Argelia Atilano jokes that Omar Velasco, her husband and morning radio co-host on K-Love 107.5-FM, was never really “her type.” “I only dated guys in suits,” she says with her trademark laugh. “Attorneys, businessmen. I would never date a DJ – but the magic happened.”
“I knew she was out of my league, but I kept pursuing her,” says Velasco with a smile.
This is the type of banter that has made the duo’s slot on the popular Spanish-language radio station one of the most listened-to morning shows in Los Angeles.
Since “El Show de Omar y Argelia” debuted on the Univision-owned station 13 years ago, Velasco and Atilano have grown their audience, fallen in love, married (nine years ago) and are now parents of daughters Camila, 7, and Anabella, 6.
They have also continued having the type of easy, honest on-air conversations their listeners love. Every weekday morning from 5-10 a.m., hundreds of thousands of Angelinos tune in to hear the young parents share their life moments – the funny, the challenging, the joyous – as if they were chatting with their best pals over coffee. Mixed in is commentary on current events, politics and social issues, popular music and some celebrity gossip.
Along with their on-air love story, Velasco and Atilano share an immigrant tale of hard work and cultural blending, of professional success and community advocacy.
Atilano was born in Chicago to immigrant parents from Jalisco, Mexico. They divorced and she moved with her mom and three sisters, eventually living in a small apartment in East L.A. and attending Garfield High School. “I have such good memories of my time at Garfield,” says Atilano. “My teachers believed in me. They pushed and motivated me. East L.A. is home to me. My mom still lives there and I love taking my girls there. We walk around the old neighborhood, get ice cream, visit our old church. That city molded me.” After graduating from Garfield with honors, she attended Loyola Marymount University, where she discovered her passion for broadcasting.
Velasco, the youngest of seven children, was born in Jalisco and came to Pacoima when he was 15. He graduated from San Fernando High School and attended Los Angeles Valley College and Cal State Northridge. He was pursuing a degree in computer science but dropped out to attend a local broadcasting school and then started working at K-Love, eventually taking the spot of iconic morning personality Pepe Barreto.
Atilano and Velasco are raising their daughters in Woodland Hills but have stayed close to their extended families and are very much in touch with their roots. Their daughters have “second moms,” grandmothers they affectionately call “Nanny” and “Abuelita.” And they spend lots of time surrounded by the love and support of all their aunts, uncles and cousins.
Balancing their roles as radio personalities and parents is not always easy, but the couple is committed to making family their first priority. Their day begins at 3:30 a.m. They make sure lunches are made for the girls and their two dogs are fed, then hit the road for K-Love studios in Culver City by 4:15 a.m. – in separate cars.
“We can’t live together, work together and drive together,” says Atilano. “We need our alone time and I’m usually catching up with my mom on the phone during my commute.”
They coordinate their schedules so one of them is home in time to pick up their daughters from school. Afternoons are devoted to piano, art and ballet classes, homework, making dinner and bedtime stories. Weekends are always about family. “Like many Latino families, we typically have a cousin’s birthday party or baby shower or some other family event going on,” says Atilano.
If they’re not with extended family and friends, you’ll find the family at home cooking and playing board games. “We love the family life, and we’re homebodies,” says Velasco. “We take out the Monopoly, Chinese Checkers, Lotería and play for hours.”
Velasco’s and Atilano’s distinct personalities shine through in their parenting styles. Atilano, who is meticulously organized, is firm with the rules. Velasco, who is playful and more tolerant of clothes and toys on the floor, admits to sneaking a cookie before dinner with the girls.
What they have in common is their commitment to fostering open communication with each other and their daughters. There are parts of their Latino culture they are fine leaving in the past, such as spanking to discipline their kids. But they fiercely embrace many other cultural traditions. The Spanish language, traditional foods, celebrations and family bonds are woven into the fabric of the family’s daily lives. “We listen to Spanish music, we speak Spanish at home, we travel to Mexico and share our stories about our family all the time,” says Velasco.
Velasco says he and Atilano also want to instill in their daughters an appreciation for the lives they are able to lead, and the work that made it all possible. “They will never understand what we lived through,” he says. “We want to make sure they don’t ever feel entitled and not value everything they have.”
“I tell them that I went to Disneyland for the first time when I was in sixth grade and it was just that one time,” adds Atilano. “We want our kids to be humble and grow up to give back to their community.”
The two are committed to leading by example. Their first book, “Amor al Aire” (Love’s in the Air), chronicling the challenges of sharing a home, a family and a radio booth, was published recently by Harper Collins and all profits will be donated to their respective foundations.
Atilano began the Argelia Atilano Foundation five years ago at LMU to provide scholarships to girls from East Los Angeles and neighboring communities. Velasco recently set up two scholarships for “dreamers” (undocumented students who entered the U.S. before age 16) from San Fernando High School who attend CSUN.
Their main focus, however, will always be their family. “We don’t ever want to lose touch with our kids,” says Atilano, who urges moms to ignore the pressure to be perfect. “Life is unpredictable and we can’t be so stressed and so hard on ourselves that we lose perspective. You have to enjoy each day and savor where your child is at that moment.”
Velasco urges fathers to stay involved. “In the Mexican culture, we still have this idea that men don’t belong in the kitchen, that they shouldn’t do homework with their kids or take them to their activities,” he says. “Forget all that. Be a part of your children’s lives, change diapers, make dinner, wash dishes. You will see how beautiful this relationship can be.”
Elena Epstein is Director of Content & Strategic Partnerships at L.A. Parent.