Everything I would have liked to know.
I recently met a charming participant of the Miss Dominican Republic 2017 Contest, a theater student who enrolled in the event full of hope, now disappointed to see how things work within this beauty world. I tried to guide her as best as I could so she wouldn't get discouraged, I told her everything I would have liked to know when I was in her place; it reminded me a lot of my fish out of the water experience in 2012. It turns out we share cultural backgrounds, we are both Dominican-Italian, and we both love acting. Just like this girl, as a teen I started taking small steps within the audiovisual industry, a vocation that I paused during my year as Miss Dominican Republic Universe, because of all the responsibilities I assumed under the title.
Something that worried her was whether her participation would open doors in the film industry, big international stars such as Sophia Loren, Oprah Winfrey, Sharon Stone, Halle Berry, and the current Wonder Woman Gal Gadot were Misses. Locally, icons like Milagros Germán, Mariasela Álvares, and Miralba Ruíz were also beauty queens and have careers worth admiring. But I dare to think that not all of your success is due to your participation in beauty contests. There is a level of hard work behind achieving your goals that goes beyond how you do in beauty contests. A crown does not make your path easier. It's no shortcut.
In my case having participated in beauty contests made my goals as a filmmaker and interpreter a real challenge. I was very clear about the type of actress and filmmaker I wanted to be. After the contest I was offered roles that I discarded because they were only going to sink me more into the beauty queen label, and as a filmmaker it has taken a lot not to be only known as a beauty queen.
I hope to have answered the question my dear actress collegue Nayibe Tavares-Abel left in the last article "being a beauty queen really labels you for life, which is difficult to leave behind as an actress because they always look for you for the role of “the cute girl” or “airhead”. How has your experience been?"
Clearly I don't identify with the doll-like woman promoted by the beauty industry...
As much as I try to turn the page, and even though many have expressed on the internet in a crude way that I do not fit the model that defines female beauty; 5 years after my participation, I still receive questions and comments about that stage of my life. Some comments I have never known whether to take as an insult or as a compliment. Instead of wasting my energy letting destructive criticism affect me, I take these opportunities to try to contribute to the initiative behind breaking the rules that this industry has created, norms that mark physical standards that in one way or another influence every woman.
I would have loved to be clear from the start that beauty is very subjective. Is it worth reaching the standards of beauty according to society, if that oppresses what makes you really be you? I am not skinny, I have curves, I am big, I have mixed factions product of mix races, and there is nothing bad with that because there is not a single type of beauty. Do not let anyone make you feel despised.
I cannot think of one thing that the contest director did not want to change of me, she created insecurities that I did not have, the opposite of what a good mentor or advisor should do. It was unfortunate that the pressure I received made me feel uncomfortable with my body that does not comply with "beauty rules", but I am grateful that after this experience I discard them, I am more real, and that makes me happy. My experience in this pageant world was definitely not in vain.
My life after becoming Miss RD changed. I understood in more depth the influence that not only beauty contests have but also magazines, movies, TV, and social media. I saw how I am the result of what I was exposed to as a child. This experience provoked me to focus on leaving a good legacy in every step I give.
After being typecasted,
it took me years of work to break away. I finally finished writing my first feature film in 2016, In the same year I produced it and even had the opportunity to play a role in this independent project I made with the collective effort of my friends. It's a quirky story about a boy named Josue, who before graduating from high school focuses on conquering his best friend. It has a release date in 2018, and I cannot be more ecstatic for it to be at the movies already, so I can get the chance to share with everyone the result of years of dedication.
My calling to work in film was very similar to the reason why I was struck in first instance by the reigns: my admiration for strong, extroverted, and confident women, like those great classic actresses; For example Audrey Hepburn who was the Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and at the same time gave deeply human and inspiring interpretations through the screen. It made me want to take acting classes to overcome my shyness, to know myself more, to dare to be and to let my imagination fly without parameters, I also somehow wanted to contribute to my community. Something that the film industry has made possible and stimulated. Here we celebrate diversity, textures, nuances, feelings, it is really inspiring . The Dominican film industry has been open to making all kinds of films, highlighting different realities and capturing how colorful we are in this country. Developing within this area has helped me to be, not pretend, and be proud of who I am.
I feel in my waters as an actress and screenwriter, and in the future I would love to continue exploring directing films. I just studied Directing Actors in San Antonio de los Baños Cuba, and I have plans to direct a project that I am developing: A film based on the experiences of several girls who have occupied the place of Miss Dominican Republic, who like me have felt pressured to fit into an unreal mold.
If you enjoy what you do and you do it from the heart, you will touch people...
and in addition you will generate a domino effect full of positivism, allowing you to feel and tear down those walls that we have built throughout our lives to "protect ourselves". Trying to keep myself authentic by showing myself as I am with all my faults, not only on a physical level, has made me deeply connect with others.
Let us try to contribute to a better world by starting the change in ourselves, each day learning to be better human beings, whatever the field in which we develop. For me the cinema is a language that allows us to portray the reality in which we live, allows us to give strength to our voices, to see our stories, images that unite us all. There is a great responsibility as creators of images, not only is a method of entertainment, is also a tool that can make us evolve, teaching the world what happens to people, who we are, and who we want to be. I am very proud to work within the film industry. Similarly, however uncomfortable the situation was during my reign, I do not regret it, because I take very seriously my role as a defender and propeller of a sincere view of woman. The soul has no color or form, and reaching your maximum potential depends on no one but you.