Interview with Lauren Arevalos 💭
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was raised in Texas by a young single mother. She definitely had a prowess about her. She was passionate, unconventional and a free thinker. Being raised by a strong woman really changes your point of view in life. You see your mother struggle and your future becomes a pursuit of chasing success so you can take that strain off of her. Ethnically I’m a variation of latin cultures, Spanish, Mexican and Puerto Rican - and I feel ties to them all. I feel like I’m very much from this land, I feel ties to the islands and I feel a strong european connection; which can be very confusing when you’re trying to connect with others in your culture. I sometimes feel pulled in many directions but to deny myself of any part of my heritage would be a disservice to understanding myself. This can be tricky in the latino community where everyone is very proud of their roots. I just happen to be rooted many places. It sometimes makes me feel like I’m a mixed race because I don’t fit in any one box and on top of that, I’m a non Spanish speaking American. Professionally, I have a non traditional background, I didn’t go to college. I never even liked school. I made good grades but I always felt I was going against something inside of me by being there. In San Antonio I was told art isn’t a future and I pushed away any artistic inclinations so I’d be able to build a future. Eventually I made my way to Cleveland where I told a lie to get a an advertising internship at a music magazine. That led me to the entertainment industry and eventually back advertising. I felt like I had something to say and if I could only broadcast it to the rest of the world, it might help change it for the better. I’ve alway had the need to serve others. I’ve had more than my share of blessing and feel when God blesses you, it’s your duty to serve those around you. Now I’m struggling to find my identity as a creative. Professionally and privately I’m seen as one but the funny thing is there isn’t anything I do that’s creative. I dance, I write, I style and photograph.. I dabble in things I guess. I think the biggest thing I do as a creative is inspire people around me. By that I mean, I see the world differently and that stirs people to see it differently too. Many times I’ve had people tell me I inspired them to go to college, move across the country or change jobs. Being able to do that made me realize art is not something you do particularly well, it’s something you are.
You’ve lived in many cities in the USA, how has your experience been living in these places as a latina?
How people view you really depends on what part of the country you are in. I didn’t know that when I first moved to Ohio. There was a large concentration of whites with a strong Irish culture. Nobody looked like me and there were many differences between my anglo friends and me. It was a big culture shock but I like to think I opened them up to people of my culture. They saw me as different but different was cool. I stood out and people were interested to know who I was. All they knew before was what they saw on tv. I made a lot of good friends there. LA was a bit different, there’s a large latin community but what’s funny is there is such a divide between latinos and everyones else. It was the first time I’d seen latinos working mostly labor jobs. In Texas it’s both whites and hispanic. I definitely felt some animosity on the latino front. On one hand I feel it’s rightfully so because we’re so oppressed, on the other, I feel like you deserve to be anywhere you want to be especially if you’re different. You have to move yourself out of those comfort zones and really challenge yourself. Not saying latinos don’t do that but I feel like sometimes you’re so used to taking what you’re given, you never really know what you can accomplish until you take risks and do something nobody else is doing. That’s kind of been my message to my family and friends back home but I can only speak for myself. It’s all subjective I suppose. Everyone has their own idea of success. All I’m saying is nobody should be afraid to want more. And yes it’s hard but it’s also worth it.
Can you tell us a little bit about your experiences in the corporate world, how do you (or not) fit in?
Growing up in Texas you dream of moving to a big city and having a really important job. That’s the epitome of success in a small-ish town. It’s a sign that you’ve made it or at least I thought that for a really long time. It was important that I did and I prove to myself I was capable, regardless of my past or where I came from. Now having been there, I realize it’s not what I thought it was. I can honestly say there are a lot of people sitting in those positions who are unhappy but now they’re stuck in this life they managed to build for themselves. Being hispanic I always felt I was an outsider in social groups who weren’t exposed to my culture. In the corporate world it’s even rarer. I would say out of every 100 people there was two who were latin and none held high level positions. It’s just doesn’t exist. It worries me because I really feel it’s how hispanics are portrayed through the media that keeps us from acquiring that success. Anytime I see latin characters on television I think, that’s nothing like my life. Most of it is embellished to fit the stigma everyone expects to be true, but it’s not - it’s all false. That’s really frustrating because if we’re not being seen for our truth, we continue to be victims of lies. At multiple companies I worked at the only other latinos were in housekeeping. The ones always doing the dirty jobs and paid the least amount of money. Amounts of money that would be impossible to care for yourself let along a family. It was really disturbing to see but even more so was when I noticed that was the norm in the majority of companies. I once recommended a latina friend for a job and when I inquired about why she wasn’t being considered was told she looked to ‘strippery’ because she was attractive, curvy and stood out amongst everyone else - both sexist and racist. Another thing about being latina that not many people understand is how subjected to sexual advances you are. Because you look a certain way people oversexualize you and think it’s normal to call you ‘mami’ or comment on your body shape. I experienced that both in and out of the corporate world and lost faith anyone would actually see me for my personality or work ethic. Latinos are passionate people, whatever it is they do, they do it with passion and that’s what the world is still unable to see. When you exclude other cultures you forfeit your ability to grow and learn. America is still very much a young country and this is an opportunity for it to improve as a respected world leader. How long that will take is up to the people.
Can you tell us about Hunny
Hunny is my dog, my soulmate, my protector, my best friend and an extension of myself. She’s been a constant in my life for 15 years and now she’s transitioning on and we won’t have much more time together. I know most people think you can’t learn anything from a dog but she’s taught me so much. She’s taught me how to love, be loved, take care of someone and appreciate them while you have them. She loves me when I was feeling lost and at my worst and it’s so beautiful. I feel like I want to be more like her. I value every moment we have together and now when I’m around the people I love, I remember I need to love them like that too. Most things in life are fleeting so we have to really live in the moment. That’s what we spend our time doing now, being together, being present.
[Interview by Mari Santa-Cruz & Alexandra Butrón-Landviar || Photos by Alexandra Butrón-Landivar]