By Eleanora Morrison
To know Xitlalt Herrera-Salazar, Public Relations Manager of Neiman Marcus, is to admire her. Endlessly graceful in her tenacious and fearless commitments to realizing the grandest of visions and projects, whether corporately for Neiman Marcus or for one of her many philanthropic initiatives in San Antonio, there are few who are more devoted to their families, their work, their friends or their communities than ‘Queen X ‘ (as I lovingly call her) is devoted to hers.
Xitlalt has devoted her efforts to growing and elevating the cultural capital in our great city on the rise, while respecting and celebrating its authenticity as she has introduced our market to the latest trends, planting seeds for the creatives of younger generations to dream big, just like she has. She shares her journey, her values, her proudest career moments, and the inspirations that have fueled her award-winning work.
EM: Was a career in fashion PR what you always dreamed of pursuing, or was this path something you happened into and didn’t expect?
XHS: I have loved fashion since I was a little girl, before I even said my first word. I would choose the hat and sunglasses I wanted to wear, and communicate that to my mother before I could talk. My Mother and Father say that people would often ask them how they kept sunglasses on a baby. They would laugh and say, “she will not go out without them on.” I dreamed of fashion, was fascinated by it, and tried a lot of trends as many of us do. However, being from West Texas and growing up in a more rural area, I was not aware that it was a career option. My closest exposure to fashion was watching movies—I loved Maria Felix–MTV videos, and reading magazines. I would clip pictures of what I wanted to have, and then try to transform my own outfits into my dream ensembles. I loved how fashion transformed me when I played dress–up with all of my costumes, and I loved playing with barbies. I am so grateful that my Mother allowed me to explore this creative side growing up.
EM: The legendary Ken Downing hired you into the Neiman Marcus family in Dallas. How did his lessons in your early years prepare you for your nearly 14–year tenure at the company and now as the PR Manager of Neiman Marcus San Antonio?
XHS: I am grateful for the day that I met Ken Downing, when he introduced me to a dream that I did not even know was possible. I worked at a business publication, and helped to produce a show before 9/11. After 9/11, I decided that I wanted to give back and was a development director for a nonprofit Mi Escuelita Pre-schools. I learned so much from the founder Carolyn Strickland and her great team, and it was a very fulfilling position.
I have always believed that when you are doing good things, more good things happen for you, and when my 2-year commitment was finished in my current position, in walked Ken Downing to give a donation to Mi Escuelita on behalf of Neiman Marcus. Later he recruited me to be the Media Manager in Corporate PR for Neiman Marcus. It has now been 14 years and I am so grateful to work for a historic company whose values align with mine. It is an honor to work for a company that is 108 years old with a meaningful legacy that has withstood the test of time. In my role, I am fortunate to be called to utilize my creativity to give back to the community we serve. (This is one of the reasons why it is so important for me to be a member of Fashion Group International and to open doors for others like the one Ken opened for me.)
EM: You are constantly curating and styling fashion shows and events. What are your go-to sources of creative inspiration that help you remain fresh and innovative?
XHS: When I have free time, I love to travel with my wonderful husband Ramiro. We explore cities around the world, discovering architecture, museums, theatre, local restaurants and more. I believe that inspiration can be found everywhere, as long as we take a moment to take a breath and admire the world’s beauty. Since I was a little girl, I was always looking at the best in everything that was in front of me, and that is what I continue to do. When I look at something I love, I appreciate it for what it is and dream of what I could do with it. In that process, I might remember a painting, a building or a magazine fashion spread and then the light bulb goes off: I then go running toward that inspiration and use it to create something new.
EM: One of the things I admire most about you is that you are always working on yourself mentally and spiritually. Where do you absorb the content and seek the experiences that help you to live enlightened?
XHS: As a young girl, I would write down my dreams in a journal. I never stopped doing that. I was very fortunate to have parents that taught me to dream. We would often take family car rides to pick out our future dream homes, and I have kept that going since.
My ‘Guelita’ was the most peaceful person you would have ever met, and we had a special bond. She had a beautifully pure spirit and I learned to pray the rosary with her every evening that we were at her house. Beginning with those years, spirituality has always been very important to me and has guided my life. I start my mornings with practicing gratitude and reciting a meditative prayer. I love to listen to podcasts, read inspirational books and watch motivational videos on YouTube before I start my day.
I feel that it is so important to create peace and balance in your life, and you can do so with whatever it is that makes you happy. As I have gotten older, I have learned that spiritual experiences exist all around us. These experiences do not always mean rest, either. They can be energizing, like going to a museum and allowing a painting to inspire you. Or, a spiritual experience can also look like going to a beautiful church and having a special private moment in prayer. It can also look like having lunch, tea or champagne with a close friend. I believe that life is beautiful and ready for us to enjoy it, as long as we allow it to fill our cup.
EM: What is your proudest career moment?
XHS: This question is challenging, because I have been blessed and there have been so many great moments. One of them was hosting an art auction for the children of Mi Escuelita at the Barron Estate in Dallas. To be able to inspire great friends to invest in a four year-old’s art piece so it could give that child a better education was a moment that meant the world to me. In San Antonio, there have also been so many great moments. One was helping to kick off the Capital Campaign for the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts with a Ken Downing Fashion Show. I truly believe in the arts and how they can transform a city. The second of my favorite San Antonio moments was when I recently Co-Chaired the Catrina Ball with my friends Heather De Rojas and Amy Feik Garcia. It is very gratifying to work for a company that sees the value in arts education for children, and for us to be able to help the Public Library Foundation prosper so it can continue to create an economic impact in San Antonio through our wonderful Library System.
EM: Can you elaborate on that experience, and what it meant to you to work with your husband Ramiro Salazar (Director of the San Antonio Public Library) for the benefit of the children in our community?
XHS: The stars truly aligned for us to work together on the Catrina Ball, and I am so grateful to our 2018 Catrina AnaPaula Watson, Catrin Rick Liberto, foundation and Library teams, Host Committee, amazing artists, Art Galleries, L3, sponsors, donors and our fabulous Team Neiman Marcus (Visual, OST, Precious Jewelry and the Executive Office) who all came together to make a difference for the children of San Antonio. It was a very special night, during which we featured and celebrated our important Dia de los Muertos cultural traditions during a black-tie event. The cherry on top of our efforts was to learn that we reached our net profit goal. There is something amazing to me about representing Neiman Marcus, a wonderful luxury leader, and to see the impact we are making in all circles of San Antonio culture. My favorite part of the experience was when we arrived the morning of the event to begin the setup, and Ramiro told us to go up to the children’s floor of the library to see something special. When we walked off of the escalator, we saw children aged 3-13 from all backgrounds, dressed up in costumes and playing violins. We all shed a happy tear knowing that this was why we were making a difference with this event, and it was beautiful. The Catrina Ball was such an amazing experience and I am grateful that we showcased the best side of Neiman Marcus and San Antonio in a great partnership, and we cannot wait to do it again next year.
EM: How have you developed the courage and self-belief to overcome challenges and difficult situations with grace and confidence?
XHS: I have learned so much from observing great leaders. I have also learned how not to be from observing others in leadership positions, and I am grateful for both perspectives. I saw how my Mother was treated at times in her career, and how she overcame so much with her genuine smile and self-belief of keeping her joy. To me, that is true strength. I look at people compassionately and realize that sometimes their behavior has nothing to do with me, but instead with something that they have going on in their lives; or, their behavior has to do with their past that they have not forgiven, and they are on their own journey to create their own happiness if they decide to. I try my best to live the golden rule, and I have found that to be my guiding light. I have also learned that only I can create my own happiness. I look inward and do what makes me happy, and I have found that things usually fall into the place as they were meant to be. I also do my best to surround myself with great friends that want to see the best in each other and push each other to succeed. The pie of opportunity is so big, and there is enough room for all of us to have BIG slices of it.
EM: How has philanthropy woven its way into the fabric of your life, and what does giving back mean to you?
XHS: What I love most in life is giving back; my parents really instilled that value in us. When we were children, we always had a box to fill with items to give to children in orphanages in Mexico. For the Holidays, we always bought extra Thanksgiving or Christmas family meals, and my parents would ask the priest who needed extra help. We would show up at their doorstep as a family and surprise them with an entire Holiday meal and toys for their children. I still remember the feeling of seeing a child smile when they played with the doll I gave them, and it was beautiful. I wish I could bottle up the joy I get from seeing someone smile due to a gesture of kindness and give it to everyone I encounter.
My personal passion is arts education for children, and I am lucky to work for a company that holds that same value. I know what the arts did for me as a child in teaching me to dream, to think outside the box, to solve problems and to be creative. They are important life lessons. It truly fills my soul to see a child recognize their own value, and I pray that they never let go of that feeling as it will always help them throughout their life.
EM: If you had the opportunity to speak to your 18 year-old self, what would you tell her?
XHS: I would tell her to relax, to take a deep breath, and that it is all going to work out to be a beautiful and blessed journey. I would also tell her that it is okay to ask for help and that she does not have to do it all on her own. Above all, I would tell her to have fun!