<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1747911118815584&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Filmmaker Ana Lydia Monaco, advertising president Ingrid Otero-Smart share what it means to be a Latina in entertainment

October 15, 2021
4 min read time

When filmmaker Ana Lydia Monaco went to get a haircut from a new hairstylist, she didn’t expect her to be a Guatemalan woman. It was the first time she had ever had her hair cut by a fellow Latina. After sitting down for the session, the hairstylist asked Monaco what she did for a living. 

"I’m a filmmaker," Monaco replied.

"Why can’t Hollywood make movies that are not just about immigration?" Monaco recalled the woman saying. "We are so much more." 

Monaco paused and looked at her before agreeing, "Amen, sister!"

The reality is that Latinx creatives have been pushing for diverse representation of their identity in the media for a long time. The Latinx community is so broad and holds a diverse range of experiences. Yet, media portrays the same stories over and over again, turning Latinx characters into one-dimensional voices that act as backboards to their white counterparts. This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month dawns the same question we ask about the film industry every year: where is the authentic Latinx representation? 

Monaco is one of the Latinx filmmakers trying to address the question. Navigating the film and media industry as a Latina requires flexibility and resilience, two things Monaco is no stranger to. She took an untraditional path through public relations, eventually finding her passion in film.

"This is something I've been working toward my entire life,” she said.

"By no means I'm not where I want to be yet. It didn't happen overnight. It's been years in the making." 

She applied and got into film school, ultimately focusing her career path on sharing Latinx perspectives. 

"What I've really been focused on, is telling a Latino perspective, or telling a general story with Latinos," Monaco said.

"Because we were not just about you know, trauma, or poverty or immigration — that we have so much more, that we contribute to society and how we get represented is very important." 

When she is prompted with questions about how her work is Latinx, she replies by asking what that even means. She understands that the person questioning her is looking for the trauma and struggle of being Latinx in her stories. The reality is, trauma does not make or break a Latinx narrative.

"Give us some joyful films with our people at the lead and our people behind the camera," Monaco said.

"It's going to change the narrative about who we are because people react to us and treat us the way they see us. And if they've seen us as the maid and the gardener, or people who can’t leave their experiences behind, that's how we’re going to be treated." 

As Latinx creatives, we have to make the opportunities on our own because we cannot wait for things to happen and come our way. Ingrid Otero-Smart, president and CEO of Casanova//McCann, knows from a PR perspective how vital it is for people to maneuver the entertainment industry as a Latina.

"Point flexibility has to be key," she said.

"In order to get from Point A to Point B, on a straight line, most of us have to go around. And you have to be prepared for this. Be open to that." 

Otero-Smart knows firsthand that being a Latina in the entertainment industry requires flexibility, but it also requires communal support. She uplifts people like Monaco and encourages them to push forward and reach their dream role.

"Women like us in the entertainment industry are not handed opportunities," she said.

"She's had to create those. Even though she's [Monaco] a director and a writer, she's now working as a line producer, because that's the opportunity and she's grabbing." 

There is more that goes into being in a writers room than what one would think, according to Monaco. Gigs in the writers room may only last a few months, and Monaco encourages Latinos who may be struggling to make it there to expand their work. She said anything from line producing to writing copy for a website can help pay the bills while the next project brews.

"There are so many opportunities out there," she said.

"You can still be a storyteller, you can still be a writer, but it may not be on that TV show. It may be something else, and that should still fill that creative want that you have." 

For example, while Monaco may be line producing, she just made history in a large documentary project at the Smithsonian Latino Center. The documentary on the family of Dr. C. David Molina, a health care leader in California, is now permanently on display in the museum’s film collection.

"I was blown away when I went into the gallery space and all the snippets that we had created for the gallery were all surrounding the space," Monaco said.

"All my work — as soon as you walked in, you were immersed in the interviews and in the visual story of it all." 

Opportunities to embrace culture of the Latinidad in creative work opens up a welcoming space for Latinx people. At Casanova//McCann, an advertising agency that focuses on sharing Latinx stories, Otero-Smart remembers bringing on interns and welcoming them to the world of Latinx marketing. Every year, she visits universities like California State University, Fullerton to allow partners to speak with students and motivate them to get into advertising. One intern they brought on found the space so welcoming that she could embrace her identity unapologetically.

"She said this was the first time that she felt she could be herself in a company because she had never interned in a Hispanic agency before," Otero-Smart said.

"She said, 'This is the first time I feel I can be my full self at work.' And that's a big deal." 

About 50% of Los Angeles County is Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. Census. Despite the population teetering on being the majority of the population in the county, entertainment media continually fails to represent that impact onscreen and behind the camera. Monaco and Otero-Smart are leading Latina leaders in media who push for other creatives to contribute to changing the trend in media. 

We continually ask "where is the authentic Latinx representation?" 

We proclaim that "we are so much more," just like Monaco’s hairstylist said. 

Otero-Smart said it is a matter of speaking up and persevering.

"Don't be shy, speak up," she said.

"It's not something that we're necessarily taught as we grow up, not just as a Hispanic person, but as women — as Latinas. We're not taught in our young age to speak up for ourselves and we need to do more of that. And as we do that, we also need to bring others along with us."

Share

Save on Screenwriting Software Today!

Screenwriters want to write without worrying about formatting. Final Draft, the industry standard screenwriting software, is the tool the pros rely on. Make sure your script looks professional - save on Final Draft today!

Final Draft 12

FOR TV, FILM, & PLAYWRITING PROFESSIONALS

The brand-new Final Draft 12 includes over 100 templates for TV, film, and playwriting.
Shop Now

Final Draft 12

UPGRADE FROM ANY PREVIOUS VERSION

Own Final Draft 11 or earlier? Upgrade to Final Draft 11 and start enjoying all the new features at nearly 40% off the regular price.
Shop Now