Dyana Ortelli: The Latina That Should Co-host The View
Instead, the multi-talented Last Angry Chicana has a spot on Let's Talk
Al Carlos Hernandez - Contributing Editor
Dyana Elizondo got tired of playing Mexican maids and prostitutes so she changed her name to Dyana Ortelli. Now she plays Italian maids and prostitutes. She has been called "the Last Angry Chicana" as she chides The View TV program (ABC) regarding the conspicuous absence of a Latina co-host.
Published on LatinoLA: March 15, 2010
"Some would argue that it's just 'benign neglect.' I think it's ignorance, discrimination and sheer stupidity to continue to ignore the Latino population. By conservative estimates, Latinos represent about 15% of the total U.S. population, while African Americans are about 13%.
"Why, then, are there two black co-hosts on The View and not a single Latina? Latinos are a vital and integral part of the fabric of this country with a buying power expected to grow to 12.4 trillion by 2011. Did you hear that, Barbara? Hello, ABC? You need an informed, outspoken, opinionated, LOUD, FUNNY, Latina 'sin pelos en la lengua' on The View. Someone who's passionate about speaking out. And that would be me."
The multi-talented actress, comedienne and on-camera host has numerous credits in TV, film, theater, animation, stand-up comedy, hosting, as well as television and radio commercials.
A native of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Ortelli was most recently seen guest starring in Saving Grace with Holly Hunter. She also just wrapped filming on the independent comedy feature Food Stamps, written and directed by Alfredo Ramos. She was a featured guest star in Rick Najera's award winning play, LatinLouges.
She is most often recognized for her role as Dora, Larry David's housekeeper on Curb Your Enthusiasm, as Mario Lopez' mom in Outta Time, and as outrageous fashion designer Irene in the Latino ground-breaking film, Luminarias. Dyana has a long list of television and film credits to her name.
Her feature films include Three Amigos, La Bamba, Born In East L.A. and American Me. Television credits include C.S.I., Lizzie McGuire, Brothers Garica, NYPD Blue, and the first Spanish telenovela produced in Los Angeles, Te Amare En Silencio.
Ortelli has also earned a name for herself in the world of stand-up comedy. She has been featured in Comedy Compadres and Que Locos, and has two comedy CD's to her credit: Hot & Spicy Mamitas of Comedy and Latina Queens of Comedy. She is the only Latina with two comedy records and no police record. Okay ... no convictions. Her trademark Latino character, Ramona From Pomona, can currently be seen on YouTube.
Ortelli has been honored by the city of Los Angeles for her contributions to the Latino community and is featured in the city's prestigious Latinos In Hollywood photographic exhibit. She received a Latino Spirit Award from the California State Assembly.
Her dream is to host a "unique and wacky" talk show and to increase and improve the image of Latinos in the entertainment industry.
LatinoLA Contributing Editor Al Carlos Hernandez had a delightful time talking to Dyana in between auditions:
Al Carlos: You and Carlos Santana are the only two successful Chicanos in the business I know who are from Tijuana.
Dyana Ortelli: Actually I was born in the OTHER Mexican border town, Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas -- not Tijuana. It's across the border from beautiful Laredo, Texas. Tijuana is like the New Jersey of Mexico, Tamaulipas, on the other hand, is like the Oakland of Mexico.
AC: What are some of the childhood experiences that inspired you to become a performer?
DO: Every Sunday, my sister, primas, and I would go to Mass, visit our Abuelita Machita, get filled with guilt, and then go to the movies. I discovered the magic of movies at a very early age -- especially musicals. We would watch romantic comedies with Rafael, Rocio Durcal and Pili y Mili. Boy, I'm really dating myself! And at that age, given the state of the cosmetics available to me at that time, I had to date myself. In any case, I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be on the big screen some day as an actor, not a cleaning person.
AC: How was your childhood? Tell me about your family.
DO: I have nothing but fond memories of my childhood. There was always joy and laughter at home. My Papi and my Tio Cecilio were always telling jokes. I must have heard some of those jokes over 500 times in my lifetime and they are still funny! Seriously, Dad and my uncle should have been in politics.
Actually my father was a doctor, so I was raised as somewhat of a MAP -- a Mexican American Princess. Which is similar to a JAP (not what you are thinking) but a Jewish American Princess without the nose requirements.
I had a comfortable and privileged life, but we weren't indulged or spoiled. I attended private school, took ballet and jazz lessons and learned to swim at the country club for recreation - not immigration purposes. Papi didn't buy us expensive clothes or jewelry. "Nomas lo que sea necesario, mi'jita." He kept it real.
AC: Woody Allen says his high school was a place for emotionally disturbed teachers. How was your high school experience?
DO: We had LEGALLY moved to "el otro lado" -- Laredo, Texas, by the time I went to high school at Ursuline Academy -- home to mean-looking Catholic nuns in burkas. They used to call them "habits" back then.
So now I'm a recovering Catholic. It took me many years to realize that I was not going to burn in eternal hell for eating too many chocolates (gluttony is a capital sin). The nuns were very strict and would punish us if our bangs were too long or our skirts too short. Well, my skirt was always too short! We used to roll them up at the waist to wear as mini-skirts, but the nuns would make us kneel and pull them down until they touched the ground! It was traumatic! My sweet revenge is that I've been wearing miniskirts ever since!
AC: What about College?
DO: University of Texas in Austin. I discovered sexy "Latinos" from Venezuela and Panama and Queretaro. They could do amazing things with their hips, sometimes while dancing even! I don't think I even knew I was "Latina" until then. And there was so much to do and learn on campus -- I took belly-dancing lessons, interpretative dance classes, and discovered Carmen Miranda and movies from the 40's. I joined Teatro Latino and played my first leading role as Antigone -- en espa??ol! But I only learned one thing in class: "STEATOPYGIA" is the accumulation of fat in the buttocks and thighs; considered beautiful by the Hottentots of South Africa. How the hell did I get a Bachelor of Arts "cum laude?" To this day I still don't know who "Laude" is and why he is saying rude things about me.
AC: What was your first acting success? At what moment did you know you wanted to make this your life's work?
DO: I knew I wanted to be an actress since I was about 10 years old. My parents took us on a road trip to California i- five kids, two adults in a station wagon. Very much like the Chevy Chase movie Vacation. When we were driving through Hollywood I would stick my head out the window hoping to be "discovered."
I found that I was a delusional child, already dreaming of being a big movie star! When I was in college at the University of Texas, I lucked out and landed an acting gig in a PBS children's series called Carrascolendas. I played "Dyana Doll" and "Juana La Loca." Damn, I had range for my age! Eventually I realized I'd have to move to L.A. if I was serious about being delusional and working in television and film, so I did.
AC: What was your first LA job? What part was it?
DO: I had been in L.A. doing "temp" jobs for two or three months when I landed the part of a "Pachuca" in Zoot Suit. I had seen the play already with Eddie Olmos, Tony Plana and my friend Mike Gomez, and was simply blown away by it. I was captivated by the fabulous music and dances from the 40's, the costumes, the performances, the story......all of it! And it was my introduction to the Chicano culture and the slang, Calo. Don't forget I was a little MAP from private school. I didn't know a thing about pachucos and pachucas from East L.A. It was magical!
AC: What kinds of jobs have you had to support your career?
DO: I was a waitress, and "perfume model" - I spritzed customers at Macy's with perfume. But mostly I did office work as a "temp." I could type 69 words a minute, was personable, and very organized. In fact, I was so good at my job that I had to keep turning down offers to come on board full-time! I once wrote my boss a letter explaining to him the difference between a "job" in an office and a "career" as an actress. He's probably still wondering what the hell I was talking about.....
AC: What kind of training have you had? Who have been your mentors?
DO: Theater was my acting school. I did plays in English and Spanish whenever and wherever I could.
But my two biggest inspirations came from the big screen - the two Hepburns: Audrey and Katherine.
AC: Worse part, best parts so far?
DO: My two favorite roles have been Lupe the maid on an NBC series called Marblehead Manor, and Irene in Luminarias. Both gave me the opportunity to go outside the (stereotype) box, dress in outrageously fabulous outfits and be funny! My least favorite role was a "cleaning lady" in an independent film that never got distribution. I had auditioned for the sexy leading role and they decided to go "tall, blond and white" with it, so I swallowed my pride and accepted the maid role. When I got to the set the wardrobe person asked, "So in real life, are you the cleaning lady for this building?" I wanted to say, "So in real life, are you a total idiot?"
AC: Greatest career moment?
AC: I'd have to say Luminarias.The film premiered in 2000 and by then I'd spent twenty years auditioning and mostly playing Mexican maids and prostitutes. It was a long overdue opportunity to show Hollywood a different side of Latinas - as educated, articulate, independent, strong women. For me, playing an outrageous, over-the-top fashion designer was not a job. It was a celebration; a dream come true. I even got to design my own wardrobe. I felt vindicated when I read a review that said, "Ortelli's sombrero couture alone is worth the price of admission."
AC: How do you react when people recognize you as being famous?
DO: SHOCK AND AWE. It's always so unexpected. "Really? I look like Larry David's maid in Curb Your Enthusiasm? I thought I looked so much better in real life!"
AC: I understand you changed your last name to a non-Latino one,. How did that come about and how is that working out for you?
DO: My stock answer is: "I got tired of playing Mexican maids and prostitutes, so I changed my name to Dyana Ortelli. Now I play Italian maids and prostitutes." But it was a decision based on broadening my horizons - I wanted to play both Latina and non-Latina roles and Hollywood was simply not going to cast a Mexican in an Italian role! So I took my two sur-names. Ortiz and ElIzondo, and came up with Ortelli.
Honestly, it hasn't made much of a difference. Years later, when I was doing stand-up comedy, Danny Glover was introducing me one night, and I understood why: "Our next performer was in Three Amigos, La Bamba, Born in East L.A., American Me......she gotta be Mexican!"
AC: How have things changed for you over the years?
DO: I would say 90% of my TV. and film auditions are still for UN-people - undocumented, unemployed, uneducated, on drugs.....stereotypical Mexican roles - poor immigrants, undocumented workers, suffering barrio mothers. I tried to get rid of my accent once but I always have to put one on for my auditions. I even have a special section in my closet for my un-people clothes. I wouldn't be caught dead in those outfits! On the other hand, I have a beautiful blouse that I've been saving for that mini-skirted attractive attorney role - the Latina attorney that never existed on "Ally McBeal." I'm still waiting for that role. I do have a movie coming out this year, EXPECTING MARY, in which I play a showgirl. But those opportunities are rare.
AC: Do you think that you would be more successful if you were not Latina?
DO: Duh! I might have had the opportunity to audition for an Upper East Side socialite mother in GOSSIP GIRL if I weren't Latina. Or maybe a role on COUGAR TOWN. Or an outrageous fashion designer on UGLY BETTY. But Hollywood simply does not see Latinas in these roles. And ironically those are the kinds of roles I relate to.
AC: How did you hook up with Bel Hernandez, publisher of Latin Heat Magazine, to become a part of "Let's Talk?" What is the show all about? What is the ultimate goal of the program?
DO: I've been making noise about the lack of Latino representation on TV. for many years. My long-time friend Bel Hernandez calls me "The Last Angry Chicana." I guess one day she got tired of hearing me bitch about Barbra Walters never inviting a Latina co-host to the table on The View, and proposed that we do our own show. It was a no-brainer -- a show with a Latino voice!
The View has never addressed hate speech and hate crimes against Latinos, "big fat liars" and hate-mongers like Lou Dobbs and Glen Beck, discrimination, immigration. When they discussed Tiger Wood's infidelity, there was no Latino perspective. Latinas don't smack their husband's car with a golf club. They cut off their privates! And by the way, Barbra, you're not invited to OUR table.
AC: Why on line, not on cable or network yet?
DO: Sheer economics. There is never a budget for Latino projects. We can afford to have it on-line for now. But our goal is to have a network or cable pick it up, as soon as possible please! We deserve to be on television, and we're ready.
AC: What are your personal goals? You do comedy, hosting, talk. What would be your ideal media situation? What about feature films or a reality show?
DO: I've been on "survivor mode" in Hollywood for so long, that I learned to do it all -- TV. film, theater, voice-overs, stand-up comedy, hosting. And there's still so much I want to do. I want to work with David Kelley, even though he ignored Latinos on "Alley McBeal." I want to be in a sitcom. I want to work with Pedro Almodovar. I want to make a movie with producer David Valdes. I want to work with Latino directors, actors, and producers but mostly I want to play unique, different, quirky, FUNNY characters we haven't seen before.
I would even love to do a Reality Show that truly depicts what it's like for a Latina to survive in Hollywood -- a reality show with a sense of humor. One day I'm auditioning for a dominatrix in a red latex bustier and fishnet hose; the next day I'm a poor immigrant in huaraches; isn't that more interesting that an Armenian with a big booty and a sex tape?
More interesting indeed.
Dyana Oretelli on YouTube
Check out "Let's Talk"
Al Carlos Hernandez - Contributing Editor:
Edited By Susan Aceves
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