“Honor your vulnerability. There are moments when you have to be kind to yourself and acknowledge your humanity. Sometimes you just need to surrender. You cannot do everything. Finding moments for self care is very important. Rituals to ground yourself — some of mine are meditation, gratitude lists, free-writing, movement, nature, and puppy time (hella puppy time)! And I also like to do something goofy every morning.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Diana Gonzalez-Morett, an up and coming Los Angeles based actress, writer, producer and passionate community collaborator. Most recently Diana starred in Ana Lydia Monaco’s MEETING BROWN.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I would like to say I fell into acting, but I didn’t. At a very young age my parents would bring my sister and I to Broadway shows, the theater, to live music. I remember watching Peter Pan and saying “I want to be like her!” The only problem was I could barely talk to my own shadow, let alone perform in front of an audience. I was a shy girl, only one of three Latina’s in my school (one of them being my sister) and a tall curvy young lady (most of the time the tallest in my class). All this to say, I felt like an outsider most of my childhood. My mother, an active participant in all of my in house performances, knew that I needed theater to break out of my shell. She enrolled my sister and I in a community theater after school program. And instantly I knew I found my calling. Suddenly I started doing better in school and was more confident than ever before. My parents probably panicked when I pronounced acting was going to be my career path. I had a lot to learn and grow. But I haven’t turned back since. I have only fallen more in love with acting, filmmaking, theater and storytelling. So I ain’t stopping anytime soon. I believe in the power the arts has to transform lives like it has transformed my own. It can unite us, heal us and reveal us.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
During my time in graduate school (American Conservatory Theater), I was so driven and eager to begin my career. Nothing could stop me! During my showcase tour, I was lucky to have had many meetings, and one manger in particular I was thrilled about. I arrived early to the meeting, and sat in my car positively envisioning the outcome. My phone rang, it was my sister; “Mom has Frontotemporal Dementia.” All I could hear was my heart beating and the words “only 2 to 10 years” echoing. Till this point we thought my mother was just severely depressed. My world completely crashed. I had to then put on a smile to cover my profound heaviness and entered my meeting. I tried to be strong. But I crumbled. After graduating I decided to spend as much time and energy as I could caring for my mom. Many people told me I was making career suicide, that a woman my age only has a small pocket of time and I need to say yes to everything. People encouraged me to be more selfish, to just focus on my career, but I refuse to believe that my window of opportunity is so slight, that there is no room for caring for the ones I love. I am still learning the balance and the emotional toll that comes with being a caretaker. But I will never regret these moments, where I can be with my mom at her most vulnerable. Part of this career is finding the life and work balance. I don’t think it is ever fully in balance. But I know I have the choice to shift my gears. I am also learning that “mental toughness is not found in escape, but the attunement to what is” to quote my beloved therapist.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have made many mistakes. I am still in the beginning of my career. So I know there are more to come!
I guess here’s the first one that comes to mind… My commercial agent sent me out on a Nike national commercial. It said that we had to be prepared to move in the audition. I didn’t think much about it. I am not a dancer by any means, but I can groove. When I arrived at the audition, it was ONLY legit dancers. I double, triple checked that I was at the right audition… I was. I was paired with a breakdancer and a ballerina (full tutu and pointe shoes). The casting director explained that we were in a dance cypher and we had to use the basketball not like a basketball. Internally I was panicking, but then I decided, to just have fun. There was no possible way I could become an insane dancer in 30 seconds. The breakdancer did a backflip and spun the ball on his finger and the ballerina tossed the ball in the air while doing a graceful pirouette. It was my turn. I caught the ball, did the most awkward cha cha cha and salsa step, while using the basketball like a maraca and shouting “yay!” and “woot woot!.”
It wasn’t my finest hour, but I learned two things: 1. Make sure your special skill levels are accurate on the casting sites. 2. Don’t take yourself too seriously. And…No, I didn’t book it.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
At the moment I am excited to be developing a series with my writing partner, Akilah Walker. The series is inspired by my summers as a personal-driver for members of the Saudi royal family. I am so thrilled to share more about this project, because I think it really investigates what it means to be a woman in 2018/19. All of the people in our show have one thing in common: they want to live their best life. The way society is set up makes it difficult for most people. Akilah and I want to use this show to illuminate the struggle we face toward getting “free” and providing healing for those currently in that struggle. As a Latinx woman and Black woman we are not just checkmarks in a box. We are adding another tile visible in the mosaic of the immigrant story, the Latinx and Black experience in America. We want to reveal the truth about who we are from our unique perspectives without being homogenous.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Honor your vulnerability. There’s moments when you have to be kind to yourself and acknowledge your humanity. Sometimes you just need to surrender. You cannot do everything. Finding moments for self care is very important. Rituals to ground yourself — some of mine are meditation, gratitude lists, free-writing, movement, nature, and puppy time (hella puppy time)! And I also like to do something goofy every morning.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Here is a list of things that I am telling myself now.
- You are exactly where you need to be. No path is the same and there is always enough to go around. If you focus on scarcity, or “why not me now?” it will drive you mad and in my own experience produce unattractive work. I want to be clear that this is different from lack of representation and opportunity going on in Hollywood. That is a real problem and one we all need to work on. But as far as one’s personal journey, I think our mindset must remain in abundance.
- Find your glow from the inside! There have been so many people who have told me to lose weight, fix my teeth and get nose job. I say… Don’t do anything for others or for the industry. Let’s choose not to feed into that destructive cycle and let’s heal our society by making women feel that their size/looks defines who they are. You are beautiful. Continue finding healthy ways to make yourself feel good and bring you to the best version of yourself. That is the glow.
- It is okay to pass. Just because you are starting out, doesn’t mean you have to say YES to everything. If a project doesn’t align with your values, and you feel like you are betraying yourself, just don’t do it. Even if the money is good. Being true to yourself may lead you to exactly where you need to be.
- Invest in your own self-growth and community. It is part of your job and helps you succeed. Learn how to live/work when you are not working. Find the people, experiences, hobbies, side-jobs that keep you joyous and lift you up.
- Remember you are an artist/collaborator in the audition room. Sometimes I prepare my auditions with fear, because I want and need the job. Desperately. I now believe that casting directors smell this fear. We can’t give the audition the power. By taking responsibility to be of service to the piece, the character and the story, you empower yourself as an actor in the audition room. Enjoy every moment and opportunity you have to be in the audition room. Have fun! Then let it go!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Before I went to graduate school I worked as a celebrity wrangler at a charity event in Los Angeles. It was a surreal night that made a profound impact on me. I was surrounded by Hollywood Royalty, including Steven Spielberg and Sally Field, who were all as kind, real, generous and grounded as can be. I did my best to play it cool, and be as professional as possible. (It was NOT the time to be pulling out my headshot.) But I had to talk to Sally Field, I loved her work and Homeward Bound was one of my favorite childhood movies. At the end of the night I built up the courage to awkwardly praise her and shared that I was leaving for graduate school and asked if she had any advice for me. She paused and thought quietly — as she climbed into the passenger seat of Steven Spielberg’s SUV she shouted “Embrace the bumps in road, Diana! You will make it if you do.” It became and continues to be my mantra. It got me through graduate school and through many difficult moments in my life. Nothing comes easy. Life surprises you. But if we are kind to ourselves through our challenging moments, and embrace the vulnerability it creates, we become more connected, more present and prepared for what is coming next.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people. I am so grateful for my tribe. They know who they are. I adore every one of them. But, my sister has had my back since the day I was born. She is my cheerleader, through the good and bad. She believes in me and reminds me to believe in myself. She provides me with the affirmation boost I long for after a challenging week. I think every actor needs that person in their life. Actually, there is a piece of advice I would offer to actors’ families. Avoid saying “But it’s going to be really hard.” Or “it’s sooooo hard.” We KNOW it is going to be hard. We know it is competitive. That’s what makes us so brave — we know and we still jump into the fire. My sister understands that and gives me no excuse as to why I can not succeed. She only encourages me to work hard, stay focused and believe.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I would love to meet America Ferrera. She is just spectacular: actress, activist, writer, producer, director, mother… YES! Hit me up Mujer!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Follow me on instagram @dianalaurengm
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!