When Maria de los Angeles attended the University of Miami, she did not take courses in journalism or social media, yet the two would become a critical part of her life.
“I came to journalism in a back door kind of way,” said de los Angeles, who writes Sex and the Beach, a blog whose contents she describes as “travel, food, spirits, blogging, social media, sex, fishing, nature, culture, pirates, humor, yoga, kitchen sink. Whatever tickles my fancy.”
De los Angeles is a 1990 film graduate. While she was studying for a master’s in English at UM, a friend offered her the opportunity to go on a press trip for a travel magazine.
“That changed my life,” de los Angeles said. “It taught me that my audience really needed to be the world out there and not the stuffy world of academia.”
She began writing for travel magazines such as Honeymoon: Romantic Travel Magazine and Adventure Journal. As a lover of Caribbean history and literature, it was a natural fit, she said. In 2005, she began writing her blog.
“I found this self-publishing platform called Blogger,” de los Angeles said. “I thought it was so cool. It was just a joke and I had no idea it would take off like it did.”
That “joke” led to her blog receiving the Best Humor Blog award from the Sun Sentinel in 2010. Before that, it led to jobs: first a monthly love advice column for City Link Magazine under the pen name Manola Blablablanick and then a weekly column at the Miami New Times called Silicon Beach.
In her posts for Sex and the Beach, she comes off as passionate and witty.
Aware that the Internet is sometimes home to poorly sourced information, de los Angeles said is a stickler about journalistic integrity.
“I have a pet peeve about the word blog because that is just the name of the platform and has nothing to do with the quality of the content that is inside it,” de los Angeles said. “You want to stay objective and fact check what you are writing.”
De los Angeles also stresses the importance of connecting with her audience. She uses her Twitter account @ViceQueenMaria to micro-broadcast information that is not substantial enough for an entire article, she said.
“In today’s world, you have the opportunity to engage your readership,” she said. “I depend on social media as a huge marketing tool. It enables me to develop audiences.”
De los Angeles uses the name Vice-Queen Maria for her account because when a friend joked that she was the queen, she said that she would rather be the vice queen, so she could enjoy the privileges without the burden.
In 2011, her account won Best Personal Twitter Feed from the Sun Sentinel Best of Blogs Awards.
De los Angeles has used her expertise in social media to educate others. She organizes local “tweetups” in South Florida, where Twitter account holders can meet and network with each other. She also holds seminars and talks on social media, where she helps writers get into blogging. For experienced bloggers, she discusses strategies for improving.
Recently, de los Angeles had the opportunity to create short documentaries about Hialeah through a grant from Comcast.
“It was always a passion of mine, but I never went into production,” she said. This does not mean the end of her blogging career though.
“I have gone full circle, but I don't consider myself just a writer, journalist or blogger,” de los Angeles said. “I'm a storyteller in different mediums.”