Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Prima J talk to Mimi Valdes Ryan of Latina Magazine!

Mimi Valdés Ryan, editor-in-chief of Latina magazine

1. What influences did you had growing up Latina that helped dictate the music you listen to?

When hip-hop was created in the Bronx in the ’70s, Latinos were right there alongside the African Americans and West Indians. I guess that would explain why I felt so connected to the sound the moment I heard MCs rhyme over beats. Whenever I saw people rap at NYC block parties, I was in awe. I was probably around 8 years old by the time Sugar Hill Gang's “Rapper's Delight” came out, and I was so happy to finally hear a song like that on the radio! By the time I got to high school, hip-hop was still my first love, but I also started to listen to freestyle music because it seemed like everyone singing it was Latino! I especially loved Lisa Lisa (she was from my neighborhood), Cover Girls and TKA.

2. Tell me about your family and how instrumental they have been to your success.

I’m Puerto Rican and Cuban, and I was raised by my mom and grandmother. Growing up with women taught me how to be independent. If something needed to be done, we had no choice but to figure out how to do it ourselves. My grandmother, who passed away last year, was especially instrumental in teaching me about my culture. Although my mom didn’t want anyone in my family to speak to me in Spanish, my grandmother ignored her! She spoke to me in her native tongue and I answered in English. I’m grateful I picked up what I could from her. She also taught me a lot of about embracing all aspects of our culture, especially my African roots. Since my grandmother was a black Latina, some light-skinned Latinos were racist toward her, but she stayed proud of her skin. Although my own is lighter than hers was, I still consider myself black like her.

3. Being Latina and pursuing your aspirations of being in the entertainment industry, what did you find to be encouraging/discouraging?

I never once thought my ethnicity would get in the way of being in the entertainment industry. Maybe I was naïve, but it never crossed my mind that I would not succeed. Growing up in NYC gave me a lot of confidence. You hear all the stories of people coming here and making it, so I just couldn’t see how a native New Yorker would not.

4. Have you ever had any instances where you have been discriminated against?

My brushes with discrimination were mostly because of my gender and less about my ethnicity. Some men are very intimidated by women in power. I guess it makes them insecure about their own accomplishments. I went to an all-girls Catholic high school and we were always taught that women can do anything. The most important lesson to learn when you are discriminated against is not to dwell on the situation. It’s a waste of time to feel hurt, and your energy is best used to move on. Focus your attention on being positive, not on negative idiots.

5. What are some of the cultural differences here in NY verses your hometown?


6. What are your strongest musical influences?

Too many to name! My favorite music is still hip-hop, but I also listen to R&B, pop, rock, salsa, alternative, anything that sounds good—I don’t discriminate!

7. Did you attend college, and if so where and for what? Why was it important for you to attend?

I graduated from New York University with a degree in journalism. I've loved magazines since I was a little girl and I desperately wanted to work at one. College gave me a great foundation for my craft and it helped discipline me for the real world. Whenever I was in classes that seemed useless for my career, I just reminded myself that if I could get good grades in subjects I wasn’t interested in, I could handle anything! It’s not easy to study things you don’t like, but if you can train yourself to concentrate and still do well, it will prepare you for life’s harder challenges.

8. What was your backup plan if the entertainment industry didn’t work out?

Law school. My plan B was to become an entertainment lawyer.

9. Prima J use the word “chilosa” to describe themselves. What does it mean and how do you apply it to your everyday life?

“Chilosa” is such a great word! When I hear it, I picture someone who's confident and fun. I’m all for working hard, but I think it’s absolutely necessary to enjoy life too. All work and no play is way too boring for me. Not very chilosa at all!

10. What advice would you give to other young people who are pursuing their dreams?

Do your research! Too many people don’t do their homework about their career goals. If you want to work in magazines, make sure you learn everything you can about them. If a singing career is your dream, then make sure you learn the business side of things too. Believe me, most people fail because they weren’t prepared!

11. At what point did you become comfortable with yourself?

If you’re always comfortable, never pushing yourself, then you might as well be dead! No matter your age, you’re constantly learning who you are. New experiences may help shape you in ways you never thought were possible. The trick is to become comfortable with the fact that you’re always evolving and that you will make mistakes. No one’s perfect, and that’s part of what makes life fun.

1 comment:

Scott McLean said...

This seems like a very cool blog.