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Roslynn Alba Cobarrubias, media entrepreneur and pillar of Filipino community, dies at 43

Roslynn Alba Cobarrubias, a media entrepreneur, radio DJ and music promoter who advocated for Filipino American artists and was instrumental in growing the MySpace Music platform, died Sunday evening, according to family members.

Cobarrubias died in her hometown of Walnut, according to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office, which has yet to determine a cause of death pending further tests. She was 43.

“She was passionate and dedicated to the Filipino American community worldwide, and would spend both her personal and professional life celebrating and uplifting it wherever she could,” her family said in a statement shared with The Times. “She played a pivotal role in collaborations between acclaimed international artists and rising Filipino talent, helping guide them into the music industry spotlight.”

Cobarrubias was born March 12, 1980, at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles. While growing up in Walnut in the east San Gabriel Valley — a short drive from the music studios and venues of central L.A. — she developed a love for music. In elementary school, she played her favorite songs for classmates, calling herself “the lunchtime DJ,” she recalled during a TEDx talk in 2017.

Later, she buzzed between record stores and hip-hop clubs, finding new artists and their music and playing them for friends at parties. She was devoted to the music channels that dominated TV in the 1990s and 2000s, including VH1 and MTV. Her dream was to become a video jockey, hosting the shows she’d religiously watch and traveling the world to promote new music and interview her favorite artists.

But her family had other plans. Feeling the pressure as a child of immigrants from the Philippines, Cobarrubias enrolled in 1999 at UC Irvine with plans to study political science and become a lawyer.

Still, she held onto her dream job.

Without telling her family, Cobarrubias drove to Hollywood for a video jockey audition while still a freshman in college. She stood in line for three hours before ultimately landing a spot as a finalist.

“And at the last casting agent’s office, she looked at me and she said, ‘You’re too short. What are you gonna do, hold the microphone over your head? You’ll never be on television; you should try radio,’” Cobarrubias recalled of the agent’s suggestion that she instead be a radio DJ.

Crushed, she hopped back in her car and while sitting in traffic on the 10 Freeway pondered the agent’s words.

“I thought, OK, I’m just gonna go back to UCI, study political science, be a lawyer my mom from the Philippines will be proud to tell her brothers and sisters about. Coming from a third-world country, you want a lawyer, not a DJ in your family,” she said.

But eventually, Cobarrubias took the agent’s advice to heart. She started working at KSAK-FM 90.1, a station based out of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut. Soon after, she transferred to the community college from UCI and started a hip-hop show, Third Floor Radio. There, she interviewed acts who influenced her, such as A Tribe Called Quest and Talib Kweli.

As her show’s popularity grew, she started promoting it and other artists on the then-new social media site MySpace.

After graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a bachelor’s degree in communications, she caught the attention of MySpace co-founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, whom she met through a colleague, Cobarrubias said in a blog post. DeWolfe and Anderson wanted to grow the site as an online music platform, filling a void left by file-sharing site Napster, which had dissolved several years earlier.

Cobarrubias eventually became a marketing head and led artist relations, growing the MySpace Music platform and making it easier for artists to share music and connect with fans on the site — a novel idea at the time. The music feature became a staple on the site as users delighted in customizing their profiles, which included compiling playlists of their favorite music. Major artists such as as Sean Kingston, Adele and Calvin Harris owed the launch of their careers to MySpace.

“The people that really launched MySpace were the … artists,” Cobarrubias told iHeart Media podcast “Main Accounts: The Story of MySpace” earlier this year. “You start with the artists; they bring their fan bases. You start with the DJs; they bring their fan bases. The way we created was for creators.”

While promoting the work of high-profile artists such as Drake and Justin Timberlake, Cobarrubias also promoted up-and-coming Filipino American artists during her work with Philippines-based media giant ABS-CBN and through her marketing brand, 1587. According to her family, the company’s name stems from the year a Spanish galleon with Filipino crewmembers arrived in Morro Bay — widely accepted by historians as the first Filipinos, and Asians, to set foot on what is now the continental U.S.

Cobarrubias’ projects stretched beyond Los Angeles and music. She helped build basketball courts with the Clippers and the Manny Pacquiao Foundation throughout the Philippines, including in her family’s ancestral home, Olongapo.

“I love our 1587 family so much because not only do we push each other in the entertainment and music industry — but we constantly remind each other how we have to always give back and move in mission and purpose,” she wrote in a social media post. “We worked hard to be blessed with these opportunities by the universe and God that sometimes it feels like a dream.”

Cobarrubias also sponsored Filipino American heritage nights at Clippers, Dodgers and Kings games. Her company promoted Filipino American acts at the events, including rappers P-Lo and Guapdad 4000, Power 106 radio DJ E-Man, Real 92.3 DJ Nico Blitz, as well as Saweetie and EZ Mil, both of whom threw first pitches at Dodger games in the last two seasons.

Oakland rapper P-Lo and L.A.-based indie artist Yeek were among those who expressed condolences Tuesday as news of Cobarrubias’ death spread online. Both shared an old photo of them posing with Cobarrubias and other Filipino artists.

“RIP Tita Ros,” P-Lo said in his Instagram story.

“Thank you for always believing in me. You were such an impactful & influential person in our community,” said Yeek.

Filipino American YouTube singer AJ Rafael shared a musical tribute to Cobarrubias, “to bring comfort through music, something she loved so dearly.” He added: “You truly cared for me as a person and not just an artist.”

Notable Filipino American figures outside the music industry also mourned Cobarrubias’ death. Author and professor Anthony Christian Ocampo wrote in a tweet that he was “in complete disbelief,” calling Cobarrubias “an iconic figure in the Filipino American community.”

Jason Lustina, who is behind the popular Instagram account SoCalFilipinos, said Cobarrubias was among the first supporters of his platform. “The community is mourning your loss but you have left your mark and will always be remembered,” he wrote.

Alba Legacy, a clothing brand founded by Cobarrubias’ cousin, celebrity fashion designer Jhoanna Alba, said in a statement on Instagram, “Ros made an immense impact in our community and worldwide. She loved intensely while enduring unfair suffering. Her presence in our family is irreplaceable, and her absence is unimaginable.”

Black Eyed Peas member apl.de.ap praised Cobarrubias as a humble advocate throughout his career. On Wednesday, he was struggling to find photos of her.

“And that’s because Ros was always there — around — but almost never in front of the camera,” he said in a statement shared on his Instagram account.

Apl.de.ap, who was born Allan Pineda Lindo Jr., credited his well-documented love for Honda Civics to Cobarrubias, who would drive him and bandmate will.i.am, when they were both still young up-and-comers, around L.A. in her own Civic.

He credited her with boosting his group’s career during her time at MySpace.

“I never gave her the flowers she deserved for putting us on MySpace when it was at its peak and helped propel us,” he said. “[Black Eyed Peas] is made up of more than the guys you see onstage, and it’s people like Roslynn who made this all possible.”

In 2016, he took Cobarrubias and other Filipino American entertainment figures, including comedian Jo Koy, on a trip to the Philippines to get in touch with their culture.

“It did something for her that I had always hoped,” apl.de.ap said, “and from that trip on she spent a considerable amount of her time giving back and wielding her power to help our community grow.”

Cobarrubias is survived by her mother, Maria Evelyn Alba; three sisters, Rheeza Alba Cobarrubias McMillan, Rachelle Alba Cobarrubias and Chrystal Alba Fujimoto; and several nieces and nephews, whom her family described as “the loves of her life.”

Times Assistant Editor Ada Tseng contributed to this report.


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