My Brown Privilege: My Right To Vote

I grew up well below the poverty line.  I’m not special. I know a lot of people that grew up like that. The majority of my neighborhood lived like me. I say the majority because in every poor neighborhood, you have that one family that is the “rich” family, even though they’re still poor.

What I think is interesting about being poor is that while you may not have basic necessities the one thing you do have in you…is hope. You hope that things will get better. You hope that ONE DAY it won’t be this bad. I remember having nights where my family would sit in the dark and talk because our electricity had been cut off. We’d sit around and laugh in the dark. I remember laughing so much. I’d like to think that those were times when you could actually feel the hope that things would get better.

It’s very easy for someone like me to be cynical. When you see your mom working herself to death and yet somehow always falling short, the cynicism can start growing. There is a bitterness that you start feeling when you see how hard people work and yet end up not moving ahead. How can this happen in this country? This is the country that talks about The American Dream. The constant imagery we associate with it is having opportunities with streets paved in solid gold…not gold plated metal.

I want to talk about hope, especially on the eve of one of the most important elections of my lifetime.  I’m not here to tell you who to vote for. I’m here to tell you why I was willing to wait 6.5 hours yesterday to vote.

First of all, let me say that I love to vote. We always talk about white privilege online. I see countless of articles/blogs calling it out. Well, for me…voting is my brown privilege. It’s my right as an American to vote for what I think is best for the country. Notice I said what is good for the country, not for me. I believe that my duty as an American is to pay the country back for all the amazing opportunities it has given me. I’m willing to put my brothers/sisters interests in front of my own because I don’t need anything. When I go vote, I try to not think about what’s necessarily best for me; I think about what’s the best for everyone. I am willing to vote for me to pay more taxes than others to ensure that our children have a shot at succeeding because I want them to have the kind of opportunities that I earned (and yes, I earned them all). I want to vote so that my friends that contribute to this country and can’t vote have a voice. I want to make sure that my brothers/sisters that feel scared for their lives because of what they are know that this is not the direction this country should be taking. I vote to give the poor a voice.

I stood in line for 6.5 hours yesterday to cast my vote. I live in California. We are not a swing state. My polling place was at the North Hollywood Tujunga Public Library. The polls opened at 8 AM and when I got there at that time, the line was already wrapped around the block. A local news station was there, covering the long line and said they estimated there were about 600 people. My friend Steve and I got in line, wondering if we were going to be done by the time the Dallas Cowboys game started at 10 AM. Little did we know we were going to get out in time for NEXT WEEK’S Cowboys game. We weren’t prepared for the wait. We had coffee, I had a croissant, he had a blueberry muffin and we each had a bottle of water. That was it. We figured it would be a 3-4 hour wait. About 90 minutes it, we realized we were so ill-equipped for the day.

The people in line started befriending each other. I started hearing people talk about why they were there. There were so many stories about people that felt a responsibility to endure whatever was necessary to vote. It really felt like each person standing in that line thought their vote was the most important one of the election and that’s how it should be. There were occasional bursts of laughter as we stood there incredulous about how much time we were spending in that line. About three hours into the waiting, we started hearing people cheer on the other side of the building. We realized that people were so excited when they finally got to the end of the line to vote that they were all cheering because it was FINALLY their turn. We had people that would finish voting and run towards the long line to give us encouragement. They’d yell, “DON’T LEAVE! STAY! VOTE! IT’S WORTH IT! WE HAVE TO VOTE! DON’T LEAVE! WE HAVE TO DO THIS! IT’S SO IMPORTANT!”

Hours into this, hundreds of people stood in line, baking under the hot sun, some fanning themselves, sitting on the ground, wanting water, wanting to go to the bathroom. They didn’t leave. We all just stood there, telling each other how important it was to stay in that line. I saw people that gave up and walked away, hours into waiting but it was a small amount. Whenever someone would leave, you could tell there was a disappointment in the people that were standing near them. A woman said, “I can’t wait anymore. I have my daughter with me and have to go work.” I hated hearing this because I know this is a problem. Working class people that can’t take time off to go vote have to depend on people like me to make the right decisions for them because they don’t have the time.

Five hours into me waiting in line, I was in a bad mood. Tensions were high. Steve and I had gotten in a fight in line and had made up because we nothing else to do. I felt upset and annoyed. I kept thinking about all the things I had to do. I’m traveling on Election Day, which is why I had to vote early. I could’ve voted by mail but to be honest, I was afraid about the ballot getting lost in the mail… I’m so paranoid about THIS election specifically that I wanted to make sure my vote was taken care of. I was upset, I was tired but most importantly, I was motivated to stay in that line and vote. I was not going to leave. I didn’t care how long it was going to take.

Once you got to the end of the line, you didn’t just get to go in and vote. You were given a ticket (like a raffle ticket) and you had to wait for it to be called for you to go vote. This part didn’t make sense to me because the numbers were called randomly which meant some people ended up waiting longer than others. At least, they had set up a tent with chairs (which was the first time I got to sit after standing in line for 5.5 hours) so that we could sit while we waited. I ended up sitting next to these African American twins that I kept making eye contact with in the line. We’d look at each other like, “Yeah, we’re still here.” They were carrying Queen Sugar tote bags and we chatted about the show. We started laughing at how excited people got when their numbers were called. We also started laughing at how excited WE got when someone else’s number got called. I kept saying that people got so happy, it was like they were being called down to The Price is Right. After another hour, our numbers started getting called. Steve went first, then the twins and then me. When my number got called, I screamed and jumped up from my chair. I ran up to get my ballot. The twins were waiting to get their ballot when I walked up there….we were so giddy; I think I might’ve high-fived one of them. I ran to the booth and voted in minutes because at this point, I had all the propositions memorized.

Once I voted, I asked Steve to take a picture of me with my sticker. I wanted a memory from that day. The day I waited 6.5 hours to make my voice heard. I wanted to exercise my privilege as an American to vote because as a brown woman in the United States, I rarely get a chance to feel privileged. Yesterday, I got that chance. The chance to exercise my brown privilege in the form of a ballot.

Go out tomorrow. Wait it out.

The crowds tomorrow might be big.

Let your conviction be bigger.


Looking Back. Giving Back. (Hint: Los Angeles Show)

When I was in high school, I was pretty busy. I competed in the ‘quiz bowl-type’ TV show we had back home called “Masterminds.” I was a member of the academic decathlon team (I won medals) and photo editor of my yearbook (they still somehow misspelled my name).  Aside from that though, I was a theater nerd too. Not only was I a member but president of the drama club.

I wanted to go to college to study theater but my family had no money. I hoped and prayed I’d get any assistance via scholarships, grants, etc….

One of the only pics I have of me during my theater nerd days. With my mom.

One of the only pics I have of me during my theater nerd days. With my mom.

It’s weird.  When you’re in that position, the one where you know that you’re on your own because your family can’t afford to give you one cent to pay for school, high school can be stressful. At least it was to me…because everything I did felt like it mattered so much.

I was heavily involved in the theater program. I always thought it was my way to get into college. I figured that if I was good enough, I’d get a theater scholarship. I’d get a number of scholarships that hopefully would add up to an amount that would allow me to get the education I wanted.

My high school in Texas competed in the one-act play competition. Basically, we put on a short, condensed version of a play and compete against other schools. If we won, we’d advance with the hopes that we could maybe get to the state level.

My high school drama teachers (Mr. Robert Gomez and Ms. Ofelia Gonzalez) put a lot of work into the drama program. Ms. Gonzalez and I ended up traveling together a lot during my high school years because I’d go compete at nationals in the summer or to state in theater and she was my chaperone. My teachers would look for plays that seemed to be a good fit with us students for the one act competition and I remember every year, always having to patiently wait for them to unveil to find out what play we were going to do.

I used to read a lot of plays when I was in high school because I just loved theater so much. I used to average about three plays a week…sometimes even more.  I was always trying to find Latino playwrights because I wanted to see if I could find plays written by people like me….and that is how I found a play called Real Women have Curves. That is how I found Josefina Lopez.

I grew up in a border town in south Texas. I was millions of miles away from Broadway, from Hollywood. From anything.  I loved her play when I first read it mostly because she wrote how people I knew spoke. Her play had Spanish in it, the story was about immigration; it had themes I recognized. The play kinda gave me hope that if she existed, then others existed like her that lived through similar things like I did and wrote about them. I write about her to set up the excitement I had when months later my teachers announce that the last play I will be part of before I graduate high school was written by Josefina Lopez. A play called Unconquered Spirits, telling the story of the Latino urban legend of La Llorona. It told a story of how La Llorona came to be, a story about the spirit of this Latina that travels through times from the 16th Century to the 1930s. I loved it.

I was cast as the lead of the play, which I loved because it told the story of this incredibly strong Mexican woman. I thought it was the perfect play to say goodbye to my high school years, before I headed off to college and then the real world…I kept thinking to myself, “If this is the kind of play you get to do in high school…imagine what you’ll get to perform when you’re out of school and in the real world?” (Only a decade later did I realize that as a Latina, I would get brought in for more maids in TV/movies. I remember thinking, “Did I peak in high school?”)

We competed with Unconquered Spirits in the one-act play and we won several rounds with my winning Best Actress in all of them. This play, those awards helped me get a partial theater scholarship (the school I decided to go to didn’t offer full theater scholarships-yay!).

This play was really important to me. It was the first time I had performed something written by a Latina.  I was already doing another Latino play called The Boiler Room written by Reuben Gonzalez for my solo stuff. It’s a fantastic play that tells the story of a Latino family that lives in the basement of a building in Spanish Harlem. Unconquered Spirits was different. Josefina wrote about strong women and by performing her play, I found myself to feel like I was a strong woman.

Years later, I dropped out of college due to family obligations. My mom was starting to get sick…and also, I just couldn’t afford it so I moved back home. I still had this thing in me that said I should act but I found myself back in my border town, still millions of miles away from anything having to do with theater, or really anything tied to performing.

I don’t want to write about my path again because I’ve blogged about it before. I’ll sum it up for those of you that haven’t read about it yet. I lost my mom when I was twenty-one. I fell into a deep depression and drank a lot. I got a DUI. I learned my lesson and started doing stand up as a way to express what I was feeling about losing my mom and also because I was tired of waiting to have opportunities come my way. I figured that if I was going to get anywhere, I was going to have to try to create the opportunities myself.

Twelve years after my mom passed away and I started doing stand up, I got my own TV show. The TV show in a way was kind of a love letter to my mom.  I guess that’s why it always made me mad when some people called the mother character a ‘stereotype.’ It wasn’t a stereotype…it was really a tribute to the person my mom really was. The show was set in a real time in my life…the time right before my mom died. A lot of people don’t know that. The show takes places leading up to my mom’s death. I thought it was important to tell my story and show that life can be filled with laughter even in the saddest times.

My show premiered on ABC on October 10, 2014. In the month leading up to it, the network had me doing screenings of the pilot episode at different places so that people could get a sneak peek. On one of those screenings (that took place at ABC) I met Josefina Lopez, the woman whose play (Unconquered Spirits) I had done years ago and pretty much opened my eyes to strong Latina playwrights. I can’t tell you how weird it felt to know that I was screening the pilot for my own TV show in front of a woman whose work I had become a fan of when I was in high school.

We’ve become friends since then, Josefina and I. She lives in Boyle Heights. Boyle Heights is the area of LA that I go to when I’m homesick for south Texas. It’s where I can get an elote, a fuzzy tiger blanket, a St. Jude statue…you know, the necessities.

So now we’re at the point of my blog where I talk about the point of writing it. Right now, when we’re in the middle of talking about diversity, or the lack of it in the entertainment world, I think it’s important to know what people like Josefina have been doing for the advancement of Latinos in theater.  Josefina has a theater in Boyle Heights called Casa 0101. Not only does the theater put on shows throughout the year, it also teaches classes to kids and adults that want to learn more about different aspects of theater from movement to writing to performing. The classes are donation-based. You give what you can. They don’t turn away people because they don’t have money to pay…the goal of the theater is teach you if you have a desire to learn.

So here’s the deal. I’m doing a stand up show at Casa 0101 on March 17. It’s a fundraiser. I’m doing the show for free but the theater is selling tickets for $25. The goal is to sell the tickets and use all the money to help pay for the space and everything that is needed to help cover its costs.  It’s a small space so only around 100 tickets will be sold. Like I said, all the money raised that night will go towards the theater.

I told Josefina I wanted to do a fundraiser for the theater because of a couple things. The neighborhood the theater is located in reminds me of MY neighborhood in south Texas and I remember how hard it was for me to stay inspired at times because when you don’t have access to any kind of theater, it’s easy for some of us to give up on our dream of performing. And I hate that. I want people that grew up like I did to feel like they have the chance to dream and go after what they want to pursue. I want the neighborhood kids that are growing up like I did to know that if THEY want to do it, they can. They should have access to classes, to get the opportunity to learn and not have to worry about money being a barrier.

I also really believe that when we’re lucky enough to get an opportunity, it’s your duty to turn around and see what you can do to give back.  None of this is a competition; it’s about breaking down a door and holding it so others can come in as well. It’s about giving back when you can and trying to help wherever you can. I want to give back to Josefina Lopez. In a way, I feel like I have to. Her play came into my life at such an important moment, I want to pay her back for writing a story that allowed me to win awards in high school and in a way, help me get into college.

So, I invite you to come and hang out with me for the night. It should be fun. I’m bringing a couple comic friends so it’ll be a great night of stand up…and if anyone has any questions they’d like to ask me about ANYTHING, maybe I’ll do answer some after the show. Ha.

I hope to see some of you there. This is a thank you to Josefina for being a strong Latina voice in the theater world. Her voice is so loud and so strong…that years ago, it reached a girl in south Texas that lived a million miles away from everything.

If you’re in the area on March 17th, come on out and help support this great, little theater.

Remember: In order for us to aspire, we need to have something to dream towards. For ticket info, click on the pic below:


Church garage with gifts for families.

Church garage with gifts for families.

I’ve never really cared for New Year’s Eve, at least not in the way that people normally get into it: the big parties, the big countdown, etc. I don’t like to make big plans. I like to stay at home and do nothing.  I guess when I think about it, I celebrate most holidays pretty low-key. Christmas for me is about more of the religious meaning rather than the holiday parties and giving gifts.  I don’t give my family gifts on Christmas because I give them stuff throughout the year so what I do for Christmas is sponsor a needy family through a Catholic church downtown in LA and buy them gifts for Christmas.  I do this for a couple of reasons. One is because my mom's birthday is on December 15th and I like to do something to honor her birthday (the delivery date for the gifts is around her birthday) and I also do it because as a kid, we didn’t have money and never really had a “Christmas” like the kind most people are used to. Every year when I sponsor a family, I get the lists of what the family wants and they’re always necessities: clothes, pots and pans, cleaning supplies etc. Sometimes the families will post things they really “want but don’t need.”  The church says we don’t have to get them everything on their list but I always get them EVERYTHING on their list because the kids should get a Lego set if they want, the single mom that scrapes by should get the makeup and hair straightener she really wants. If I can give it to them, why not give it to them? If you have the ability to help, why wouldn’t you do it, right?

I do this because these families remind me of my family growing up. My siblings and I always talk about how we used to have to divide the school supplies evenly between us. Our mom would buy us a pack of notebook paper and one of us would open it and give fifty sheets to each person to take to school. Holidays were usually quiet in my house because my mom didn’t want us to notice we didn’t have anything, which was hard because every year it seems like we’re told by advertisers that you have to spend a lot of money to show people you love them. 

My favorite holiday memories are usually ones made by accident, meaning that we didn’t do anything, yet looking back at it, they were amazing memories that matter more to me than any gift you could buy.

My favorite NYE happened just like this.  I was a teenager; probably thirteen. My mom and I would spend every NYE together. She’d come home from working at the restaurant (she was a cook at Garza’s Cafe in my hometown of San Juan, TX) and we’d watch TV and wait for midnight to bring in the New Year. What’s weird is that in the neighborhood we lived in, there was also a part of us that would get worried about the New Year coming in because people would shoot bullets in the air to celebrate the year and the next day, you’d see a story on the news about someone that got shot by someone else celebrating the New Year.  HAPPY NEW YEAR! BANG! CALL 911!

My mom and I shared a TV; my brothers shared the other one. We had two TVs in our little house (they were our babysitters). Rule was, whatever TV my mom was near by, we’d have to watch what she wanted to watch. My mom always watched the TV I watched so I would normally end up watching what she wanted.  Since my mom couldn’t speak English, we’d watch predominantly TV in Spanish. There was an order of preference in the channels my mom would watch:

1.)  I’d turn the TV to Televisa first. That was the only channel from Mexico we’d get (this was before TV Azteca), if there wasn’t a show or novela she was into, I’d change the channel to…

2.)  Univision.  My mom’s favorite show there was Primer Impacto (her favorite part was Walter Mercado’s horoscopes). They would sometimes replay old novelas from Televisa so she’d watch it.

3.)  Telemundo.  She sometimes watched this channel, not as much as the others, mainly because this one was added to our lineup last and my mom wasn’t as familiar with it. They also seemed to play a lot of novelas from South America and my mom didn’t like them as much.

IF there was nothing on those channels, then we got to see TV in English which was a double-edged sword because there were way more options to see but whatever we saw, I’d have to translate for my mom. My mom and I loved watching action movies together. My mom would get mad at me sometimes because as her translator, occasionally there would be a scene that I wouldn’t explain to her for minutes and she’d ask, “What are they saying?” And I would sum it up for her and say something like, “They’re going to get the girl.” And she’d snap at me, “Really? All that talking in that scene and that’s all they said?”

So this one New Year’s Eve, I was flipping through the channels and couldn’t find any action movie for us to watch. We were running out of options and then I found that AMC was playing West Side Story and Grease sing-alongs back-to-back to ring in the New Year. I really wanted to see this but I didn’t know how to get my mom onboard. I knew I could get her to watch Grease because she was familiar with it and had seen it before. (It was so popular in Mexico, though over there it’s called “La Onda Vaselina.”)

My mom hadn’t seen West Side Story. This one was going to be tricky to get her into it because it’s a musical and I had never translated a musical to my mom before and also, my mom didn’t really know how American musicals worked. I told her that West Side Story was a story about Latinos (even though most of the people in the movie weren’t Latino) and that the story was kinda like a novela. She thought it was interesting. I also told her that some of the scenes in the movie remind her of the black/white Mexican Pedro Infante, Antonio Aguilar movies we saw all the time. For those of you that don’t know, these movies were filled with people breaking out into song out of nowhere, usually dressed up as cowboys. There’s always a scene with a man singing to a woman standing by her bedroom window or something like that. She was into it.

At this point in my life, I was already a big theater nerd.  I did all the school plays. My brother would drop me off at the public library in the summer so that I could read plays and watch videos of Broadway shows. I knew West Side Story by heart. I LOVED the movie. I loved Anita. She was a role I knew I could play.

The movie started and my mom got into really quick. She loved the songs; she loved the dancing. I translated the songs as they happened.  She loved “America.” I had trouble translating “Gee, Officer Krupke” but she got the gist of it.

We spent the next four, five hours watching West Side Story and Grease. (I was also recording them on the VCR so that I would have them to sing later.)  I’d sing along with the songs and tell her what I was singing.  I knew the dances so certain songs I’d get up and dance to which she would ask me how I knew the dances and I’d tell her, “Because I’ve watched these a lot. This is what I want to do when I grow up.” My mom laughed because she thought I was being ridiculous. There was no way a daughter of a cook in a border town would ever get to do something like that.  I kept telling her, “You watch. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do it and then one day I’m gonna buy you a house that has air conditioning and plumbing that works and you’re not gonna believe it.”

I always remember telling her that…because I never got to do that.

She passed away before she could see me do anything. And yes, I know, people say, “She’s seen you do it. She’s looking down at you…” and yes, I agree but there’s something to be said about not having a memory of her seeing me that always feels like there’s something missing.

This picture is from the Cristela episode where we talked about West Side Story and that's the blanket I'm talking about in the blog.

This picture is from the Cristela episode where we talked about West Side Story and that's the blanket I'm talking about in the blog.

We finished watching the movies and I remember counting down to midnight with her in our little house. We were sitting on the couch with a furry, San Marcos blanket with a tiger on it (if you saw my show, it was like the blanket we had on the couch in that house) over us because the house wasn’t insulated and it was freezing.  We counted down and at midnight, I hugged her, she gave me a kiss and we started playing our favorite game: Was That A Firework Or Bullet?

The funny thing about all the New Year’s Eves I had with my mom is that we would count down to midnight, then she would say, “Well, it’s a new year….” and by 12:10 AM, we were in bed, going to sleep.

I always remember that night because I felt like it was the first night she realized how serious I was about what I wanted to do with my life. I fell in love with theater but it wasn’t something I could share with her. She didn’t “get” it. She didn’t get that it was something people did for a living. I want to believe that on that night, she finally got to see how much I loved it.

That NYE meant so much to me because I had the two most important things in my life in one room: my mom and theater.

This picture of my mom and I was taken the year of the NYE I'm talking about in this blog.

This picture of my mom and I was taken the year of the NYE I'm talking about in this blog.

I hope that 2016 is filled with happiness for everyone.

I hope we all have food to eat and clothes to wear.

I hope we don’t let fear stop us from doing the things we want to do.

I hope we can all treat each other kindly, regardless of race or religion.

I hope we can all be more sympathetic towards each other.  

I just hope for everything.

So “Happy New Year!” from the daughter of a cook in a border town that is (so far) getting to do what she set out to do years ago. 


In all honestly, I wrote this blog yesterday, on Mother's Day. I didn't have the time to post it so I'm doing it today. Better late than never, right?

It might surprise most of you but yet again, I am on a plane. I'm on my way back home to Los Angeles after having been gone for six weeks. Seriously, in the last six weeks I've been home three days. It's exhausting. I'm looking forward to being home for a couple days. I tried posting my blog all day long but my wifi has been down. I'm not even sure if this is will post but I'll give it a try anyway. Here goes. Hope you enjoy:

May 10, 2015 - You know those commercials about sponsoring a kid for the price of a cup of coffee every day? The ones where the guy with the beard walks around and shows you how bad the living conditions are and pleads for you to help but never in the commercial does he offer these kids a sandwich? Well, here’s the story of a little Mexican girl that lived just like that. She barely bathes because water is so hard to get. She’s the youngest of a large family and because of that, her clothes are always old because she’s the last one to get the hand-me-downs. 

She likes to explore. She likes to walk along the edge of the dirt path and eat little fruits and berries, not knowing if any of them are safe to eat but she’s hungry.  As she’s walking, she comes across a piece of cardboard lying on the ground. She picks it up and reads it. McAllen, Texas. She doesn’t know where this is but she finds this place so exotic-sounding that she tells herself that one day, she’s going to live there.

Cut to fifteen years later, the little girl (now woman) is in McAllen, TX. This woman, whose life has been full of such struggle and hardships, is in McAllen, TX. She accomplished her childhood dream.

My mom Natalia and oldest brother Ruben in a pic for one of their numerous tries to get a VISA to come to the US.

My mom Natalia and oldest brother Ruben in a pic for one of their numerous tries to get a VISA to come to the US.

Her dream can be considered so simple to people. She loved having running water and electricity whenever she wanted it. Even though she lived in poverty in Texas, compared to where she came from, it was a big step up.

The Mexican girl I was talking about was my mom. 

Dreams are what you make of them. I’m a true believer in that.  You can dream and dream your entire life but if you never do anything to attain those dreams, then sometimes those dreams can become frustrations.

I once had a show named Cristela. By once, I mean up until Thursday night. I said ‘once’ because it adds dramatic flair and I think dramatic flair is funny.

It was a multi-cam sitcom that SOMETIMES aired on Friday nights. I say sometimes because a lot of times we were pre-empted for more important things like an Easter egg hunt happening in real time. Kidding. In reality, we were preempted for other things like a documentary on a parade and some other things I can't remember. I think one night was a show about Christmas lights? 

On May 10, 2014, exactly one year ago today, I got the call that my show had been picked up and would be part of the ABC schedule that fall…I didn’t remember the date exactly but Facebook reminded me of it today of all days. Facebook has a newer feature that basically serves as a time capsule. It will show you what your posts were from the past.

This is my FB post from May 10, 2014. And Cristela, I can say that when you say, God knows how many episodes, the answer is 22.

This is my FB post from May 10, 2014. And Cristela, I can say that when you say, God knows how many episodes, the answer is 22.

Today, I log onto Facebook and there it is…my post from one year ago, today. It’s kind of bittersweet since today is also Mother’s Day and the post mentions my mom.

I was walking back to my hotel room Thursday night after my stand-up show in Fort Lauderdale when I saw the call. I knew it was bad news before I answered it because I had gotten a text from my Executive Producer that said, “Call me when you get this.”  If it had been good news, she would’ve started mentioning it in the text. Since I was raised as a good old-fashioned Catholic, I braced for the worst. And that’s what I got.

When I heard the words “we’ve been canceled”, I can’t tell you how I felt. I was kinda sad, angry and other things. Since the show was named after me, the first thing I thought about was how I let the cast and crew down.  They were out of jobs. I thought to myself, “I should’ve done more to promote the show. I could’ve done more.”

I hung up the phone, went to have a beer and my phone started lighting up with texts.  I answered as many as I could. Some I still haven’t gotten to. I found myself sounding like a politician, saying the same thing to everyone: “Thank you so much. I’m doing ok. I’m doing fine.”

After the beers (I had two), I went up to my hotel room and laid in bed.

You learn a lot about yourself and others in times like these. I also think the truth comes out in moments like that; sometimes you realize you’re feeling something you didn’t think you were going to feel. I did.

I laid in bed, looking up at the ceiling and let out a big breath.  I felt relieved. I wasn’t expecting that. At all. What the hell was I feeling relief about? The show had been canceled. What? I’m relieved I don’t have a job anymore? But, why?

I’ve learned so much this past year, both good and bad. I’ve learned lessons that I never thought I’d have to learn.

Making a show out of someone’s real life is so incredibly hard to do because you’re not doing it alone. There are so many different hands involved that sometimes it gets exhausting and frustrating. And that’s understandable because the show was based out of a real person’s life. My life.

If this show had been something that had been created out of thin air, I don’t think it would’ve been as difficult for me because I would’ve been playing a character not named Cristela, which gives it less of a connection to me but that’s not what this show was. This show was VERY personal to me.

The setting of the show took place in a real time in my life, a really sad time of my life. I had dropped out of college because I couldn’t afford it. My mom got sick. My sister needed help with her kids. I ended up moving in with my sister to take care of my mom and the kids. In real life, this leads up to my mom dying. I chose this era because while it was the hardest time of my life, it was also a time that I thought a lot of families could connect with, especially now.  There are so many families that have a lot of people living in one house to get by.  I’ve met those people on the road when I do stand-up. I thought, “If I could tell MY story about what happened to me, maybe others can connect to it.”

I was very protective over what I wanted to do in the show and what I didn’t want to do in the show because it portrayed real people from my life. The boss character (Trent) was based on a real boss I had that used to make racial jokes to me all the time. The daughter of Trent (Maddie) was based on an old college friend that came from an affluent world. We were friends that taught each other about each other’s worlds. The character Josh was based on someone real: My first boyfriend. I came from a different world than he did. When people saw us together, we didn’t make sense but we ‘got’ each other. The sister character (Daniela) was based on my sister Julie.  She really worked at a call center and she really did get laid off like we wrote in the show.  My brother-in-law (Felix) was based on my real brother-in-law Sergio that really has his own business installing floors. And then there’s Natalia. The mom you saw in the show (or according to ratings, didn’t see) was like my real mom. She could be harsh, sarcastic, judged everyone and I loved her with all my heart.  When we were coming up with names for the characters and got to the mom character, I asked if I could name my TV mom after my real mom…so that it felt like she was always around. And that’s how we got the name: Natalia.

I thought it was important to show my family because there had never been one like that on TV before. A lot of the time, Latinos are shown as cholos/cholas that ride around in lowriders.  I didn’t grow up that way but I always respected authentic stories that (as you’ll find in movies like Mi Vida Loca) showed that life because that lifestyle is someone’s reality.

I wish I could’ve written a show based on my life that showed my family kicking butt…like we were Latino Huxtables but that wasn’t my truth.  And maybe I will create that show one day, who knows. A lot of people think that the way I grew up and the way my family is, seems outdated and old-fashioned, which is weird because back home in the Rio Grande Valley, I know a lot of families like mine. I think it’s because they’re not familiar with that kind of life and maybe if they haven’t seen it with their own eyes, they refuse to believe that it exists. Latinos are so different from each other. It’s so hard to generalize them. Even Mexicans are so different from each other. I grew up in Texas and when I moved to Los Angeles, I quickly noticed that the Mexican culture was VERY different in LA than it was in Texas. But apparently, to some people, Latinos are all alike.

I wish I could explain the pressure I’ve had to deal with this past year. And I’m not talking about the show. I’m talking about people that watch the show or people that supported the show.  Take for example, this weekend. I was doing six shows in Ft. Lauderdale.  On Friday, the day after I learned I was canceled, I didn’t feel like putting on makeup because the area is humid so I wore my Justice League t-shirt and jeans. After the first show, this woman comes up to me and tells me she’s Mexican. She had never heard of me; a friend brought her. She continues to tell me she’s become a fan. She then grabs my arms really tight and said, “But you need to class it up. You’re Mexican. I’m Mexican. You’re representing us. Have some pride.”

I didn’t know what to think. I asked her what she meant by that. She said that as a Mexican, I was representing Mexicans and that I should try to look good. Wear make-up and dress up. I told her, “Oh, I do that on occasion but really, this is who I am. This is what I like to look like. This is me.” She continues to repeat the same thing over and over again. “Yes, but you’re representing us. Please, have some pride.” Again, I told her, “But this is who I am. If you think I’m representing you, then maybe you should consider the part that would involve me not trying to pretend to be something I’m not. Maybe you should accept me for who I am and know that I am not going to change.” She STILL continues to tell me that I need to make more of an effort….and finally I told her that she had to go. I told her, “Look, I know you think you’re being helpful but you’re rude. If you can’t accept me for who I am then maybe you’re really not a fan or a supporter…you have to go now.” And she left.

Throughout the course of the show, I got messages from people that said I need to add ‘that crazy chola cousin we all have’ or telling me that I sold out my culture because my mom has a thick accent. So how do I make everyone happy? I didn’t have the ‘crazy chola cousin’ so I can’t write about that. And my mom had a thick accent on the show because she was from Mexico and couldn’t speak English.

I don’t want to specifically talk about the problems that existed because the cancelation is recent and still fresh. I don’t want people thinking that I’m making excuses or that I’m a sore loser of sorts. Maybe one day it’ll make a great chapter in a book (maybe I’ll work on one next, who knows, maybe I’m already working on a book as we speak).  For now I’ll say that from each experience, we come out wiser and I for sure, have definitely come out wiser. Boy, the lessons I have learned.

I will say this though.

I used to dream about what it would feel like to have your own show. As a little kid, I imagined my face on a billboard; a big sign that had my face on it. I always wondered what it would feel like to drive down the street and see your name on a billboard. Something that kinda said, “HEY WORLD! I’m here! Check out this show with me in it!”  After having a show named after me on network TV for a year, I can tell you that I still don’t know what it’s like to have a billboard with my face on it. I never got one. But I can tell you what it feels like to have your face on some bus benches and the backs of buses.

I will say that the best thing to happen to me this year was meeting the people that I wanted to reach with the show. My favorite things to hear were when people would tell me that FINALLY there was someone like them on TV and that they loved that it was a show they could watch with their parents or children. They felt like finally someone was representing them. I loved that.

So like I wrote in the beginning, you know those commercials about sponsoring a kid for the price of a cup of coffee every day? The ones where the guy with the beard walks around and shows you how bad the living conditions are and pleads for you to help but never in the commercial does he offer these kids a sandwich? Well, here’s the story of a little Mexican girl that lived just like that.

She has to bathe by standing in a metal washtub and pouring cups of water over her body.  She eats when she can, not knowing that sometimes her mother doesn’t eat to make sure her kids do. This little girl is left on her own a lot because her family has to go work and try to make ends meet. She’s a latch-key kid that spends hours alone with nothing but TV to keep her company. TV becomes her best friend.

The Mexican girl I’m now talking about is me.

And just like my mom back in her village, we’re both little girls that have dreams that seem impossible to reach but because we don’t know any better, we try to reach them. And we do. I guess when your dream is fueled with a genuine love of it, you realize how powerful that makes you. It makes you able to say no to things with ease, to wait until you’re inspired to write and tell the next important story.

Thank you to everyone that has sent me messages of support. You guys don’t know how much that means to me. To see how many of you loved my family is overwhelming. This past weekend, I’ve also gotten messages from people that told me how much my show inspired them to do something with their lives. People told me that they decided to go to college for the first time, others told me they’re going back to school. I have people telling me that their Latino kids are joining the drama club at their school. I have to admit, I cried at some of those messages. It took me by surprise. I cried because it made me so happy. YES! Go to college, get that education that you thought was impossible to get. YES! Support your kids, let them go into drama. YES! YES! YES! If these people made these changes because of Cristela, then the show has served its purpose.

My goal is to make my family proud. My goal is to by tell stories that entertain and speak for the unspoken, along with maybe a trip to Price is Right to do Plinko.

It's kinda fitting that I write this blog about my show getting canceled on the one-year anniversary of when it got picked up. Especially being Mother's Day because I accredited my mom for the pick-up in that FB post up at the top of this blog and here I am saying goodbye to it. 

Trust me, Cristela the show might be done…but Cristela the person has just started. 


I'm prepping to go to Fort Lauderdale tomorrow. Doing shows at the IMPROV in the Hard Rock Casino in FL.  

I've been avoiding packing for hours.  Part of this plan of procrastination was to broadcast on Periscope for a second....I ended up being on it for 90 minutes. HAHA. Oh man.

I was thinking yesterday that I like how the Periscope app allows me to broadcast to people but I want to have it archived somewhere so that ANYONE that wants to see it can see I'm trying something.  I'm going to upload my Periscope broadcasts to my blog on my website and let anyone that wants to watch it, watch it. 

So, let's start now. This is the first video I'm embedding. I'm just being dumb and singing along with songs.