are so advanced.’ They were so proud and proactive,” Veronica explains. “They were the ones telling me to get on Facebook, and this was 2006, way before social media is what it is now.”

After that, Veronica decided she needed to have a brand that says, “I’m Latina” front and center.

“Because that’s my pride, right? That’s my pride month right there,” Veronica says. “I decided I was coming out and saying, ‘I’m Latina!’”

At the time that it all came together, Hey Chica! was branded “Hey Chica! by Healthy Latina Lifestyle.” Since then, Veronica has separated the two and filed official 501(c)3 nonprofit status for Hey Chica!

With newfound nonprofit status freedom, Hey Chica! has branched into different directions. A dynamic leader, Veronica always makes sure to meet her community where she needs to.

In 2020, they adopted an advocacy initiative called Power to the Chica! because of the election. It received national attention from CNN as an organization that mobilizes Latinos to go out and vote, as well as a nod from the D CEO’s Nonprofit and Corporate Citizenship Awards 2022 “Most Successful Fundraising or Awareness Campaign” for the initiative.

“I found out that Latinos in Dallas typically don’t come out to vote. And I was kind of upset about it because no one pursues our interests since we don’t. So we decided to do something about it,” Veronica says.

While it is non-partisan, they do campaigns, partner with different entities, and hold an underground rally where they get excited about brown culture. Veronica explains that they talk about issues that matter to them– for example, Latina equal pay, voting, immigration, and education. They bring in speakers and provide a judgment-free space to ask questions.

“It is an opportunity for women to ask those questions they are embarrassed to ask,” Veronica says. “Like sometimes they don’t know what’s wrong in the education system. Sometimes they say they don’t want to be involved in politics, but don’t know what politics entails. It’s really grassroots educating. We don’t push them, it’s more about planting seeds and watching them grow.”

This past year, Veronica and her team adopted the #NoMeanGirlMovement. There are three layers to this: “No Mean Girl” to yourself is self-care, “No Mean Girl” to your community is advocacy, and “No Mean Girl” to your future is leadership. All of their recent programming has reflected this goal, but Veronica makes sure to make all of their work fun and approachable.

“You can use this message on a young girl, or a woman like me with children, or even someone who’s thinking about their lasting legacy,” Veronica says. “I leave a legacy by giving power to her, right? And I build a pipeline so I can mentor and advocate.”

Ultimately, Veronica says that you cannot lead without self-care, which is a value she works hard to instill through everything in Hey Chica!

“After I founded this movement, I felt liberated,” Veronica says. “Everything Hey Chica! does is deeper than what you see on the surface, and that’s our secret sauce.”

Fun fact– Veronica says that the name “Hey Chica!” is her ode to Jay Z when he says, “Hey, let me put you in the game.” According to her, Hey Chica! is like saying, “Hey girl, let me put you in the game,” and “chica” refers to all women.

“It was me saying, ‘Hey, girl,’ but in my culture, my lens, right? When you get to the root of how you’re programmed, how you speak, and how you represent, no one can replicate that. There’s only room to collaborate with the authenticity of it. And that’s what’s missing in Dallas in a lot of places.”

In the future, Veronica plans to take Hey Chica! to the national level. She also hopes to open a year-round leadership institute where people can receive services related to their three pillars: advocacy, self-care, and leadership.

Veronica is also publishing a book called “Hey Chica! You Are the Movement” later this year, which will tell you how to start a movement within yourself and allow you to dive further into Veronica’s personal story. There is also a Hey Chica! podcast available on all platforms.

“I want to ensure that we are still cultivating this ecosystem of women,” Veronica says.

There is no membership required to be involved with the Hey Chica! Movement. If you would like to learn more and stay in the know about upcoming events, you can follow them on social media or subscribe to their newsletter on their website.