Welcome to WEEK 8 of #ChingonaFest Fridays on Aspiring Mama! I had technical difficulties last week and wasn't able top get back online early enough to make it happen on Friday, but I'm back and I brought my chingonas with me.
If you’re new to the blog, here’s the link to the my Latina Dimelo column that sparked the conversation that’s still going strong. The premise is this: I want to raise my daughter to be a Chingona — on purpose, Las Tiasand cultural backlash be damned. If you like the column, I’d love for you to share with your social media circles, leave a comment on the link, or whip up a happy lil’ Letter to the Editor telling them how you feel and send it off to Editor@Latina.com. You may not think that kind of thing makes a difference, but trust me when I tell you that it does.
Have you checked out my past #ChingonaFest ladies? Jenni Rivera and her partner in crime, Jesenia the Comedian, were two of the most recently featured wonder women. Each week, I’m featuring one fabulous Latina who’s moving mountains and raising hell because their stories are worth telling. Twenty questions will be presented to each and 15 will be answered and presented here to you in a Q&A format, like the fancy features in magazines, only with more typos and less airbrushing.
Today' featured Chingona is a good friend and incredibly inspiring force. Her name is Lisann Valentin and as a writer, director, actress, and practicing attorney, she's also really good at making my resume look like shit. I'm not mad at Li, though, because it's not like she's doing it on purpose.
Lisann's website has all the background you'll want to check out (It's okay...I'll wait....)
And now for the interview!
Pauline Campos: Chocolate or vanilla?
Lisann Valentin: Vanilla Swiss Almond (Häagen-Dazs) Nom Nom Nom.
PC: You look innocent enough. Figures you'd have to be difficult. It's okay. I like difficult. So...Favorite book? And why?
LV: I have so many! I just love falling into stories. For the sake of this interview, I’ll pick two very different books. The first is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve read and re-read this book the most. I picked it up at a pivotal time in my life.
I also really loved reading The Hotel New Hampshire by John Iriving. It was an amazing, crazy, and at times uncomfortable read. Kind of like me. It’s a keeper.
PC: Eat, Pray, Love is my bible and I refuse to watch the movie for fear of hating Julia Roberts for ruining the book for me. As for being an uncomfortable keeper, I think I love you now. What's your favorite quote?
LV: Never never never give up. –Winston Churchill
PC: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
LV: I refer to my nuclear family as Amazon women – as in warriors - so what do you think? ;-)
PC: No way, sister. My blog. My interview. You're the one who gets to think. At least until I have more coffee. Also? Wonder Woman is Mexican, so BOOYAH, BITCHES. Now...Describe yourself in third person...
LV: Lisann Valentin is a force to be reckoned with! She is a successful, vibrant and truly authentic person whose life is an inspiration to anyone who has ever dared to chase a dream.
(Gotta throw that out into the Universe!)
PC: The Universe sometimes needs the slow pitch. I'm thinking of buying it a tee... But I like your moxie. Who inspires you?
LV: My mother and my sister both inspire me. My mom is a retired computer engineer, an interior designer, and DIY enthusiast. My sister is a singer/songwriter, fashionsita and an artist. As you can see we like wearing many hats. They are both truly courageous and talented women. They’re the kind of women who own a room and are immediately adored by everyone because of the beautiful inner light that they radiate. I love them beyond words. They truly inspire me to be stronger and to dream bigger.
PC: Who is it you hope to inspire?
LV: Young people, especially within the Latin community. I think there’s still this idea that in order to be successful we must walk a certain path. But I think success is subjective. As long as we are doing what we love, as long as we have found our dharma in this world, then to me that is defined as success.
To inspire others to dream big, (I mean really big) and to reinforce the notion that it is within their grasp is so very important to me. I remember when I taught fifth grade I stood in front of that room and told my class that each and every one of those children could be whatever they wanted to be. I was not only a lawyer but also their teacher and from their neighborhood. If could do it, why couldn’t they?
We can be more than just one thing. Our paths can zig zag, and the more they wind and curve the better. As we grow we can actually change our minds and pursue new goals and dreams!
I just want to plant that seed and if my life is the example that inspires the growth of these dreams, then I can ask for nothing more.
PC: I love that you say we can be more than just one thing. You have no idea how hard I'm laughing right now. Also? Can you say Mexican-American mama-writer-wife-with-mad-Spanglish skillz AND ADHD? *Exactly.* So, do you dream in color or black and white?
LV: In color – vivid colors. I write my dreams down. I analyze and interpret my dreams. And they have a habit of coming true.
PC: Ever dream about the lottery? Don't answer that. And stop ignoring my text messages, dammit. Let's play word association. I say CHINGONA and you say...?
PC: You are always allowed to play in my sandbox. Wait. Why did that sound dirty? And really uncomfortable? How's that for a bad segue into the next question on your feeling about Latinas and how we are represented in the media?
LV: Ahh… how my answer to this same question has changed over the years. It’s a hard question to answer as an actress because I understand the struggle that people outside of the industry don’t necessarily get to see.
On the one hand, we come in all different shades, shapes and sizes. I think that overcoming that hurdle (that notion that to be Latina means to look one certain way) will take more time. So the more of us out there showing the world our diversity, the better.
But there are stereotypes that I embrace, such as being portrayed as passionate and strong-willed. These are traits that are very true to who I am.
Now will I not play a role because of the job a character has in a particular story? I don’t know. I will say this – it’s always about that character and what I can contribute to the role and to the story itself.
The more of us that are in the media that strive to create authentic stories, the more the landscape will change. We have the power to create that change more so now than those who blazed the trail before us ever did. But we shouldn’t sit and criticize those that are actually out there doing something. Divided we accomplish nothing.
So you will not hear me bash Sofia Vergara, Eva Longoria or Jennifer Lopez. They are powerhouses. They are smart. They grab opportunities by the balls and I respect that. They’re Chingonas who I’m sure have more up their sleeves than we can even imagine.
PC: One childhood memory that has stuck with you...
LV: Dancing in the rain while barefoot in Puerto Rico. I was about 11 years old with my little sister and we were laughing and loving every minute of it while my mother looked on, smiling, from the balcony of our house. When my island tugs at my heart, I remember this and I smile.
PC: That sounds like one memory to alway hold on to. Do you think in English, Spanish, or Spanglish?
LV: M’hija, all of the above.
PC: And this is why we are friends. What's your favorite dish? Why?
LV: I make a mean eggplant parmesan. That’s my favorite because my guests will always go for seconds. And ever the hostess, I truly enjoy feeding my guests.
PC: Do you feel "Latina enough"?
LV: Hell yes! Identity is such a personal thing and I’m very content with who I am as a woman and a Latina. I will not let anyone define that for me, as much as they may try.
PC: PREACH! Do you chew your ice cream? (Or is that just a Me thing?)
LV: Uh yea, or else I would choke on those chocolate covered almonds.
PC: You are so my people...
And there ya have it. To nominate a Latina for a future #ChingonaFest Friday feature, email me email@example.com or tweet e with the hashtag #ChingonaFest. And don’t forget to check out my latest Dimelo Advice column on Latina Magazine and be sure to send me your questions firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I know. You’re *welcome.*