Adreana Gonzalez Of HVS Conservatory: “Tenacity”

Tenacity. Never give up. Most likely what you envisioned your company being at the beginning will not be what it is at the end. And that’s ok! True success is what fits into the marketplace in that particular moment in time. It’s not about being relentless in your vision that it doesn’t succeed. How does a […]

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Tenacity. Never give up. Most likely what you envisioned your company being at the beginning will not be what it is at the end. And that’s ok! True success is what fits into the marketplace in that particular moment in time. It’s not about being relentless in your vision that it doesn’t succeed.

How does a successful, strong, and powerful woman navigate work, employee relationships, love, and life in a world that still feels uncomfortable with strong women? In this interview series, called “Power Women” we are talking to accomplished women leaders who share their stories and experiences navigating work, love and life as a powerful woman.

As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Adreana Gonzalez.

Adreana Gonzalez has been a professional singer, actor, writer, dancer, and producer for over 20 years. She knows what it takes to become a successful artist, and her experience and education in the industry inspired her to establish a music school in Los Angeles, HVS Conservatory, based on these ideals and philosophies. Throughout her career she has worked with entertainment leaders such as: Julia Roberts, Jennifer Anniston, Garry Marshall, Hector Elizondo, Will Ferrell, Britt Robertson, Jessie Reyez, and many more.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

You’re welcome! We moved around a lot growing up, which I think was really great for me. Every 2–3 years we relocated to a completely different state or country and now looking back that was the best thing for someone like me. I tend to be an introvert if given too much of an opportunity to do so. And since we always moved, it pushed me to find and connect with a new set of friends and to be assertive and social. Music has always been a part of my life. I started singing and playing the flute in grade school, then picked up guitar and ultimately moved to the piano. It was always a sense of comfort for me. I could hide out in my room for hours learning or writing a new song. Music got me through all those moves, fights with my family and in between times with friends. And it still does. I can never be bored; on a quiet day I sit at the piano playing and singing for hours learning new songs and practicing old ones.

Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?

​I’m one of the lucky ones on this planet that knew their entire life what made them happy. That was/is music. I started off believing that performing was my calling, but now that I’m older I realize that it’s teaching. I honestly fell into coaching; at the time I was a struggling actress/singer and didn’t want to bartend or waitress anymore to make ends meet. So, I trained to be a vocal coach. I already knew how to sing very well, but teaching voice and singing, believe it or not, are entirely different skill sets. You need to know what muscles in the neck and mouth engage when singing incorrectly, how exactly the diaphragm is used to push against the vocal cords to create sound and be able to prescribe to each individual student, because every human has a different set of habits, how to fix the ones that aren’t serving them. Just because someone can sing very well, doesn’t give them a license to teach singing. That’s how injuries occur. Over the past 20 years I have wracked up most job titles in my field, and have learned the do’s and don’ts from great mentors, but it’s mostly been through experience that I’ve gotten to where I am today. And this year I decided it was time to do something I’ve always wanted to do: open a Vocal Conservatory in Los Angeles, where I could bring my network of leaders together and give young artists a safe place to develop their skill set and give them the opportunity for ultimate success.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

This has to be it so far! Starting a vocal conservatory from scratch during a pandemic has been very challenging. But I knew this was the time to do it. I’m learning how to lead and inspire people in a way I haven’t before. And it’s taught me how to be creative in an area I am not seasoned in. I’m a musician and an actress, learning songs and performing are what I’ve done really well for decades — but now I have to run budgets, make sure contracts are in place for every event, market, manage social media channels — the list goes on.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Being tenacious. Never ever give up on your dream and you must be open to the many ways it may shift and tilt in the process of getting to its end result.

Being a perfectionist. One reason I’ve found such great success in vocal coaching is my ability to hyperfocus on the details of sound and the muscles that create them. Find what you excel in and figure out a way to add this quality to everything you do.

Having an open mind. What I envisioned my career looking like at 20 is drastically different from what it actually is at 40. And I am crazy happy with where I am! As I said earlier, I have gone through every job title in my line of work from actress, singer, screenwriter, and producer. The only way I could’ve gotten to where I am today is by staying open and saying yes to every opportunity that came my way. Because I wouldn’t have known what the right fit for me was without trying them all!

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. The premise of this series assumes that our society still feels uncomfortable with strong women. Why do you think this is so?

This issue stems back long before we had any evidence of our sociological development. It started because of the physical roles men and women played in the reproduction of our species. And after centuries of this habitual mindset, it became the standard for households to maintain this model. It’s very difficult for humans to break habits, no matter how discriminatory they are. Retraining habits takes consistency and a massive amount of repetition. It’s going to take role modeling to the younger generation and our children to truly break this inequality. It’s nobody’s fault from the past but it will be our fault in the future if we don’t stay consistent with our message — Women can run companies, countries, and families just as well as any man can.

Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?

As a teenager, I remember arguing with my Grandfather about why I was capable of performing any job a man could. 50/50 is what he called me! So, I always knew what was ahead of me if I decided to pursue “male” dominated careers. I think as long as we’re aware of what’s ahead then we can better prepare and strategize for those uncomfortable situations. But it is so important to walk through these situations, because with practice you can only get better at them.

What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?

Relate to the men. Whether that’s in sports, music, automobiles, cuisine or fashion. As women in power, we must learn how to adapt to our environment in order to get the best result. And if you sense those around you are uneasy because of your place of power then take yourself down a level and have a little fun with them. Maintaining a safe and productive workplace is important, but it is also important to have fun. The more fun your employees have with you the more inspired they will be to do the best job they can for you, because they want to make you happy. This said, don’t make work all about fun either, be sure to block out 15 minutes a day to relate to them.

What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?

There need to be more of us. Once it is not considered a rarity to have a powerful woman working alongside men, is when we will fully be accepted. So, don’t be scared to go out there and apply for those positions you’re right for!

In my own experience, I have observed that often women have to endure ridiculous or uncomfortable situations to achieve success that men don’t have to endure. Do you have a story like this from your own experience? Can you share it with us?

I’ve been in the entertainment industry too long. I would say over 50% of the situations I have been in have been sexist or I’ve been sexually harassed. But the worst was when I was producing a film with a former male business partner. We had been trying to get this screenplay into working shape for over a month and the writer was just not cutting it. I got one of my best friends to agree to writing it and asked my producing partner if it was okay if I could help him write it. His response was, “Adreana you’re an actress, not a writer”. That was probably one of the most disrespectful things anyone has said to me because I know if I was a man he would have said “Sure!”. So I lied, and said I would let my friend write it on his own, when in reality it was he and I that were writing it together… And that script was the first screenplay I ever sold.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Respect. Employees and co-workers may do what is asked of them, but as soon as the female is direct, decisive and doesn’t say please or wrap the task around with an emoji she suddenly becomes the “bad woman” or the “bitch”. That NEVER happens when men are like that in a position of power.

Let’s now shift our discussion to a slightly different direction. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your personal and family life into your business and career? For the benefit of our readers, can you articulate precisely what the struggle was?

I’m a single woman with no children, so for me, it has not been easy to juggle both. The men I date want me to be subordinate in most ways. Which I am willing to do when it comes to maintaining the house or them in the bedroom. But when it comes to my opinion on issues that matter I will not give that up. And 9 times out of 10 that is a problem.

What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal life? What did you do to reach this equilibrium?

I try to meditate every morning for at least 10 minutes. And I absolutely without a doubt give myself indulgent “me time” once a week. Whether it’s a massage, working in my garden, lunch or dinner with my friends, it’s time I don’t have to think or talk about work and I love it. For me, it’s the only way I can stay balanced.

I work in the beauty tech industry, so I am very interested to hear your philosophy or perspective about beauty. In your role as a powerful woman and leader, how much of an emphasis do you place on your appearance? Do you see beauty as something that is superficial, or is it something that has inherent value for a leader in a public context? Can you explain what you mean?

Beauty is a very powerful trait to possess. And I think the best leaders, female or male, have it. True beauty comes from within. Many people can look superficially beautiful on camera but few embody this true beauty in person. It’s something that lives in the soul and you can see it behind the eyes. And the ones who truly embody it take it seriously and use it to achieve even more greatness.

How is this similar or different for men?

I believe it’s the same for men.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Powerful Woman?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

Confidence. You need to know without a doubt you are great at what you do and you deserve to be leading those around you. And if you have any doubts, you’re only allowed 15 minutes a day for that.

Resilience. You’re going to get 100 no’s before you get 1 yes. But you must remain resolute in your goal and take those yes’s (even though they’re far fewer than your no’s) as wins. Don’t even count the no’s. Why would you?

Compassion. Men or others may look at this as a weakness, but I see it as a strength. Compassion is the only way you’re going to get to know your staff, listen to those around you, and leave your ego at the door. Sometimes ego is necessary. And you’ll know when it is. But most of the time, having an open mind is what is going to inspire and take you places you never dreamed of.

Stay Open. This is one of the most important ones. Without it you’ll get trapped in a very narrow idea of what and who your company and vision are. Staying open will allow you to bend and flow with the tide, not as a follower but as a leader using the momentum of gravity to back their ultimate goal.

Tenacity. Never give up. Most likely what you envisioned your company being at the beginning will not be what it is at the end. And that’s ok! True success is what fits into the marketplace in that particular moment in time. It’s not about being relentless in your vision that it doesn’t succeed.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

​Gustavo Dudamel. He’s the conductor for the LA Philharmonic. The reason is he is a master at his craft and at the top of his game, but still finds time and energy to give back to his country, Venezuela (where my father is from and where I grew up a part of my childhood), and to the less fortunate in the Los Angeles community. It’s extremely admirable and I would love to pick his brain about giving back more.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

You’re welcome! Thank YOU!

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