Sep 29, 2020
Actress, author, and activist, Selenis Leyva believes that the desire to perform is something that you’re born with, a passion that lies within your genes. Born in the Bronx, it was clear from the start that Selenis had a thirst for learning the craft when at age 14, she asked to use the school auditorium to create a drama class for herself and a group of her fellow classmates. Today, she recalls a defining moment in her youth where she was told that her dream of pursuing education in the arts was “not for you” and how this pivotal moment gave her the motivation to go forward with the mindset of “Just watch me.”
Selenis captivated audiences with her riveting and layered performance as Gloria Mendoza in Netflix’s hit show, “Orange is the New Black.” What started as a dayplayer role that her agent advised her to pass on, became a fully fledged character she created off of a breakdown that simply read, “Gloria Mendoza, Latina.” Today, we’ll hear about her journey navigating an industry where Selenis recognized a lack of Latinx representation on screen and how that was reflected early on in her career in the types of roles she was called in for. Over the course of her 20 year career, Selenis has continued to challenge the idea of what others labeled as “not for you” and has used her platform to shine a light on the stories of others who are often excluded from the table. She has achieved this not only on screen, but also through the publishing of a book co written with her sister, Marizol Leyva, titled, “My Sister: How One Sibling’s Transition Changed Us Both.”
Selenis has a kindness and self confidence that radiates to those around her when sharing advice for up and coming actors. Above all else, she emphasizes the importance of believing in yourself. With self respect and self love, she says, that’s all that’s needed to want the best for yourself and to settle for nothing less.
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