Richard Montañez is a motivational speaker, inventor, and author who has dedicated over 40 years to inspiring individuals and organizations to reach their full potential.
The year 2023 is particularly memorable for Montañez, as the feature film based on his life was released, titled “Flamin’ Hot.” The film is Eva Longoria’s feature-length directorial debut, produced by DeVon Franklin, a phenomenal project that took seven years to create. It premiered on both Disney+ and Hulu, marking a significant milestone as the first feature film to debut on both platforms.
The film captures his visionary mindset, drive, and passion for providing for his family. He is a man who overcame all odds against him to succeed in life: abuse, racism, poverty, gangs, violence, and drugs. He credits God and his beloved wife, Judy, as the ones who helped him find his way. The paradigm shift that led him to success, as depicted in the film, occurred when he vocalized his epiphany of the power he had in being Latino. Rather than feeling down about his ethnicity and racial slurs, he fully embraced himself. He stepped into this power when he consoled his son experiencing racism, confidently stating: “Being Mexican is your superpower!”
The film comically depicts Montañez’s heartfelt and awe-inspiring story of how his innovation of Flamin Hot’ Hot Cheetos led to record-breaking numbers in sales partially to the Hispanic market. Showing how he ultimately worked his way up from janitor of Frito Lays in Rancho Cucamonga to eventually vice president of multicultural sales & community promotions for PepsiCo before retiring in 2019.
Reflecting on his journey, Montañez shares a powerful quote that has guided him through his darkest moments: “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” He believes that true transformation often arises from adversity, emphasizing the importance of shifting our perspectives to foster personal growth and positive change.
Through his own experiences, Montañez has learned a crucial lesson in business: success is not defined by one’s background or circumstances but by the strength of character and resolute determination to achieve goals. He firmly believes that anyone can overcome obstacles and realize their dreams with hard work, initiative, creativity, and faith.
Being a person of influence, according to Montañez, entails recognizing the power of our actions and words to shape the lives of others. It goes beyond mere popularity or having a large following. Montañez quotes, “With great power comes great responsibility,” highlighting the importance of using influence for good and being intentional about the impact on others. This involves being a positive role model, sharing personal journeys and challenges, and utilizing platforms to create lasting change.
Beyond his speaking engagements, he has shared his wisdom and insights through his book, “Flamin’ Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man’s Rise from Janitor to Top Executive.” Additionally, Montañez is working on a book and documentary that will delve deeper into various aspects of his journey, aiming to inspire and guide those facing similar struggles.
His ultimate goal is to empower individuals to believe in themselves, persevere, and never give up on their dreams. Richard Montañez’s remarkable story serves as a testament to the transformative power of determination, resilience, and embracing new perspectives.
This article feature is from our annual special edition issue, the L.A. STYLE Magazine Most Influential of 2023.