You can learn a lot about Yvonne DeLaRosa on her Facebook fan page,but there's a lot more to tell:
With several dramatic and quirky Indie feature leads, high visibility guest starring roles on network and cable, four series leads on pilots, including a Fox pilot under her belt, be it comedy or drama, Yvonne DeLaRosa is breaking down doors and disseminating traditional Latina stereotypes.
DeLaRosa's latest work is starring as the series lead in the unprecedented new web series "Los Americans" opposite Esai Morales.
Yvonne portrays Alma Valenzuela, the wife, mother and professional who runs her household with passion, love and a Jane Russell styled sensuality. As the wife of Leandro Valenzuela (Esai Morales) and the matriarch of an upper middle class Mexican American family with cultural identity problems, drinking problems and some serious anger management issues, Yvonne said of her character, "She's not only an intelligent, powerful woman, she is also a loving mom and, oh yeah‘«™ she's likes to kick butt."
Regularly compared to such stars as Salma Hayek, Sonia Braga and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and just like her predecessors, Delarosa has been cast and portrayed as the sexy hot Latina. But DelaRosa has already taken on roles that break the mold.
In the past few years she has been cast as a drugged out hippie and Charles Manson's right hand gal in "Helter Skelter," a wild groupie with a heart of gold in the comedy "Benny Bliss," a hijacker in the feature film "Final Approach," a comedic stripper with brains in Scrambled Eggs, and a first lady in "Blue Balls Of Fire." This month, she will be seen in two very dramatic roles: guest starring on "Law and Order LA" and on set in the western feature "The Sorrow" opposite Michael Madsen and Jon Savage.
DeLaRosa insists on doing less "glamorous" roles, be it dramatic or comedic. "I like to honor women of all cultures, class, and circumstances, not just the pretty ones." And, apparently, not just Latina ones either. They say it's impossible to be cast as "Caucasian" when you are Latina (just ask the veterans) but DelaRosa has already broken a few industry "standards." She has portrayed Native Americans, Caucasian, Jewish, Italian, French, Middle Eastern, Mexican, South American and of course, the classic LA girl.
LatinoLA.com Contributing Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez had an opportunity to speak candidly at length with Yvonne through an introduction from his friend producer Dennis Leoni. This is her first international interview. She is, no doubt, on her way to A-list acclaim.
AC: How is it that you started studying theater at the age of 5? I am assuming your parents were very supportive. Did you grow up on LA? What was your first performance ever?
YD: I guess my first performance ever was in elementary school and I had the role of Sheila in a "Chorus Line." I was like 8 years old! And I had this line where Sheila says in a really sexy tone "I'm going to be 30 real soon and I'm real glad". I can still remember the entire audience cracking up with laughter. I think that's when I realized I could make people laugh and I loved it!
The reason I got to study theater at such a young age was because when I was in elementary school, I was given an aptitude test of some kind, I'm not sure if it was because my teacher thought I was super smart or she was just tired of sending me to the corner for talking so much, but from that point on I was put into a gifted/talented category. Instead of going from teacher to teacher every year, I stayed with the same class and same teacher for most of my elementary school years. I had this most amazing flamboyant teacher who was obsessed with Broadway musicals.
As a class we would perform scenes from different musicals and twice a year we would put on an entire Broadway musical production for the entire school. I recall we would spend little time on the basics, like math, English, etc, because the majority of our day went to studying Broadway musicals. It's kind of funny. I was terrible at fractions but I could sing any song from any musical and I could also tell you who everyone was behind the scenes too, like the composer, the choreographer, even the costume designer. It was a pretty incredible way to grow up.
I think if my mom had known we were basically getting an education in musicals, she might not have been so supportive. Ha. But I will never forget how proud my mom and sister and grandparents were whenever they would be there in the audience for my plays and shows. So worth it.
AC: Did your culture inspire or inhibit your early successes? What was the exact moment when you made the decision that you would spend your life as an artist? What was the first thing you did when you made that decision?
YD: I remember the exact moment I knew I wanted to be an actress. It was 1st grade. Our teacher was reading Goldilocks and The Three Bears. She asked who wanted to come up and play the different roles. I raised my hand and ended up being the baby bear. Probably because I was brown and wasn't blond otherwise I should have been Goldilocks‘«™ Anyways, each bear said his line about their chairs and when it got to the part where the baby bear's chair was broken from Goldilocks, I cried real tears that my chair had been broken. The teacher was so impressed and the whole class applauded.
From that moment on I was hooked. As far as my early successes, I think my culture definitely inspired me. My grandmother was so full of life and would recite poetry to us every day, and every day she would always say with full dramatics "Pero que somos en la vida? Pobres actores del eterno drama. Sin quererlo venimos a la vida, sin saberlo salimos de la nada". She was a natural born star who never got a chance to shine. I guess I always wanted to honor her and would always dream of becoming an actress to make her proud.
AC: Who have been the greatest supporters and naysayers about your career goals? Did your looks work for you or against you?
YD: I think my looks have certainly helped me in many cases but it's a double-edged sword. You don't always get to play the roles you want because of the way you look. But that's okay for now. I have been very lucky to play a variety of characters all over the spectrum. From the fiery Mexican se??oritas, to free spirited Hippies and Native American roles. I've been Italian, Greek, and Middle Eastern. From sexy to hilarious to professional. Some roles can be glamorous but most are not.
The biggest naysayers to my career were probably some of my early boyfriends. Which is probably why I am not with them anymore‘«™ But by far my biggest supporters were always my family. My mom, my sister and my grandparents. My mom was a single mom and she worked two full time jobs to support us. I think she always was so supportive with my career goals was because she wanted me to live my dreams; something she didn't get a chance to do. She was never a stage mom. She just loved to see me and my sisters have adventures and have a great life. She grew up in a very strict household in Colombia, so I think she gave us so much freedom because she never had that. I'm so grateful for her and everything she did for us. A true selfless angel.
AC: Tell us about your years at the Hollywood Performing Arts High School? The experience seems really 90210...
YD: It was more like FAME than 90210. High school was great. Instead of English I took Shakespeare, instead of gym I had Modern dance and Jazz class. My teachers were so passionate about their craft and were very strict when it came to the theatre. I really value having had this rigorous education. It definitely taught me respect for my craft. But at the same time I was a bit of wild child. Well, ok, I was a total wild child. I would ditch classes and cruise Hollywood Blvd with my friends and buy beer at the one liquor store that I knew sold to minors. I was so bad.
At night when my mom was at work, my sister and I would sneak out and head down to the Sunset Strip and hang out with all the rock stars. We would get all dressed up and get into all the clubs like the Troubadour, The Whiskey, The Rainbow and Gazzari's. What a crazy childhood. I was 14 years old hanging out with all the guys from Poison, Guns and Roses and Motley Crue. We were like rock n' roll cultural icons. Not groupies, but an actual part of the whole scene. What a blast. But no matter what, I would always go to school the next day, wearing dark shades of course‘«™Somehow I got straight A's. I graduated with honors.
AC: How important is it for you to have earned BA in directing and a MA in screenwriting from UCLA? How hard was it for a Latina to make it through?
YD: So important. It was one of those things I had to prove, not just to myself but everyone else. I wanted to be the first in my family to attend college, and not just any college, but UCLA. I knew I wanted to study film because I had so much education in theatre that I wanted to expand my knowledge and passion to directing and writing. Everyone, and I mean everyone, told me it was impossible to get into UCLA film school. They would give me statistics like, "It's easier to win the lottery." And although this statistic is actually quite true, it made me want it even more.
I've always been blessed with a little good luck angel and sure enough, he came through again. I loved UCLA. Loved, loved, loved it. As a Latina I think the tide had shifted with regards to race and brown was the new white. UCLA was very supportive of ethnic stories and view points and it allowed me to express that side of me that I hadn't been able to before.
The hardest part of making it through film school, however, was not that I was Latina, but that I was a woman. I remember how I was such good friends with all my new classmates, but the day we all picked up a real movie camera and it was my day to direct, something major shifted. Suddenly all the guys felt really threatened and I remember feeling this awful feeling in my stomach, because I knew they felt like a woman was intruding on what they believed was "their" territory. It's hard to explain but through the years I've been told the same story by almost every woman brave enough to pick up a camera and say, "I'm the director." It's funny. I still remember that icky feeling.
But, like always, I love a challenge and didn't let it stop me. Because of my experiences at UCLA I know that I will someday focus my energies to directing once again and I still continue to write consistently. I've had many of my scripts optioned and have won a few awards for my shorts. Even though my acting has taken priority over the years, I know I'll revisit filmmaking very soon. I'm always thinking of new story ideas and TV shows and plays. It's definitely a lifelong ambition. I'm never going to quit. I have so many stories to tell, it would be a shame to stop now.
AC: Is your ultimate goal to write, direct, and produce your own projects? What kinds of stories do you want to tell that are seldom told?
YD: I love comedy. I've always written comedy and will continue to do so, but I have always had this yearning passion to write the stories my grandparents would tell me about an early Colombia. The Colombia of their day. So full of amazing experiences and beautiful places and lots of magic. My grandparent's stories always had a lot of magical surrealism to them but they were told as the God honest truth.
I am the descendent of a long line of Curanderas or natural healers. Growing up we never ever had any store medicines, not even a band-aid. All of our cures were natural and they all worked. I want to write about these stories and these natural cures and honor this amazing culture that my family came from. Growing up we had to hide the fact that we were Hispanic and especially Colombian because when my mom first came to this country she told people she was from Colombia and everyone would ask her if she made cocaine. My mom had never even had a drink in her life so to hear something like that from everyone, it made her really ashamed. And she didn't want us to go through the same discrimination that she often went through in so many other parts of her life. It wasn't until high school that I finally broke the family secret and let the world know that I was Colombian.
We had hid it our entire lives and were told never to tell where our family was from. Something came over me and I just knew I had to end this lifelong cover up. My mom came to see me in the high school musical that I was in and I introduced her to everyone as my mom... from Colombia. I remember seeing her face get a bit flushed, having had her secret exposed, but then everyone was so intrigued and loved it. The tide had shifted from when she had first arrived in America and being Latina and from Colombia, wow, how exotic and exciting. It was now finally seen as a great thing. We no longer had to hide who we were and where we were from. It brings tears to my eyes to this day when I remember how I saw the pride of her culture come back into her soul. To this day she tells everyone where she was born and she says it proudly.
AC: What is the reaction when you tell people about your serious industry academic credentials? Have you ever have to "dumb yourself down" in order to get a part from chauvinists?
YD: Most people are always impressed by my academic credentials. And honestly, for people who don't know me, there is always a tinge of surprise in their reactions. I think people still have these stereotypes in their head. If a woman is attractive and fun and wild, how can she be an academic? I love it. So, to answer your question of dumbing myself down to get a part, I think I've had to dumb myself down my whole life. It's almost like this character I've engrained into myself. It's fun, because occasionally I let my academia geek out and it's a great dichotomy. My friends call me the sexy super nerd...
AC: What was your first professional acting job and how did that come about? Are there any roles you will not take for moral or political reasons?
YD: I think my first professional acting gig was at the Odyssey Theater in LA. I was in the production of "The Chicago Conspiracy Trial" and I had one line as the role of Abbie Hoffman's wife, Anita. "Right on, Abbey!" That was my line. I got a tiny stipend that I used to pay for the gas in my motorcycle to get there.
As an actor, I don't believe there is any role I would not take. My job as an artist is to honor all characters. Although some are fictional, most characters come from a writer's life or subconscious. These characters existed in some form in real life and I feel it is my spiritual duty as an actor to embody anyone and anything in the name of artistic expression. They have to be well written however, otherwise all bets are off.
AC: Aside from racism, are you judged because of your stellar looks. You have been compared to Jane Russell. How do you feel about that? Is there pressure to become iconic?
YD: That is such an awesome actress to be compared to. In a world and business that was obsessed with skinny blonds at the time, or maybe still... Jane was the hot and curvy brunette bombshell who was also very exotic looking and on top of it all, was also very talented. I love that comparison. Thanks! I don't feel the pressure to become iconic. I love what I do but I also love my life away from the stage and the cameras. I'm a nature lover, a surfer, a traveler, a self expression enthusiast. I have a love/hate relationship with fame. I think it would be amazing to be an icon but I also fear the loss of my freedom. It's a thin, tight rope.
AC: Do you think you would get more work as maids and farm workers if you were less attractive?
YD: You are so sweet. Thank you for the compliment, but I have actually played both a maid quite a few times and a farm worker. There are probably tons of hot maids and farm worker chicks out there! That's kind of a stereotype that maids can't be attractive? They come in all shapes, looks, and sizes.
AC: What is your reaction to the word "stereotype?"
YD: My reaction is one of boredom. Really? Do we still have to stereotype anyone?. Tr?Ņs ennuyeux‎.
AC: Has being multi-lingual been helpful? Does offshore Spanish-language media offer you jobs?
YD: Being multi-lingual is one of the coolest things on earth. There are so many opportunities that open up for you and just getting to travel and communicate with people from different cultures in their own language is really awesome. There is a connection between people that you get when you reach out and learn their language. It's priceless. I have for sure gotten many gigs because I speak Spanish. I also speak French and am pretty darn good with Italian.
AC: You played many exotic and quirky roles. Do you search out the offbeat in order to test and demonstrate your abilities?
YD: I adore playing quirky roles and off beat roles. I think I often bring that quality to roles that don't even ask for it. But mostly those roles find me somehow. The world of showbiz still holds many kismet and fantastical experiences and the right role coming at the right time is one of those really cool things about this business.
AC: You won an Imagen award for your theatrical work. Which media platform are you most comfortable with?
YD: I love them all. I grew up in the theatre so the stage will always be my home, but it's a lot of hard hard work. They all are, but especially theatre. TV is great! I love it! It's fast and furious and really Zen in that way. You rehearse, you shoot, you move on. Film, on the other hand, is much slower. You don't have the same pressures you do in theatre and TV and you really get to discover a role as you go along. And screenwriting, oh Lord, the greatest curse is having the ability to write cause then you are condemned to do it or risk not having your stories told as correctly or as beautifully as you can tell them. It's a blessing and a curse for sure.
AC: Which would you like to do more of and why?
YD: I would love to do more film. I love TV and love working on a TV series and that will never change, but I like the idea of an audience sitting in the dark with their popcorn, wiping a tear from their face and being completed and fully immersed into the experience of seeing your performance. At home there are so many distractions. The movie theatre is still one of those places where you can really lose yourself for a few hours, as long as you're not texting or face booking.
AC: Tell us about the Dennis Leoni's "Los Americans" webisode experience. What do think of the internet as a media platform? Is it the wave of the future or flash in the pan?
YD: The internet is not the future, it's the present. Right here, right now. Most all of my friends don't even watch TV anymore, well not like they used to. They watch their favorite TV shows on their computers at their leisure. And because they're online, they surf the web for other cool things. You couldn't do that with a regular TV. Sure you can channel surf, but your choices are limited. Really limited.
We basically shot "Los Americans" like any other TV series but the budget was much, much less. The writing was fantastic and the directing, the production, the crew, the cast, all top notch. We had a really great time. I didn't know who was playing my husband until a few days before when I was getting fit for costumes. I asked who was playing my husband and the costume designer said Esai Morales. I was like "No way!" Esai and I have been friends for many years and it was because of Esai and his foundation, the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, that I really got a start in this business. They gave me a scholarship while I was in college and then every year invited me to this amazing gala in Washington DC where I have met everyone from Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton and then President Bill Clinton.
So, because of this foundation, I got to become friends with many stars that I admired - like Jimmy Smits and Sonia Braga and of course Esai. So to have it all come full circle and have Esai play my husband? What a trip! That's the magical part about show biz that I was talking about. So trippy.
YD: It's so awesome!!! "Los Americans" will be the first bus series ever, which is pretty darn cool if you think about it. It's definitely one for the history books. There was the first movie, the first talkie, the first documentary, the first web series, and now the first bus series.
Starting on September 5, 2011, Transit TV will air the series on their MTA bus screens for millions of viewers in Los Angeles. They will show short segments of the series throughout the week. The idea is also for people to continue watching at home on their computers or on their cell phones by going to the website for Los Americans where they can watch the full episodes all at once. I'm really excited about it. A few of us from the cast were going to hop on the bus once it airs and see if anyone notices us sitting there.
I grew up taking the bus in LA, so for me it holds a very special place in my heart. I guess we were the OG eco Latino family. But not necessarily by choice. I went to school every day on the bus and my mom would take me and my sister all over the city on weekends to places like the LA Zoo, LaBrea Tar Pits, Griffith Park, and Hollywood Blvd. The bus was our car, because we didn't have one growing up. My grandparents also took us everywhere on the bus. I hadn't been on a bus since high school, so watching myself on the screen while we rode around for the premiere celebration was kind of surreal. I'm sure my grandparents would be very proud. I know my mom is. She can't wait to ride on the bus just to see me.
AC: What has been the response to "Los Americans" and your portrayal of a middle class Latina wife who is known to kick butt?
YD: Ha. I love it. The response has been so overwhelming and amazing. People LOVE this series. I have gotten so much fan mail and face book requests from people who have watched the show and want to see more episodes. I think fans have really resonated with the role of Alma because she is not only a loving mother who keeps everything and everyone together, but she's honest and not afraid to be herself, even if that means yelling, crying, and occasionally kicking someone's ass.
As women and especially Latinas, roles are often very limiting. When I read the role of Alma, I fell in love with her. It was so refreshing to read the role of a woman who is not only very opinionated and tough and educated, but also sexy. Yay to Dennis Leoni for creating this honest character. It's been really amazing. Most people can't believe that "Los Americans" is a web series and not on a network. I think what most people request is that it get picked up by a network so their grandparents and non web watchers can see it on TV, old school style.
AC: What kinds of projects are you working on right now? Anything you are really excited about?
YD: I have a comedy series that I wrote and I will also be starring in. It's all very exciting and we are in the early stages so I can't tell you more right now, but soon. Very soon.
AC: Tell us about your work with animal rights. I understand you have a household of lovely pets.
YD: Our house is like a zoo. At one point we had 5 dogs, a cat, two goats and two birds. I wish I could have more, but in time I'm sure I will. My pets are my kids. I adore them and all animals. I think my first step as an animal rights activist was to consciously become a Vegan. I grew up a vegetarian, which was very unusual for Colombians, but that was how my grandma was raised and that is how she raised us. I'm so grateful for that. Not only was being a vegetarian a way of honoring our animal friends, but also one of the best things you can do to help the environment. It's a spiritual, environmental and health issue for me. I have protested and marched with fellow PETA groups and am very active in my community when it comes to wildlife rescue and preservation. All of my pets are rescues. They are my angels.
AC: How important is new media (Face book/Twitter) in changing the way things are done in Hollywood?
YD: Super important. There is definitely a new power and opportunity to reach out to a lot of people and get the word out on a great project or a cool band or an awesome series. It's a fantastic marketing tool for projects or people that might never have seen the light of day with traditional outlets. It's also a great way to stay in touch. But nothing replaces a face-to-face meeting or a phone call or word of mouth. These are ageless, timeless and honest. But I think new media will open many doors for amazing projects. It already has. It's a whole new world and an opportunity for artists in every disciple.
AC: And when it's all said and done, how would you like the world to remember you? What would you like your legacy to be?
YD: Oh my. What a great question. Let me close my eyes and think about this one. I want the world to remember me as a beautiful person inside and out who was also a talented actress who, against all odds. made her dreams come true. I'd like to then be remembered as a passionate advocate for the environment and animals and those without a voice; someone who actually made a difference in the world. Someone who moved people to laughter or tears with her performances and someone who, at the end of the day, was just super cool.