Gina Brillon: “You can’t be afraid of failure, it’s part of the process”

You can’t be afraid of failure, it’s part of the process. You will fail, several times, and then you’ll succeed, then fail again, it’s a continuous cycle of different lessons you learn. You have to love it enough to accept all the wins and losses. As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, […]

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You can’t be afraid of failure, it’s part of the process. You will fail, several times, and then you’ll succeed, then fail again, it’s a continuous cycle of different lessons you learn. You have to love it enough to accept all the wins and losses.

As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Gina Brillon.

Gina Brillon was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. The Puerto Rican actress, comedian, and writer, has been a standup comic since she was 17 years old. Her newest 1 hour special Gina Brillon: The Floor is Lava is now available on Amazon Prime Video. Brillon’s first one hour special, Pacifically Speaking (NuvoTV), was produced by Gabriel Iglesias. Her 1/2 hour special Easily Offended was one of the top shows amongst the Entre Nos franchise on HBO Latino, and is now streaming on all HBO Digital Platforms. She’s made appearances on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, E!’s Chelsea Lately, The View, Late Night with Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel Live. You have seen her on Kevin Can Wait on CBS and The Conners on ABC. In 2012, she became the first (and only) Latina winner of NBC’s “Stand up for Diversity” Showcase. She was selected to be part of Montreal’s Just For Laughs “New Faces” Showcase. Gina is also a singer, published writer, and poet. Her pieces have appeared in the New York Post

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?

I grew up in the South Bronx near the Clason Point area. The neighborhood was mainly Black and Latino, it was a residential neighborhood that was “hood adjacent,” meaning we were a 7–10 minute bike ride from the Soundview projects.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I knew I wanted to be a performer early on because I loved making people happy and loved making them laugh. I decided on stand-up comedy at the age of 14, after seeing my first stand up comedian, Brett Butler. Once I saw that and realized that could be a profession I was sold! On the day of my high school graduation my mom entered me and my twin sister into a comedy contest and I got my first taste of stage time and I was completely hooked.

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

I sure can! So here’s the story of one of the craziest nights of my career, so far. I was in Vegas headlining the opening weekend of Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club. It was the big red carpet opening so Jimmy was there, with a lot of his famous friends. No one knew if I was even going to get a chance to perform, because no one knew how many celebrities Jimmy was bringing to speak or perform that night. I’m in the green room and Jimmy comes in (he was super sweet) slowly his famous guests/friends showed up… Sarah Silverman, Pete Holmes and Chris Tucker were all set to perform so naturally I thought “no way am I getting to go on this lineup”…..but as Jimmy was setting the line up he turned to me and said “So Gina, you’ll close it out.” I get up on stage and have a great set, when I get back stage Jimmy says “Great set! You’re coming to Caesar’s with us right?” Now, if you know me you know how painfully antisocial I can be so this was quite the conundrum, I knew I couldn’t pass it up so I said “Sure” (insert nervous laugh) “How do I get there? Can I walk?” Jimmy says, “You can come with us,” so I get into a LIMO with Jimmy and his group of people and we head to Caesar’s. We hung there for a while and I decided to call it a night, I said goodbye to everyone and saved Jimmy for last, as I said goodbye he says “You’re funny. I’m going to have you on the show.”

I said thank you profusely but didn’t think he’d remember. A few weeks later I got a tape date and that’s the story of how I got to be on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

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?

The funniest mistake was thinking I could “wing it” when I was just starting out. I did a show in Connecticut and I was asked to do 15 mins I said “no problem” even though, realistically, I only had five good minutes. Needless to say by minute six of my set I’m bombing badly minute seven wasn’t any better and by minute 8 people were yelling out other professions I should have considered. The lesson I learned was don’t bite off more than you can chew.

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?

I’m most grateful to always having the support of my family. My parents and siblings have always been my biggest supporters, but it was my grandmother, and the relationship I had with her, that was a driving force for me. She was from the island (Puerto Rico) and didn’t speak much English, the little English she spoke she learned from American TV. She was usually a very serious person but I could always make her laugh. I would do anything to make her laugh, funny faces, put on wigs and weird make up, she loved it. She would tell me someday I was going to be on TV because I was crazy. Turns out she was right.

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?

You can’t be afraid of failure, it’s part of the process. You will fail, several times, and then you’ll succeed, then fail again, it’s a continuous cycle of different lessons you learn. You have to love it enough to accept all the wins and losses.

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?

What drives me is my love for what I do. I eat breathe and sleep my work. Which sounds obsessive, because it is, but to me that’s passion, passion is obsessive. In the future I hope to see more BIPOC voices and stories in the industry. We are making strides, but we aren’t there yet. We have more work to do.

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?

There are several projects both scripted and unscripted that I’m working on now that I can’t really go into details. It’s always exciting work when I’m operating within a new creative space for me. Stand-up comedy is my first love and always will be, but anything I get to do creatively always excites me. As for where I see myself hanging from here: TV, film, a book deal… the possibilities are endless.

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?

Here are my three reasons why diversity in film and television is necessary:

  1. Fairness and equality — we all should have the same opportunities
  2. Diversity of content — The reason why a lot of stories are repeated is because a lot of the stores are being told by the same people. Doing this will give people of diverse backgrounds a chance to see stories similar to their stories and her from storytellers similar to people they grew up with and similar to people in their families, which is something I wish I had seen growing up.
  3. New stories — Giving the green light to stories by and for BIPOC will open up a new world of storytelling.

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

I wish someone had told me:

  • Be careful who you surround yourself with. I had a lot unfortunate events but the one that sticks out was being offered a ride home from a fellow comic so we could “talk about comedy” turns out it was so he could hit on me in the most grotesque way. While driving me home he pulled over and shoved his hand down my shirt, I froze like a deer in headlights and he pulled his hand out and drove me to my place. I said nothing, just got out of the car. I was way more cautious with people I surrounded myself with after that.
  • Being jealous doesn’t serve your career goals. I used to always concentrate on things I “didn’t get” — and I would also be stressed about other people getting things. When you are focused on what OTHER people are getting — you aren’t focused on your own career and your own craft. I needed to put that first.
  • To learn to manage my finances better. I spent so much time mis-managing my own money that I was constantly in panic mode as to whether I would be able to pay my rent or phone bill. I wish I had better prepared for jumping into a creative career and had known more about managing finances.
  • How much personal sacrifice would go into the career of stand-up comedy. You make sacrifices to family, friends, and more. You have to be willing to sacrifice that time, to miss holidays, birthdays, anniversaries — opportunities you don’t get back, in service of yourself and your goals.
  • How hard it is to juggle personal relationships and family relationships while being a touring comedian — I feel like I’m playing “life Tetris” and wanting to give people attention when they are also in a time of need. The mental space that can get taken up by thinking and caring about other people issues is a lot and you want to find the time to be present for them, but not at my own detriment. Finding that balance is hard.

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.

Meditation is the one thing I can always find time for. I love the app Insight Timer. I can do it on the road, on a plane, before a stand up set in the green room of comedy clubs, backstage at theaters and I’ve even meditated in an Uber. I am usually by myself and taking these meditative moments helps bring clarity and stillness to an often crazy career and schedule.

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

“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” — from Rocky Balboa (the 6th movie in the franchise) Comedy has a lot more downs than it has ups. I had more lows than highs. I learned to roll with the punches — at every level there are problems and complications. Life is like that in general. In this career you get knocked down a lot. I had to learn to shake off setbacks, get back up, dust off and keep moving forward.

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 would love to inspire the movement of inclusion and diversity in media. As a little Puerto Rican girl in the south Bronx, I didn’t see people that looked like me on the small or big screen. I’m happy that my special, Gina Brillon: The Floor is Lava, can be seen in 200+ territories around the world on Amazon Prime and that is a step in the right direction. One day, when I have my own TV show, I can help cast and staff people that wouldn’t have had the chance.

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!

I would love to have lunch with Eddie Izzard. I think he is a brilliant, fascinating and funny human being. I would love to sit down and talk to him about life, after fan-girling, of course.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

Yes, I’m most active on Instagram: @GBrillon

Twitter: @GinaBrillon

TikTok @GBrillon80


This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success

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