Although Stephanie Beatriz is best known for playing no-nonsense detective Rosa Diaz in Brooklyn Nine-Nine and voicing Mirabel Madrigal in “Encanto”, the Argentine American actress is also an advocate for women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and communities. marginalized.
Most recently, Beatriz partnered with McDonald’s to launch Spotlight Dorado, a new platform aimed at showcasing Latin American voices in film and increasing Latin American representation in the industry, which currently stands at just 1 %. This statistic is alarming considering that Latinos make up nearly 20% of the US population. Spotlight Dorado began with a short film competition, where three finalists were chosen to receive $75,000 in funding to bring their stories to life.
After their films are made, the public will have the opportunity to vote for the grand prize winner. The big price ? A year-long mentorship with industry leaders and an opportunity to work with McDonald’s on future creative projects. Of course, we love that.
Beatriz is just one of many mentors who will help the winner succeed, with others such as director Carlos López Estrada and writer Nancy C. Mejía supporting McDonald’s long history of championing the voices of Latino community.
mitu had the chance to chat with Beatriz about how this project came about, why representation is so important, and where to start if you have a great story to tell.
Tell us a bit more about Spotlight Dorado. What inspired it and what has the process been like so far?
Spotlight Dorado is essentially uplifting the next generation of Latino filmmakers and giving them an opportunity they sometimes don’t have, which is to achieve their cinematic dreams. I’m really excited to be a part of this program as I feel like this is a driving change in an industry that needs more representation.
We know we’ve made progress in the entertainment industry, it’s undeniable because we’re having this conversation right now, but there’s still a lot to do. I mean, we are 20% of the American population and we constitute less than 1% of the stories told by Hollywood. I just knew it was a no-brainer when McDonald’s came to me with this. I said to myself: “I have to get involved! How can I be involved? And I wanted to be involved, which I think is a really special thing about this program.
We are really doing something very different. Not only do you award these finalists $75,000 each to create these shorts, but they also receive one-on-one mentorship from people in the industry like me. We’ve all already started our careers and are progressing in the film and entertainment industry, so we’ll be here to answer questions and guide them in any way, shape or form possible, because many of us were alone on this travel.
In addition to this, one of the finalists will be chosen as the grand prize winner and will also have a professional opportunity with McDonald’s. So it’s really about supporting cinema and filmmakers on many levels to help them continue to progress in their careers.
As a mentor, what do you hope to instill in these up-and-coming Latinx filmmakers?
There were a lot of lessons that I had to learn during my career. I started out in theater and then moved on to television and film, and those two things have a lot of similarities and a lot of differences. One of the things I’ve learned over and over again is that it pays to have a support system, to ask questions and to show up and do the hard work.
I think [these filmmakers] are going to get that experience from being in the middle of producing their movies, but I also want them to know that they have people who are there to support them, because sometimes it can feel very isolating being an artist. The thing you often forget is that there is a whole network of people, many of whom are working on the same project as you, who want you to succeed. So, that’s something that I’m really excited to share in small and big ways with the three finalists.
I had very good mentors in my career, a lot of theater actresses and especially older actresses, who had already gone through all the phases of their career that I was going through. And many of them gave me a ton of good advice. A lot of it was about not letting your fears take over your possibilities, and sometimes it was just the simple stuff.
You know, sometimes you have a conversation with a mentor or even a friend, and they just tell you something that clicks. But it’s because you had access to this conversation and you were able to be honest and vulnerable about something that means so much to you, and in doing so, you learned something that stuck with you forever.
One of my favorite memories is working with Vilma Silva, who is a Latin actress, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I’ll never forget when I expressed my nervousness about auditioning for some of the leads at the Shakespeare Festival, and she said, “Well, why wouldn’t you be a lead? Shakespeare is for you, it’s for all of us,” and it was the first time I had heard an older Latina actress tell me that I could absolutely do Shakespeare.
She asked me: “Why not you?” And I’ve applied that so many times in my career, “Why not me?” So those are the kinds of things that I really hope to share with these filmmakers when we have these serious, real conversations as they go through this process.
What was it about the stories of the three finalists that made them so compelling?
Reading the synopses of each movie, they’re all really different and that’s one of the things that I think it’s really important to remind people: Latinos aren’t a monolith, there are so many types different from us. I’m going to quote Clayton Davis, who is one of my favorite writers and a Latino, and he wrote, “Latinos aren’t culturally ambiguous. Latinos are 500 million people spread all over the world. Find out about us. And that’s what really struck me about these filmmakers, that each of them had a very distinct voice. [Latinos] have a lot of different voices, with so many different things to say, and I think that’s exactly what you’re going to see when these filmmakers start bringing their stories to life.
Why do you think representation is so important?
Well, if you can’t see it, you can’t be. I don’t remember where this quote came from, but another version of it is from one of my favorite musicals, “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, which is “Don’t dream it, be it “. And I think for a lot of us as human beings, we’re on this journey of being alive on the planet, and we’re looking around, saying, “Am I all alone? Am I the only one feeling this, is it so? And art is a wonderful way to connect with our fellow human beings and it is in the specificity of these stories that we find our own humanity reflected on us and our connection to each other.
If a story is only told by the same kind of people over and over again, and the heroes of those stories only look a certain way, and talk a certain way, and have a certain hair color or of skin, so what about the rest of us? Aren’t we the heroes of the story? Where do we belong? So, by combining the specificity of the stories that should be told with the visibility of different types of people as heroes, this is where we begin to connect with our fellow human beings and create empathy for those who don’t. don’t look like.
What does it mean to you to be Latina?
It’s a big question. It means a myriad of things. It’s who I am. To paraphrase Wanda Sykes, it’s not like I can put it in a box and leave it somewhere. It’s part of my heritage, my story, my DNA — literally! I did DNA tests and that’s it, everything is listed on the board! It is part of the story of my ancestors, it is the struggle and the celebration of those who came before me, it is the pride and it is also the hope for the future. It’s all of those things rolled into one.
What advice would you give to a young Latino or Latina with a great story to tell?
Determine how you want to say it. Do you want to write a book about it? Do you want to create a TV show about it? Want to make a movie out of it? Maybe it’s a work of art that you literally want to paint, or maybe it’s an installation, or maybe you want to tell it through dance, or through music, maybe. be you want to write an album!
The expression of your story is so individual, and it can be told in so many different ways and there is room for it all. Just because something was done a certain way doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it that way. Some styles of art weren’t accepted when they were created, and people thought those artists weren’t up to it, but now we all go to museums and look at that art because we understood with the time and distance how amazingly good they were. these artists were, even if they weren’t celebrated in their time because they were doing something different. So figure out what you want to do, then do it.
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