Flavor Profiles with Jo Bailon
Meet event organizer and party girl Jo Bailon, as she shares her mixed Latin upbringing and what Nueva York means to her.
For Latin Heritage Month, we're introducing a month-long celebration, called "Somos Nueva York", where we're spotlighting the incredible and integral contributions of the Latin community to the food, culture, history, and fabric of New York City. Our name Loisa was inspired by Loisaida, better known as the "Lower East Side", a neighborhood with a prominent Latin population and a community that we aim to uplift.
This Flavor Profile is part of a series of features where we're elevating the stories of notable members of our community here in Nueva York that continue to push our cultura forward. We hope you enjoy their stories and we encourage you to explore their work.
About Jo Bailon:
Born in New York, Josiane “Jo” Bailon carries the vibrant mix of her father's Portuguese-African heritage and her mother's Mexican roots. It's no wonder the culture runs in her veins—her immigrant parents met in the 80’s NYC club scene, bonding over their shared love for the music and community.
Her path led her to art school in Boston, where she embarked on a journey of self-discovery, majoring in photography and graphic design. However, the call of the creative world led her to step away from the traditional academic path, a decision that would set the tone for her unique trajectory.
Finding her muse in photography, Jo dedicated herself to working as a freelancer for modeling agencies, Getty Images, and later, her network of restaurateurs. With 17 years of ‘food & beverage’ under her belt, Jo's pivot to event operations and marketing was natural. It was her time in the hospitality industry that truly molded her into a force to be reckoned with.
In 2021, she unveiled Perreo Intenso, a culmination of her nightlife insights, brand finesse, and audience connection. In no time, Perreo Intenso rose to the top, grabbing the attention of every Latin music lover in NYC with its unbeatable vibes. And now, they’re putting on their gloves to take on the rest of the U.S, Latin America, and beyond.
Tell us a little bit about your background! Where is your family from? Where did you grow up? What role did Latin culture play in your upbringing?
I lived a very nomadic childhood. I was born in New Rochelle, back when it was a major Latin community. My Mexican mother was a single parent to 3 kids. My brother and sister had the same Mexican dad and I was the odd one — the mixed race child. Although considerably fluent, I spoke Spanish, but not as well as them. I was 8 years old when my school teacher told me, “You’re American and in America, we speak English.” That summer my mother sent me to Tijuana with my aunt. I came back speaking, singing, and dancing everything Latin. My mother would bring me to her dance classes and I’d be in the back corner following along with the choreography instead of playing with my Barbies. Those are some of the earliest memories I have in which I recognized my pride in being Latina.
Describe the work you do. What’s your favorite aspect of your day-to-day life?
Today, I work in event operations with hospitality groups and operate Perreo Intenso in between. No day is ever the same — each event is different, with its own ideas and production, and the challenges can be humbling but thrilling all at once. The events world really propelled my career after being in the hospitality industry for 17 years and Perreo Intenso was born at a time when I was ready for that shift. My parents were super strict with me as a teen. I was never allowed to host or even attend a house party so of course, at the ripe age of 30, I decided the time was now!
How does your work impact or engage with the community?
I recall going to Latin Night at random clubs and being absolutely transcended by the energy and music. What struck me most was that they weren’t consistent and as a Brooklyn girl, in order to have more access to Latin music events, I needed to take two trains to go uptown. One day, I hopped on my IG stories asking my network, “Aye, where's the party at?” and my friends pretty much dared me and said, “Do it yourself!” One month later, we had a residency at Ponyboy at the peak of the quarantine lift. It was obvious that I wasn’t the only one needing musical therapy. To this day, I still see our OG guests and receive sweet testimonials from people who are so proud that this exists in BK; and even more, that it’s woman-owned. In all of this, I’ve learned that if you want space, sometimes you have to make it yourself.
What inspires you most?
Honestly, ambitious women. I love ambitious people, but seeing women slay in the business world really gives me immense pride. I love having dates with like-minded creatives, learning, venting, ideating — all of it. My biggest ick is a gatekeeper. There is space for us all and having a team or network to be there for you is such a gift.
What does Nueva York mean to you?
Listen… I lived in Boston for 9 years, and now that I’m back in NY, I am not leaving! Moving out of New York was actually the first time I ever experienced racism from fellow Latinos. Growing up here, I never realized what a massive ocean NY was. A fusion of cultures, colors, languages, and food. According to people, I never sounded or danced or looked Mexican; as if being Mexican is one way. But the thing about being raised here is, you’re a little bit of everything, and outside of this NY bubble, few people can comprehend that. In one day I can be at a sports bar cheering for Messi, or at Nene’s Taqueria getting birria, or at Miss Favela’s drinking caipirinhas, or dancing salsa at Bembe, or playing domino outside the barbershop. That’s what Nueva York means to me. I’m a little bit of you, you’re a little bit of me.
One way we like to connect with our friends and family is through comida! Tell us about your favorite Latin dish, and recount a special memory you have related to that dish.
My favorite dish is a Mexican one, called sopes. Uncommon and often executed poorly, sopes encompasses all of the traditional Mexican ingredients: masa, lettuce, homemade salsa, protein of choice, frijoles, crema, and queso fresco. Think of it like a thick tortilla; you raise the edges to serve as a wall to hold in all of your contents, somewhat like a tostada but better. My mom is the sopes queen and I was certain to master her recipe before I moved out of the house. This was my birthday dish, our holiday dish, our celebratory dish — mostly because the prep took forever and my mom had to aggregate volunteers. “You want to eat? Well, you need to help.” Now I make it for my close friends and loved ones. Pa que sepan ;)