Lex Borrero, co-founder of the Neon16 label, is sitting at the table and has brought a full plate. As a teenager, Borrero understood the importance of networking. After hundreds of unanswered cold calls, he eventually caught the attention of Universal Music and signed his first artist under his Lex Prods banner. when he was 17 years old. He would go on to become executive vice president and head of Latin at Roc Nation, where he met and later shaped the career of producer and reggaeton artist Tainy. The two now run Neon16 together, with Borrero staying on as CEO.
Borrero’s latest project is the new documentary-style reality series Los Montaner, created alongside veteran music executive Tommy Mottola (a relationship Borrero says is “like father and son”). It will premiere later this year under the duo’s new content company banner, Ntertain.
Although he has a mountain of responsibility – Borrero joined Variety to talk about Ntertain, the production of a Stan Lee-approved Latino superhero, and the key to his entrepreneurial evolution.
Why was it essential for you to start Ntertain with the reality-style documentaries “Los Montaner”?
When we were starting the company, the first thing I thought was, “Which musicians do I know that have something special, something that I think has the power to teach and nurture—something that has the power to make a positive impact?” “
I’ve known the Montaner family (Ricardo, Marlene, Mau, Ricky and Evaluna, and significant others Stefi, Sara and Camilo) for a while. We made a lot of music with them and during the quarantine, they really became the most viral Latin family.
The Montaners had already been approached by Bunim Murray [“Keeping Up With The Kardashians”] and had shot a tar trailer, which had been shopped around and not taken. When the family showed me the trailer, I saw it and was like, “Wow, this family shouldn’t be shown.” That show never sold for the same reason.
Then we approached the show creatively in a different way, which ended up being more docu-style—that’s what you’re going to see now with our show. We use a lot of stock footage because [Ricardo] always filmed, he always had a camera on. I think it will really resonate from an emotional place, but also from an artistic and creative sense.
From your perspective, was there an opening in the market for a company like Ntertain? How does the company align with your goal to “push the boundaries” of Latino culture?
Over the last five years, I mean, there’s been a renaissance of cultural change. You’ve now seen these incredible big companies come in and support black cinema and black television in a way that has allowed those stories to evolve.
Now, I feel like that’s missing in the Latino community. I think for a long time in Hollywood, which is part of the growth of any industry, you had your standard stereotypical Latin. There is this huge space and we’re starting to see more and more of it being filled.
What other themes or story lines are you looking to explore?
We’re working on Stan Lee’s Prisoner! Fun for one of the Latino superheroes he wrote before he passed away. We took this superhero that he created and adapted the story to resonate with what’s happening politically in our countries. Almost every country in Latin America is moving away and creating all these very real issues about people and how they relate to the rest of the world.
We are also in production on a story about Wall Street. The idea came from all over GameStop [stock frenzy] problem because it was then that I noticed that there was no Latin [wealth fund managers]. We all have this perception of what the American dream is, but what does that mean when you measure it against the kinds of values that we are taught as Latinos and in our culture?
You’re at the intersection of many different ventures, but how did TV and film get on your radar?
I felt that the moment I could find an opportunity in the visual and production world where I could tell a story that would make an impact, I would go after it – even though I knew nothing. I got into the world of film and television the way I got into the world of music: learning what the terms meant as I listened and sitting on the phone with these executives at different broadcasters, hearing some of the terms of the questions they were asking. I had no idea what they were talking about, but I found out.
Tell us about the talent show, La Firma, which we’ll be seeing on Netflix soon – you have an incredible panel of judges from Rauw Alejandro to Yandel, Nicki Nicole and Tainy. How did this come together?
I’ve just been really thinking about the notion of cover songs and how talent shows in the past have been very centered around the judges and missing a certain part. Like watching Puff’s “Making the Band” – you just felt like you got an inside look at how artists were made
And so “La Firma” is a show about that. We took 12 artists who were already writing their own music, who had a sense of style, and we brought them to Miami and put them through a 12-week competition that really challenged them to what it takes to be an artist and develop the artist. the process. I was blown away by the level of talent that came out. Every artist goes into the studio wanting to make the best music because you’re a competitor too. They’re going from sessions to dance classes, to choreography, to media training – I mean, that’s the life of an artist.
How has the growth of Neon16 correlated with the growth of Latin music revenues in the US, which are set to reach $1 billion this year?
I think it goes back to what we did with the market. We showed up through our marketing, through our creative ideas. This intersection eventually became what is now global culture. We simply had to change the way we approach creative ideas, our businesses and the value of our producers. With Tainy, we really wanted to showcase that. There used to be no value in watching a producer, despite them being an important part of our creative process, and we really wanted to change the dynamic. Similar to what we’re doing at Intertain, we’re just saying to the world, “Hey, listen. We’re just as good as everybody else.”
Where does your business relationship with Tainy stand?
It’s a little bit of everything. It started as a friendship and the business side turned into management, helping throughout his career and creative process. It’s become a partnership that’s really become bigger than anything. We’ve managed to build a relationship where we really understand what each of our roles are and how we grow those roles to integrate it into our businesses.
What is the secret of your evolution in business and music?
Understanding my purpose and finding meaning in the things I do beyond financial success or fame. I think evolution happens the moment you realize where you’re going. I find that many people, especially very young people, start going around in circles. Sometimes we don’t pause to really understand what it is we want. I truly believe that you attract the things you are constantly thinking about and so you should be obsessive about these and make your dreams come true.