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Alexandra Fernandez: “If you can do something, no matter how small, to leave this world a little bit better than it was before, then go ahead and do it. I guess that’s our mission as humans…”

In a friendly conversation with Costa Rican actress Alexandra Fernandez, she shares some tips to succeed in life, and also told us about navigating the new normal and her knitting passion to disconnect when she's feeling stressed, stretching like a cat to have more energy, and more!

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Mauricio A. Rodríguez Hernández (MARH): How are you navigating this new normal?

Alexandra Fernandez Aguilar (AFA): I knew I needed to adapt. I began to work from home and I stay here as much as possible. I just keep my mind busy learning new things from books and audio books. Take care of myself, keep me healthy, take care of others and keep a positive attitude.

MARH: Please tell us more about your passion for knitting. Is this the way you stay focused at this time?

AFA: Not really. I always liked knitting because it gives me a way to disconnect when I’m feeling stressed. It relaxes me and teaches me patience. I also love the idea that I have a new sweater or a new scarf when I’m done! And I’ve used my hobby on two performances: one of the characters that I performed knitted, and another one did crochet.

MARH: Is there a memorable story from your premier at “The place where mammals die” and “Saints War” that stands out and is worth sharing with us?

AFA: “The place where mammals die” was my second performance as a professional actress. We were all students at the University of Costa Rica and we didn’t have enough money to produce the play. A paper company donated cardboard boxes, so we just invested a little money to buy paper, black paint and tape. With all those card boxes we built the inside of a warehouse where all the donations that the characters received for their center were stored. A theater critic went to our play and he spoke wonders of how clever the scenography was. We all worked very hard, and when we learned that the critic loved it, we all felt winners!

With “Saints War”, I remember that I received a phone call from a casting company asking me if I was interested in participating in a film. My character was very complex and it took me a lot of work. This character only drank holy water, ate consecrated hosts, levitated, bled and saw God. I spent night after night rehearsing at home, and thinking throughout the days what can I do to make this character more convincing. When we shot the first scene, all the crew clapped at the end when the director said “cut”. They told me that I just interpreted the character the same way they pictured that character should be. I was speechless…

MARH: You had a healthy relationship with Sojan Vladich and Sara Astica. How were they as persons, not as drama instructors?

AFA: Sara loved baking and she had a collection of porcelain angels and small bottles. She was a loving woman and a wonderful actress. Her husband was an actor too. On occasions, they invited me to their house for a cup of tea. Sara loved to read and recommended several books. Stojan was very serious and it was hard to make him laugh. He had a bittersweet sense of humor which was not fully understood by everybody, but he was a kind man and always wanted his students to succeed. He always had something interesting and clever to say. When a Uruguayan director was looking for a young actress, he recommended me and we ended up working together in “The Seagull”, by Anton Chekov. He was a great actor, and a good friend.

MARH: What are some ways you are working now that differ from pre-pandemic?

AFA: I am at home 24/7. I cannot go outside for long walks as I used to because I’m asthmatic and I prefer not to risk myself. I only go out for groceries. But my cats love it, because they get to play more with me.

MARH: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?

AFA: I go to the bathroom…

MARH: Do you have a time saving trick for the morning?

AFA: I don’t go around the bushes. I just get up and start living my day. It’s difficult to get things done if you’re still under the covers.

MARH: What gives you energy?

AFA: I take a deep breath and stretch like a cat. Works for me.

MARH: What’s your secret life hack?

AFA: Learn new things every day. It makes life more interesting.

MARH: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?

AFA: Not really. I forget about my phone when I go to bed. I also tend to forget about my phone when I am sharing time with family and friends. I prefer to have quality time with people. I don’t text and walk at the same time. My phone is a tool and it’s important, but at the end, it’s just a tool.

MARH: How do you deal with email?

AFA: I am an actress, but I also work as a quality analyst. I work with emails every day.

MARH: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?

AFA: In April. A foster cat came to my house all wounded and starving. I couldn’t leave him without shelter, so I took him in. My two resident cats were not happy about it. At all… Guess you got the picture. Fortunately, they all get along now. But I spent several nights without sleeping.

MARH: When was the last time you failed and how did you overcome it?

AFA: I don’t remember. I tend to call failures as “an opportunity of improvement”, so if I learned something about the experience, I don’t see it as a failure. If I fall, I get up, shake off the dusk, learn what to do and what not to do, and move on.

MARH: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.

AFA: “Whether you think you can or you can’t, either way you are right” by Henry Ford.

MARH: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?

AFA: I start working with what has a time urgency and focus on getting it done. After that, I continue what is harder and I leave the easiest for last.

MARH: With so many distractions and interruptions coming at us throughout the day, what are your tips to stay focused?

AFA: There’s a time and place for everything. Keep on doing what you have to do. Discipline is key.

MARH: When you notice you’re getting too stressed, what do you do to course correct?

AFA: I take a deep breath and smile to myself. If I can, I knit or crochet. I also watch cartoons. A little laugh always works miracles.

MARH: What’s a surprising way you practice mindfulness?

AFA: Cooking. Finding the correct balance of flavors and textures. I’ll eat that later, so I better do it right!

MARH: How do you reframe negative thinking?

AFA: I tell myself: “everything always goes well for me”. This changes my mindset.

MARH: What brings you optimism?

AFA: Love. It’s the most powerful force in the universe.

MARH: What’s your evening routine that helps you unwind and go to sleep?

AFA: I brush my teeth, cuddle with my cats, take a deep breath and watch YouTube videos until I fall asleep.

MARH: Which philosopher has inspired you throughout your career? Why?

AFA: Ok, that’s a hard question. I don’t find inspiration from only one philosopher. I get inspiration from everywhere, from a lot of different things. Life is diverse, and so are my sources of inspiration.

MARH: What is the single most inspiring video you have seen addressing today’s biggest challenges, which include climate change, food security, poverty reduction and quality of life for all?

AFA: There are so many! The DW documentaries. They have addressed all those topics and more. Their journalists do an excellent job doing their research. They have a documentary about climate change, its repercussions and how it has affected people’s lives around the world which is an eye opener. About the pandemic, I remember a short video by Bill Nye doing a mask experiment, as well as many other videos of doctors explaining the disease. The experiments by professor Masaru Emoto and “The message of water” is breath taking. And a movie about quantum physics called “What the bleep do we know” which explains the science of probability. Science is amazing, because it gives a solution to most of our problems. And I love watching documentaries because I can see how all those journalists and scientists are working together for mankind and to deliver the message. That is inspiring!

MARH: What role does music play in your acting process?

AFA: Acting without music is like French fries without ketchup. Yes, you can eat your fries alone, but ketchup makes a huge difference.

MARH: Was there a particular human exchange you can describe which inspired you towards taking charitable action regarding the causes you love?

AFA: I was with my boyfriend at a convenience store late one night. It was almost 11 pm, and two little girls were at the front of the store selling coloring books. The oldest could’ve been only ten years old. It broke my heart, because it was time for them to be sleeping in a warm bed instead of selling coloring books, hungry and late on a rainy night. That inspired me to enroll as a volunteer to teach English to high school students, so they will have a better job opportunity once they graduate. I taught for a year and a half as a volunteer and it was the most rewarding experience. I also planted trees as a volunteer when I was in high school. If you can do something, no matter how small, to leave this world a little bit better than it was before, then go ahead and do it. I guess that’s our mission as humans.

MARH: What advice can you share with the world on the importance of empowering others to reach one’s full potential? How do you empower others in your daily life?

AFA: We humans are unpredictable. We cannot tell where the next genius is hiding. If we empower others to reach their full potential, we may encourage thousands of geniuses that will make this world a better place. I tell others: “If someone else did it, you can do it too”. We are the ones who set our own boundaries.

MARH: Would you describe yourself as a spiritual person? If so, can you share with us one of your more profound spiritual experiences?

AFA: I don’t think that I can find God locked up in a temple. God is everywhere, surrounding us, inside of us, in all living and nonliving beings. God is energy, and atoms are made of energy. We are made of energy.

MARH: What is your message to entrepreneurs who struggle to launch their ideas?

AFA: A man died in the early 1800’s leaving his young teenager boy orphan and in charge of his siblings. They were poor. This boy took the hard decision to sell his father’s farm (his only heirloom) and open a store to sell groceries and whisky. The boy succeeded and his whisky became famous. He never gave up and he built an empire known around the world because he just kept walking. So do as Johnnie Walked did, and “keep walking”.

MARH: Which kind of films do you want to dub in the future? Animation?

AFA: I like comedies, so I’d love to act in one. I’m also into drama. But I must admit that animation is quite a challenge because you must use your voice right. Your voice is the characters. I never did that before and that is something that I always wanted to try.

MARH: What is your greatest hope for the future? What is next for Alexandra?

AFA: I always liked storytelling and I published a short tale some years ago. I want to start writing again. I want to go back on a stage once this pandemic is over. I also enrolled in several online courses to learn new skills. I believe the future is bright!

MARH: How would you like to be remembered?

AFA: I haven’t thought about it. But I’d like to be remembered as a good person.

MARH: Who are your top three living thought leaders?

AFA: Robert Kiyosaki. He wanted to be rich as a kid and when he reached financial freedom, he decided to share his knowledge with the world. He craved for financial education as a kid, and now he teaches that. That’s generosity.

Bill Nye. He has inspired generations of young kids with his science TV show from the nineties. I loved that show too when I was a kid. He taught the wonders of science and he is still an inquisitive science guy who launched the solar sail that Carl Sagan envisioned. He also works to create conscience about climate change. Bob Proctor. He is a life coach that shares his knowledge with the world. His videos show how we can change our reality by changing our minds, and how our lives can be happier by changing our attitude. He helps make this world a better place.

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