When the San Francisco 49ers take the field on Sunday for Super Bowl 58, Sarina Soriano will be nearby catching the action with a camera.
Soriano, 29, is the first female senior producer for the 49ers and one of the first Latina cinematographers in the NFL. At 49ers Studios she creates content for its website and social media channels, filming and editing highlight reels, game action and features. A two-time Emmy award winner for Spanish content and sports program “49 Hours,” she’s also making her mark as a Latina from East San Jose in a male-dominated industry.
Soriano describes herself as a tenacious self-starter, a driven individual and team player who didn’t let challenges stop her from reaching her dream of working in sports. Among her credits is creating a Spanish radio broadcast for fans in Mexico and San Jose.
“Maybe it’s the East San Jose person in me,” she told San José Spotlight. “You gotta have a thick skin in this industry. Everyone’s gonna always say something about you and especially the way you look. If this is your passion, and this is what you want to pursue… you can’t take no for an answer. I hope women see me… and think, ‘because she’s doing it, I want to pursue it as well.'”
Although only 5’3”, Soriano was on the field for the NFC Championship game, holding a 30-plus pound camera on her shoulder as hulking players tackled each other by her feet.
“(It’s happening) so fast, you gotta keep your head on a swivel,” she said.
Gabriela Chavez-Lopez, executive director of the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley, said having East San Jose representation matters. It’s important to inspire the next generation of young women, she told San José Spotlight.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” she said. “For our community to be able to see this woman of color, this Latina, in that position is really exciting. Sports is a nontraditional career pathway for women. When you see folks breaking through, their lens, their perspective, their voice is going to be just naturally integrated into the storytelling.”
Soriano’s career opportunity came in 2016 through the Denise DeBartolo York Fellowship, when she was about to graduate college. DeBartolo York, owner and co-chair of the San Francisco 49ers, created the fellowship to help women learn the business of professional sports. After Soriano rotated through various departments in the program, she was captivated by the 49ers Studios. She was offered an associate producer position, which eventually evolved into a senior producer role.
“The fellowship was life changing,” she said. “I kind of felt a little shell shocked. Wow, me from East Side San Jose.”
Darlene Tenes, CEO of CasaQ, said it’s exciting to see Soriano reach the top levels of her field and never forget her East San Jose roots.
“She is an amazing example of what you can achieve with hard work and grit on and off the field,” Tenes told San José Spotlight. “It’s so great to see someone coming from the East Side and succeeding nationally.”
49ers in her blood
Soriano grew up watching games on Sunday mornings with her family. She credits her father and grandfather for her passion for 49ers football. Her father, Jer Soriano, a high school assistant principal, often shared stories with her about the players and took her to 49ers playoff games at Candlestick Park.
“Whoever thought that your daughter would work for the team you worship,” he told San José Spotlight. “My daughter with the 49ers in a high-profile position… doing what she loves to do. My wife and I are so amazed and so proud. She’s doing it, and doing it well, and putting a little Latina emphasis on it.”
Soriano loved sports and played soccer from the time she was a little girl to playing semi-professionally in college. She also loved cameras and created highlight reels of basketball games at Caldwell University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies.
Raised by strong women, she’s inspired by her mother and grandmothers. Her mother Patricia works in finance, a male-dominated industry, and is one of her biggest role models, she said. Her mother instilled in her the confidence that she could do anything, including forging a path in an unlikely profession, Soriano said.
“It’s always hard being the first in anything,” Soriano told San José Spotlight. “You feel like you need to be more. If I fail, it will look twice as bad as a white male counterpart. Maybe I don’t get the projects I really want because of this boy’s club. I’m proud I got through those trials and tribulations, but I also want to thank the men that were right there supporting me. Without them, I would not have this seat. Now that I do, I try my best to bring in people who look like me.”
Being at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and filming her home team on Super Bowl Sunday is a dream come true, she said.
“To be able to do my job on the biggest stage means the world to me because not a lot of Latinas get to be on a Super Bowl field filming and following their dreams,” she said.
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected].