Blogger and digital influencer Jewel Figueras leaves behind legacy of passion, advocacy, and humor
Friends and family are paying tribute to someone many considered to be one of the most influential digital creators in the nation.
Jewel Figueras died earlier today in Washington, D.C. after a four-year bout with ovarian cancer.
Originally from Washington, D.C. Jewel moved to South Florida more than a decade ago. She was living in the nation’s capital when she met and fell in love with Angel Figueras, a corrections officer.
Figueras, her husband of 14 years, said that Jewel always took a strong interest in helping other people.
“Jewel was always about helping other people’s causes, until she had her own cause to do,” said Figueras. “She was larger than life and had a huge heart for people.”
At a Bloomingdale’s event in The Falls, Miami, Florida with Cristy Clavijo-Kish and Angela Sustaita-Ruiz of DiMe Media, and Sonia Díaz of Balsera Communications.
Jewel was a consummate networker, having never met a stranger, and worked in the non-profit, human resources, marketing, and sales arenas. She loved cooking and photography, and was known to cook excellent Cuban food.
Jewel started blogging in January 2009 and quickly discovered that she loved it. Within a few months, her very first blog was named Best Personal Blog in South Florida by the Sun Sentinel newspapers. She founded Jewel’s Fab Life in April 2010 and it remained her focus. Jewel was a sought-after speaker, and hosted local events for big brands.
“It’s truly impossible to sum up Jewel’s significance in a quote,” said Stacey Ferguson, co-founder of the Blogalicious online community and social media conference. “She was one of those rare people that blessed everyone she met; through her smile, her energy, her humor, her smarts, her no-nonsense attitude, her desire to make your life shine in any way that she could. To have been her close friend was nothing short of a gift and I know she is somewhere laughing her big laugh and wearing sequins while doing it. She will be always remembered and is already deeply missed.”
With Stacey Ferguson, founder of Blogalicious
Last summer, Jewel was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. Since the surgery and subsequent chemotherapy treatments, she had been quite active in promoting awareness and raising funds for this cause. She was appointed an Advocacy Leader for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance and spent time on Capitol Hill, talking to Congress about the disease. Indeed, she embraced the teal (the official color for ovarian cancer) with great energy and enthusiasm.
Cristy Clavijo-Kish, Partner at Hispanicize, Partner and Co-Founder at DiMe Media, and Founder of Los Tweens, describes the first time Jewel met her family.
“When I met Jewel as we prepared for Hispanicize 2012 (I think!), she immediately met my girls and husband and fell in love with our family, and we adopted her. She said that she was supposed to marry a ‘gringo from Hialeah,’ and the twins surely were hers! Among my favorite Jewel moments would be [when she needed] to teach my girls something that would annoy me, so she created ‘Tic Tic BOOMMM!’ and taught them and their bestie (Katherine Doble’s daughter Maddie) to say ‘Tic Tic Boom!!’ Every time something was cool- it was TIC TIC BOOM! To this day we laugh every time. Then there were the many moments I ‘was Jewel’ at an event when she couldn’t attend. She was so open to sharing opportunities and was an example for our influencer community about supporting each other. But she would literally tell the brand contacts that someone who was ‘just like her’, BUT LATINA, was going in her place. Needless to say, it was nothing but laughs when I got to the event!”
Olivia, Jewel, Cristy, and Sophia
When Jewel was diagnosed, she found an unexpected ally and partner in moral support in Clavijo-Kish.
Manny Ruiz, Hispanicize Event founder and CEO, recalled his unique bond with Jewel. He said they instantly hit it off, despite some initial confusion on his part. They first met at the Detroit Auto Show in 2011.
“At first, I was confused, and thought that she was Latina because of her last name,” Ruiz said. “She instantly corrected that. She said, ‘No, I’m married to a Cuban guy, and no, I don’t speak Spanish. Through the years, we had this funny bond that entailed constantly cracking racist jokes about each other. I loved how refreshingly straight-up Jewel and I could speak about anything, and I counted her as one of my closest confidantes in the industry. I would kid that she was my sister from my black mother, and she would kid that I was her Cuban brother from her white mother.”
With blogger and influencer Yolanda Pagan
Ruiz emphasized the instrumental role Jewel played in building Hispanicize, and credits her with helping to strengthen Hispanicize’s relationship with the African-American community, assisting them in increasing their outreach and connection with African-American digital creators.
“She spent countless hours [as a volunteer] offering ideas for the conference, and sometimes she slept over at our house.” She helped us build many bridges and programs that have enabled Hispanicize to become the leading national event for diverse content creators,” Ruiz said. “Hispanicize owes her a great debt of gratitude.”
With Laurita Tellado, writer, influencer, and founder of The Laurita Spina Bifida Project.
Even for those who were not close to Jewel, it becomes blatantly apparent that Jewel touched many lives with her humor, enthusiasm, honesty, and joie de vivre.
- “Jewel actually introduced me to my first car brand client at Blog World years ago, and she taught me the ropes of managing brand ambassadorships. We then became family through our mutual work at Hispanicize. I will say this about her; she was a fighter. She was brave in ways I never thought people could be facing what she faced.”
— George Torres, Founder, Sofrito Media Group
- “On this night, we were at a less-than-exciting gala, and we decided to bring the fun by doing the hokey pokey to just about any song that was playing. We did some unconventional hokey pokey moves— needless to say— and put all sorts of body parts ‘in’ that are not quite G-rated. As it turns out- we had a blast, laughed uncontrollably, and strengthened a relationship that lasted for years. I cannot think about Jewel without laughing and love the way she said it like it was— no holds barred! Truly among the kindest and best people I’ve gotten to know. One lesson I learned from Jewel is that in life— like in the Hokey Pokey— it’s important to ‘Put Your Whole Self In!’”
— Mary Jo Shore
- “From telling then DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider that she owes her a new pair of eyelashes after she cried them off after an early screening of The Help to fawning all over Michael Douglas during an interview for Ant-Man, Jewel was the life of every event. I feel so blessed that Jewel was part of my life for as long as she was and I will miss her terribly.”
— Marshall Weinbaum
- “One time at Hispanicize, I casually complimented the earrings she was wearing. She immediately lit up and said, ‘You like them, honey? I’ll give them to you!’ I emphatically resisted, but she insisted. ‘Look, when I’m done wearing them today, I will give them to you!’ I thought she might forget, but sure enough, the following day, she pulled me aside and handed me a small yellow sachet bag with the precious earrings. It was an unexpected gesture of kindness and friendship that will stay with me forever.”
— Laurita Tellado
Below is a video interview Jewel did in 2012 with Vanessa James of Vanessa James Media.
In an interview Jewel did for Digital Sisterhood, the platform’s founder Ananda Leeke asked her about the lessons she had learned so far about leadership in the social media sphere. Jewel had this to say:
“I’ve learned to trust myself and intuition. I’ve learned that there is value in the knowledge that I have. I’ve learned that anyone can become a leader in the digital space. It’s the great equalizer. I have learned to not make plans in the digital space but rather to simply walk the path–letting it lead me.”
Thank you, our dear, sweet Jewel, for allowing us to meet you along the path. We’re all certainly blessed and grateful to have known her.
The Hispanicize community is working on a special way to honor Jewel, to be announced very soon. Jewel had once expressed a fear of being forgotten. Worry not, amiga. That will never happen.