Cristina Oakeley Allen is perhaps one of the most passionate Nashville’s when it comes to embracing our increasingly global community. Whether she’s helping launch new global initiatives on a local level, serving on a local nonprofit’s board or filming her TV show, “Que Pasa Nashville,” she always has the best interest of Nashville at the forefront of her efforts. Get to know this inspiring local woman, find out more about the work she’s done throughout the city (hint: You’ve likely been impacted by it and don’t even know it!), and find out her top pick for the best authentic Mexican food in Music City. Meet our newest FACE of Nashville, Cristina Oakeley Allen!
Where are you from and what brought you to Nashville?
I was raised in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and graduated from New Mexico State University. While in college, I worked in the marketing department for the university’s Special Events Center. My job was to promote all the entertainment that came to campus. From this experience, I received an internship at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. I was then hired as the Assistant Director of Marketing and Public Relations.
You’re a Senior Advisor for Compass Executives and you specialize in global leadership, global trade and multi-cultural marketing. Explain what that means in layman’s terms.
As companies globalize to take advantage of new and emerging markets, a new and different dimension of multiplicity starts to transpire. There is an evolutionary process in how companies and organizations address diversity and inclusion. It is no longer about political correctness or window dressing; it’s about business survival, pure profit and bottom-line business.
The business case for diversity is a measurable opportunity as Nashville’s demographic shift projects in the year 2040, Davidson County will be 34% Hispanic, 32% Caucasian, 27% African Americans and 7% others. What companies do now to attract the buying power of diverse Nashvillians will result in significant economic growth. I work with companies to create strategies, both internal and external, to prepare them for the future and ensure their brand, employees and marketing strategies are relevant.
What has been the single most rewarding experience you have had in your career?
I’ve been fortunate to have many great accomplishments in my career, which include lots of “mountain top” experiences. I’m proud of dozens of projects I’ve been involved with, but one of my recent projects remains high on my list. I was a member of an executive team who strategized, planned and executed the opening of the Music City Plaza Mariachi. We transformed an empty Kroger in South Nashville to a vibrant and culturally diverse entertainment destination, a Latino destination and retail center in the heart of our city’s Hispanic neighborhood. The $18 million event center showcases Latino history, art, culture and food.
Tell us about “Que Pasa Nashville.” How long have you been doing that? What is the most rewarding part of hosting the show?
I have hosted “Que Pasa Nashville” for 15 years and enjoy interviewing company executives, government officials, nonprofit leaders and community volunteers whose multicultural initiatives benefit Nashville’s Latino and global communities. My interviews and reporting have covered a multitude of subjects including nonprofits’ new Latino outreach, my interview with the new director of the Mayor’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Greater Nashville Chinese Association’s annual New Year Celebration, and the Holi Festival sponsored by the India Association of Nashville. I am passionate about promoting diversity and inclusion in our community. I feel compelled to humanize our minority groups and to demystify the fear that arises with our demographic multicultural growth.
Nashville is growing in both population and diversity. What has been the biggest or most significant change you’ve seen in terms of growth and/or diversity in your time here?
It has taken a few years for the Nashville community to welcome, thank and acknowledge our global community. We are here. We bring new thoughts, solutions, foods, festivals, buying power and a reflection of the world. So many organizations, nonprofits, government organizations and people in general are embracing and are accepting of our diverse neighbors.
What do you think is the key to successful growth for Nashville?
Balance. While the corporate community and wages are growing, we must also think about the living wages of our teachers, firefighters and service workers. To be a great city, we must have balance of knowing when to say yes, and when to say no.
You’re highly involved on boards and with nonprofits. What has been the most rewarding experience you have had in that capacity?
I believe by serving your community with time, talent and treasure, you are serving yourself. Nashville is home. I care about EVERYONE in our community as I am touched by their lives, and I hope I can help make someone else’s life a little easier. My most rewarding experience is summed up by a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Why do you think it’s important to be involved in the community?
I believe Nashville is a great city. I want to be part of its challenges, but more importantly, part of the solutions. I believe I have a little to offer in terms of my expertise and will do my part to ensure we stay an inclusive, diverse, equitable and awesome city!
If you were to win the $50M lottery, what would you do with the money?
- I would purchase a home in Taos, New Mexico, the city of my birth — great skiing, hiking and family.
- I would make a large donation to the San Albino Catholic Basilica, located in Mesilla, New Mexico, in my parents’ memory/honor. My mother served as the church secretary for over 10 years; I was married there 23 years ago, and two of my three daughters were baptized there. It is a special place for me, and my family and I love to visit when I go home. San Albino Catholic Basilica is also dedicated to serving the immigrant and migrant community, which is very important to me.
- I would establish a scholarship and tutoring program in the Nashville immigrant community, providing funding to organizations that focus on education. Education is the key to economic mobility.
What is a hidden gem in the city that most Nashvillians wouldn’t be aware of?
While a member of the Catholic faith, I so enjoy visiting our new religious places. The Sri Ganesha Temple in Bellevue is amazing, (527 Old Hickory Blvd, Nashville, TN 37209), or the new Islamic Center of Nashville at Bellevue mosque that just opened (7337 Charlotte Pike, Nashville, TN 37209), and the festivals that our new American’s celebrate, such as the Holi Festival or the Chinese New Year events (Year of the Pig). Nashville’s diverse richness in food, festivals and fun are the gems of our city!
Favorite meal or restaurant in Nashville?
My favorite restaurant is Las Cazuelas Mexican Grill (114 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN 37211). It has real authentic Mexican food. You will find this is the place where the TRUE Mexican’s eat, listen to great music and watch futbol!
When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?
I love my career, but my greatest love is my family. I have three daughters, and spending time with them is very important to me. I take my role as a mom very seriously and know that I have been given an awesome responsibility to raise my daughters into strong, inclusive, empathic and determined young women. My daughters need a lot of my attention and focus — I make them a priority in my life.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given and from whom?
Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Books, music, mountains
Thank you, Cristina! And thank you to Leila Grossman for the beautiful photographs of Cristina.
She heads up the TriStar Spring Hill ER, and she absolutely loves her job! Find out why and get to know our newest FACE of TriStar better. Click HERE to meet Keri McKamey.