The change I’d like to see in the industry is definitely around representation of the Hispanic population in main stream media. What it means to be “Mexican” to me, is not what I see depicted on my feeds most of the time. To me, Hispanic and Iconic are synonymous, so that’s another huge motivation for me, is shifting cultural stigmas we have in the United States around Mexican culture and seeing more powerful women of color in the media.
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Erika De La Cruz
Erika De La Cruz, is one of the stars of FYI Network’s Dream Life, Best Selling Author of Passionistas & Founder of Passion to Paycheck, mentorship community. The California State Senate has named her “The Millennial to Watch” and she has shared her journey as a first generation Mexican American and Survivor of the 2009 American Economy Crash with publications like Forbes, Today, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and Vogue.
Erika lost everything in the economic crash of 2009. Her family’s items were confiscated & re-sold at swap meets across California. At the same time, her mother chose voluntary homelessness & Erika was left with no choice but to figure out how to get to college and build a life that would allow her to help her family. A lot of the country is experiencing similar circumstances as COVID-19 regulations are being carefully navigated and Erika is helping to mentor thousands through doubt and uncertainty.
Optimism & hope brought her out of her mentality of defeat and allowed her to create a life she loves: Helping bring global access to positive emotional health & personal power for women everywhere (like she was able to access when she thought her life was over.) While she has “achieved” much in her lifetime, she prides herself on working and collaborating under those from whom she can learn. “When you stop learning, you stop growing” says De La Cruz and therefore- assisting & championing The Love Academy, and having a chance to learn from Serena De Comarmond, a seasoned & international love-guru on this season of Dream Life, airing August 1st on FYI, was a no-brainer for her!https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/4a881f777d8111b24d3e92d6efcce2f4
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Sure, I grew up in a very tiny town in Northern California called Los Banos. My parents owned a Mexican restaurant for nearly thirty years there. I grew up in and out of the kitchen of that restaurant and had the most loving childhood with my mom, always up to “possibilities’ I’d call them- building castles in the back yard, putting on shows and plays. Teenage life was filled with self-worth troubles with boys and friends, but looking back, felt pretty normal. At 18 years old a lot of that life changed radically. The economic crash took our family’s business, our home and left my parents and I to start from scratch. I made my way back to college and worked through to a salaried position at Entercom Broadcasting!
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Sure, Definitely. After the first year of college when we lost everything, getting back to school to start year two was nothing short of a miracle, so I was not going to take that for granted! I always knew that I loved the field of media & entertainment, but I don’t know that I would have jumped in the way I did, had I not had literally nothing to lose. I started by finding scholarships and grants that I could apply for to cover “the basics” to live, so that I could move onto the very unpaid internships I wanted! I took a few around Comic Con and landed one in radio broadcast that eventually led to my first full time position.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Hmmm, I’d say the most interesting thing that’s happened is this huge shift around the power of my story and my truth. When I began working in the field, I definitely hid the struggle and down fall of our family. To me, it would have ostracized me to the rest of the “normal” world. But, what I discovered was when I began speaking about all my family had been through, the most powerful opportunities and acquaintances surfaced. There is no “NORMAL” and so many people I know to this day, have heard my story, resonated with it and through that, we’ve formed relationships. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable while building a personal brand!
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?
YES, this one is a no-brainer. I remember showing up to my first day of “corporate work” wearing a gray suit that I thought I should, a stripped down lap top (I removed the pink cover I had,) and I thought to myself- “ok, now I’m official here, I need to dress and act like the other people I see around me.” This could not have been further from the truth! I remember my mentor (renowned department head, Leonard Balistreri) pulling me aside and telling me that the reason I was hired was because I was ME. I was bringing something new to the table and trying to blend in would be the worse idea I could conjure! My lesson from then on was that I really need to feel authentically me in meetings and in projects, or what comes out is this replica of what I “think” I should be- and as a result, the experience is not unique, it’s watered down and lacking so much innovation!
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?
Oh yeah, I have a list! But, the two really pivotal partners/mentors I’ve had just saw me when I couldn’t see myself. I wanted to stay so very small, and believe that I wasn’t really exceptional in this world (probably from years of self worth stuff.) Each, at different stages of my career communicated to me the vision of myself that I knew deep down was there, but couldn’t find on my own. When I was thinking “who do I think I am to do any of this?,” they were saying “You are the one to do it! The only one!” They continue to do this as my career expands, I’m very grateful. I really discovered the value of mentorship through both of them: Broadcast Legend & Department Head, “Lenny B.” and acclaimed entrepreneur, also Jim Rohn’s 18 year business partner and Passionistas co founder & publisher, Kyle Wilson.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Yes! I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face, but sometimes it lands as a clich’e. When you really get it, it’s a game changer: “You get one life.” You really just get your one time on earth, to be happy, fulfilled and create what you want to create. Drop the excuses, ask for the help to develop yourself, or your craft and take a bite out of the life you really want. Stop settling!
What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?
I’m on a mission to help people feel less alone. When I was struggling in my life, I’ll never forget finding little interviews, watching shows or reading articles that gave me hope. Depression really amplifies the feeling of hopelessness and my commitment is that someone finds me, on social, television or otherwise and says wow things aren’t so bad, I can relate, or that made me happy. The change I’d like to see in the industry is definitely around representation of the Hispanic population in main stream media. What it means to be “Mexican” to me, is not what I see depicted on my feeds most of the time. To me, Hispanic and Iconic are synonymous, so that’s another huge motivation for me, is shifting cultural stigmas we have in the United States around Mexican culture and seeing more powerful women of color in the media.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
I’m working on a platform called Passionista: a place for you to feel less lonely, full stop. It will be a digital media platform, featuring daily videos from all areas of life- some to make you smile, some to make you think and others to motivate you. When I felt like I had nowhere to turn and that life might not be worth living, I remember opening up a magazine and finding everything from powerful stories, to fun new fashion on the pages, it gave me so much hope that life was going to get better for me, that I belonged somewhere. Passionista and our incredible partners, will serve up a place for anyone who’s going through loneliness, hopelessness or sadness, to belong! Segments will allow women everywhere to defy their usual feeds (that may leave them feeling ostracized) and define themselves as powerful beings, with bright futures, limitless possibilities and a community who will cheer them up and cheer them on!
We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?
Yes, my thoughts are endless, but I’ll speak to what is real for me and that is: we have the power to transform decade-long stigmas about all cultures, just by telling new stories that feature people of color! To me, Hispanic is Iconic. For some in this country, “Hispanic” is only associated with storylines of “spicy, sassy, exotic women” or “the help.” There is so much more to tell. My father both picked peaches in the fields growing up AND owned a business for thirty years as an entrepreneur. He motivated me as a child with stories of holding 6 peaches in each hand and finishing first every day, and as a result- my tenacity as a female business owner is large part from his motivation. I think what’s missed is that within cultures, lies a multitude of story lines, not just the stigmas that some cultures are pinned to, these stories span from every walk of life, every job and every experience. If the public could see more “aspirational” representation of every culture, an entire attitude toward them, would shift. I think a great example of this was Black Panther. Little boys and girls saw a brilliant culture exuding power and inspiration and could say “I want to be like them! They are incredible.”
What are is 1 thing you wish someone told you when you first started and why.
I wish someone sat me down and explained that there is no “one way” or rather, no “right way” of doing things. The Media Industry is full of innovators and also, people figuring it all out, just like you are. I wish I had understood that earlier because there was definitely a habit of feeling that others always knew better than I did, or that there was a silent judgment passing every time my etiquette was “off.” I think understanding that we’re all just human beings was access to valuing myself on a level I deserved.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
Yes, I think my most impactful practice is my morning routine. The same way I have a glass of water before a cup of coffee, is the same way I make sure to feed my mind and get into a space of gratitude before I start the day! I couldn’t imagine starting on a “to-do” list without honing in on who I want to-be that day. Who you’re being is the biggest driver of your results.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Who you’re being, is determining your results. It is the most relevant lesson applied to my career. I used to believe that “what you do,” alone, determines your success. But, I’ve learned that tending to the source of “who you’re being” while doing, is actually the access to aligning yourself with the people and projects that your true heart desires. I highly recommend getting into law of attraction lessons or its basic principles if you want to build something big!
You are a person of huge 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?
I’d inspire people to live from their heart spaces. I believe this would enable people to access vulnerability, empathy and honesty.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Yes! Aya Kanai, Editor & Chief of Marie Claire Magazine. I have followed her career and I love the direction she has taken the publication. Marie Claire Magazine single handedly lifted me out of depression in a time in my life when I needed it most, so sitting down with Aya, sharing my experiences and perspective would be delightful,
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
Heck yes, connect with me HERE !
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!