Inspiring Latina: Brittany Maldonado

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Brittany Maldonado is an actress, painter, poet and writer. The Puerto Rican artist, has dedicated her life to expression in all art forms.  “Art, whether it was through words or painting, has always been my means of expression,” she says. She looks to artists such as Salvador Dali and Lauren Velez for inspiration. Currently, she is working on a play written by Latino playwright Jose Rivera

Read on to find out what inspires her, her latest project and how she overcame her struggle with her own body image issues through writing, performance and painting. "Instead of keeping all the  pain in, I could write about it, perform it, and use the experience as strength to move on."

How do you keep busy?

"[I work as] the executive assistant at a Bronx-based organization [but that is] by no means my profession or what I 'do'. I am an artist. Always have been, always will be."

Did you always know you wanted to do this kind of work?

"Working in an office? Definitely not. I'm a chameleon so I can definitely blend in anywhere, but corporate is certainly not for me. I want to feel like the work I am doing is directly helping or inspiring someone, or a group of people. I've always wanted to get into social work, and that dream isn't entirely gone, but right now I am focusing on my art."

What artists do you look to in the Latino Community that inspire you?

"My idol is Salvador Dali. He was an artist in every sense of the word. He was permanently situated outside the box. Created against convention and painted the world as he saw it. He had no interest in what people thought of him, or his work, and he followed his own truth. To me that is an artist. I'm inspired by a lot of Latino writers: Paulo Coelho, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Pablo Neruda, and the list goes on. It's amazing to see these mind-blowingly talented writes creating this literature that has transcended genres, generations, communities, countries, everything. Some of Coelho's books have gotten me through really rough patches in my life, and the power of word never ceases to amaze me. As for the stage, Lauren Velez is someone I truly admire. I always enjoyed her as a film and TV actress, it is always great to see Latinas on the big screen, but it wasn't until I saw her star in 'They Call Me La Lupe' that I was completely blown away."

Tell us about the work you are doing?

"Right now I am working on building my portfolio. Eventually I want to go back to school to get my Master's degree. I paint whenever I get a free moment, and write as much as I can (usually really late at night, when the most inspiration comes). I do some poetry performances around NYC and I'm part of an artist collective that holds regular exhibits, so I'm usually creating something for that. I decided that I wanted to take a shot at directing and producing, so I am in the process of securing a space and getting a production team together and then hopefully if all goes as planned I can get it up and running by February of 2013. Keeping my fingers crossed.”

What kind of paintings do you do?

"I wanted to create images that corresponded to the pieces I was writing. That's how it all started at least. So my first painting I wanted to focus on the body issues that I, and thousands of other women, have. I wanted to created the body as it is, 'imperfect'. [Women] from early on, are told to idolize these rail thin models, because that is 'perfection'. One day I was looking at a Victoria's Secret [catalog], and thinking to myself 'So this is what perfect looks like huh?' I started to cut out images from these magazines. Legs, arms, stomachs, hair, etc., and I started to collage. I wanted to create 'imperfect' bodies, using 'perfect' ones. That is how it all started. I painted these women. This turned into my body series, which developed into commentary on the new obsession with curves and thickness (like Kim Kardashian). Although it is good that thickness is now being embraced, it's thickness, curves but....you still need to have a flat stomach. This isn't the case for all curvy women."

Do you get scared when you present your work? How do you overcome the fear?

“Of course. I don't see how someone couldn't. My work is a reflection of the most vulnerable parts of my self, and I am putting it on display to the public. It's very personal. You feel naked. I get over this by trying to have complete faith in myself and in my work. My work is me. Some people will love it, some people won't, but it's honest, and it's me. I embrace the positivity, and any negativity I use for growth.”

You mentioned you are part of a poetry collective that performs at different venues all over NYC, and an artist collective, that holds monthly exhibitions around different themes. Can you tell us more about that?

“The poetry collective is a group of poets that recently formed, and is in the process of building itself up. We hit a lot of open mics, and produce some of our own shows. The NYC poetry scene is huge, so we are establishing ourselves, one show at a time. The artist collective I am a part of is called The X Collective, and it is a Bronx based artist collective. You can find us at thexcollective.org. “

Can you tell us about your performance in the Occupy Wall street rendition of the Vagina Monologues?

“That was an amazing experience for me. I got to work with the woman who wrote the Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler, which is something I will never forget. It was such a powerful moment in time, to work with a group of such intelligent, powerful and artistic women."

Is it difficult for you to find roles as a Latina Actress?

“Yes. Yes. Yes. Even in college it was hard to find roles that I felt fit me. Its frustrating. The first role I landed in college was as a maid, who of course was sleeping with my bosses husband. Come on....really? These are the types of rolls for Latinas? I wish what you looked like didn't matter in theater, but it does. It matters a great deal. You have to look the part. That's the business. There have been times when a person has gotten a roll over me because they 'looked more like the character.' It's frustrating, and hard to not get discouraged.”

It seems like you really go after what you want, and make things happen.  What advice do you have for young Latina’s that wish to do the same thing?

“Just do it. Don't doubt yourself, not even for a second. We need more powerful, intelligent, creative Latinas out there! Do it! Think outside the box. If you don't succeed, don't get discouraged. You have just tried a way that didn't work. Try again. Challenge yourself. Believe in yourself. It all starts there.”

Know of an inspiring Latina? Nominate her at inspiringlatinas@latina.com

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