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Ana Lydia Monaco: “Not everyone is worthy of you”

“Not everyone is worthy of you.” I can’t remember who told me, but it’s something I keep in mind as I navigate the world, being authentic but not giving too much of me too early in the process. As a part of my series about leaders helping to make the entertainment industry more diverse and representative, […]

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“Not everyone is worthy of you.” I can’t remember who told me, but it’s something I keep in mind as I navigate the world, being authentic but not giving too much of me too early in the process.


As a part of my series about leaders helping to make the entertainment industry more diverse and representative, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ana Lydia Monaco.

Ana Lydia Monaco is a San Fernando Valley born Mexican-American Writer/Director/Producer. She recently sold broadcast rights and attained a distribution deal for her Award-Winning film MEETING BROWN and documentary CONVERSATIONS IN COLOR…ISMS. She’s currently a Women in Film mentee, founder of #WritersBrunch, developing Pass and La Doña. Married and a furbaby mom, Ana Lydia is bilingual, bicultural, and immersed in the Los Angeles art and food scene.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always been a storyteller. Before the age of five, I learned to read and write in English and Spanish to share stories about my goings-on with my family. From letters, I graduated to writing a play that I directed. I was seven. One of my most significant purchases as a young adult was a Sony Camcorder. I documented my family and the things I saw; at the same time, I was pursuing a traditional college degree. I graduated with a Marketing degree and focused on telling my clients story both visually and through the written word. Eventually, I reached a pinnacle in my PR and Marketing career. Having reached my career goals, I finally dared to pursue my dreams of writing and directing stories highlighting women. Once I applied to film school, I focused on my dreams… and haven’t stopped since!

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

In 2018, I was hired as a writer and director to produce a Smithsonian documentary about the Molina Family Latino Gallery and flown to Washington, DC. While at the premiere, I stood back and mingled with the crowd. I only introduced myself by name, never once telling anyone who I was or why I was there. After the movie, without a dry eye in the American History Museum’s lobby, the head of the Latino Gallery turned to me and publicly acknowledged my work. The gasps and wows were audible. Why? Because as a guest later told me, no one imagined a woman, let alone a Latina, would have directed and written something so beautiful — and not tell anyone about it. Since then, I have been more vocal about my work. I proudly tell others about my accomplishments to encourage other BIPOC storytellers to follow in their creative passions.

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?

On a recent BTS Tour at Warner Brothers, I complained about the lack of Latino content, actors, movies… when a studio head overheard what I was saying. Without me knowing who he was, my husband introduced me. The studio head invited me to lunch — on the lot. I only found out who he was when he was nowhere to be found. I then started going back to our conversation. What did I say? Was I offensive? But the reality was, I was myself. So, if there’s a lesson to be learned, it is to be yourself. You will attract the right people.

Ok thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our discussion. Can you describe how you are helping to make popular culture more representative of the US population?

Being and identifying as a Brown US LatinX CIS woman of Mexican-American descent is already an act of defiance in an industry that actively ignores and diminishes us. My work is reflective of the world I live in and navigate. It is multicultural and diverse in all areas. My focus is to elevate people of color through stories that position them in roles that they are primarily kept from. I firmly believe, that until you see us in roles that are specific to our culture and generic in our themes, you won’t think of the possibilities and impact we have in society. This is a challenge I am willing to take.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by the work you are doing?

When I first premiered Meeting Brown, a biracial love story in a post-Trump America, a young white male, came to me and apologized. “I didn’t think what he said was racist.” My movie, while it didn’t point the finger at him, made him think. That’s what I hope all my films do: make audiences think about the world around them — and themselves.

As an insider, this might be obvious to you, but I think it’s instructive to articulate this for the public who might not have the same inside knowledge. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important to have diversity represented in Entertainment and its potential effects on our culture?

Just recently, a producer didn’t cast a Latina actress because he “didn’t believe that she could be in a position of power.” Unfortunately, if audiences don’t see it, they won’t believe that WOC can. Representation of diverse actors and people behind the camera is essential not just for Latinos, but for all of society. Not only to be better educated about the world but to also see people’s potential different from us.

Secondly, in key urban cities across the USA and abroad, communities are diverse. Not having the community that lives and breathes in the areas you are showing in your films presents a false narrative. You are erasing the people who are an essential part of the community and exist globally.

Lastly, and most importantly, Latinos are the largest minority in the US. Latinos are also the largest movie-going audience. Unfortunately, we are the least represented behind and in front of the camera. But, we can all do our part to create more diverse content.

Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do to help address the root of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?

In the golden age of social media, we have learned that everyone has a voice — and there’s plenty of folks that will listen. SPEAK UP! You never know who is listening.

Tag networks and production companies when they get representation wrong and celebrate them when they get it right. Show-up and celebrate shows that get diversity right. Your opinion matters! Becoming a fan will tell the powers that be that we NEED diverse content. It will also encourage them to make more of it. By the same token, hold creators accountable when they feature LatinX characters to ensure that our storylines don’t turn into a white savior or trauma porn storyline.

But most importantly, invest in young and/or up-and-coming writer/directors like myself. Our “small” projects are only limited because Hollywood hasn’t met us yet. Our next project can be the next big-budget film that everyone is talking about — with your help!

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

When I think of leadership or mentorship, I always go back to what one of my earliest mentors taught me: your role as a leader is to do your work from a place of service. And, always keep in mind how your work will impact others.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

My dad told me from an early age: “If others can, you can too.” Unfortunately, he didn’t tell me about the glass ceiling or institutional racism. Oddly, not knowing that both prevent women like me from moving up in their jobs helped me in the earlier part of my career.

“Not everyone is worthy of you.” I can’t remember who told me, but it’s something I keep in mind as I navigate the world, being authentic but not giving too much of me too early in the process.

“No’ is a complete sentence.” It has gone from a meme to a fact of life. I don’t, and you don’t, need to give a reason or apologize after a “no.”

“Boundaries.” They tell people how to treat you. Establish them early on in any relationship.

“Done is better than perfect.” Because I went to Art Center, a school known for soul-sucking critiques and an endless amount of portfolio-level work, I had to learn quickly that if I wanted to stay on top of my work, I had to finish my projects. Quickly. Efficiently… and while not always perfect, “good enough” to be critiqued. You can always “perfect” later. But a later will never come unless you finish the work.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

About a year ago, I started #DiversityIsMoreThanBlackAndWhite to highlight the sheer laziness when folks want to create “diverse” content to benefit themselves. Throw-in a Black character or actor, and “yeah, we have diversity!” Folks, it doesn’t work that way — especially if the character has no depth or real storyline.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

― Winston Churchill

Basically, I have found my voice, and I use it plenty to fight for what is right. I am committed to highlighting women, specifically women of color, and Mexican American LatinX, in media and culture. Not everyone wants to talk about it, but I do. And I will until we are a consistent and essential part of media culture.

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 just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Ava DuVernay. Just like her, I started my career in PR/Marketing before pursuing our filmmaking careers. While we have met on more than one occasion, and yes, she has Tweeted, RT’d, and reposted some of my Instagram posts, we have yet to have a conversation. I’m confident we have a lot in common. Whether together or on our own, we continue to pursue equal and diverse representation of POC’s and Mexican American’s in media.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I can be found on all social media under @analydiamonaco and my website is: www.analydiamonaco.com. You can also follow my most recent film #LolasJourney.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

Thank you!

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