Rising Star Marita de Lara: Why we need a movement for cultural appreciation of differences
…Cultural appreciation of differences. My daughter was diagnosed with autism and ADHD. She’s considered twice exceptional. She’s one the smartest people I know. If I had to start a movement, it would be a movement towards empathy and inclusion via education. We are all trying our best.
As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marita de Lara. Marita is an American actress and comedienne. She recently starred as Kat in the award winning sci-fi series, “Sons of the Universe” and as Jocelyn in the indie film, “Bubble.” Marita originated the role of Pocahontas in the Disney/MGM stage musical, “The Spirit of Pocahontas. Other credits include General Hospital, The Shield and Days of Our Lives. As a comic, she’s been featured in clubs across the country including The Comedy Store, The Improv and Caroline’s NYC.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up in Baltimore, I had to navigate different ethnic and socioeconomic circles for survival. When people hear Baltimore, they always say, “You mean like The Wire?” Yeah, like the Wire, a Barry Levinson movie and a John Waters film. My Yiddish is on point.
My dad is a physician. When I was 7, he picked me up from school and had to race back to the hospital for an emergency and he had forgotten his doctor placard. I heard the siren and saw the flashing lights. He got pulled over for speeding. Remember, this was Baltimore in the 80’s. Dad panicked. As the officer approached the car, Dad turned to me in the backseat and said, “Follow my lead. Lie down. Pretend your diabetic.” My dad told the officer we had to get to the ER while I acted out insulin shock. The cop escorted us to the hospital.
I was always cutting school in high school. I was so good at impersonating my friends’ parents on the phone that I was the go to gal for fake parent calls to school. The power of acting!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
I was auditioning for this big national commercial where they wanted moms who could krump. Krumping is an aggressive battle form of hip-hop. I was a professional ballet and musical theatre dancer before acting. The audition was not in a safe dance studio, it had a concrete floor. I krumped so hard that I tore my ACL. That’s the main ligament that connects your upper leg to your lower leg. It sounded like a gun went off. I kept dancing and finished the audition. I thought for sure, I didn’t get this gig. And I need a hospital. I worked that commercial a week before i got my ACL replacement surgery. This was my big aha come to Jesus moment that I knew I was in this acting biz for life.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I went to Syracuse University for acting and musical theatre, we had to sing for the music department to assign voice teachers. I was 17 and I wore my favorite Soundgarden shirt that said, “Louder than F*#k” on the back. The conservative faculty did not appreciate my wardrobe. I learned that I should dress the part in the future. Oops. That said, I got the perfect voice teacher for me who thought it was hilarious.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I just wrapped on an indie film, “Bubble,” directed by Alyssa Lerner. It’s doing the festival circuit. It’s a coming of age story about the collapse of the housing market in 2008 seen through the eyes of a biracial, queer girl. The crew and creative team were primarily female. It was thrilling to work on material and in an environment that couldn’t have existed 3 years ago.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Famous person? I remember the day I met Oprah. My Baltimore Montessori pre-school was having a school fair. Oprah was behind me in line at the Filipino BBQ booth. She asked me if this was good BBQ. I said, “Yes ma’am.“ She bought a skewer and walked away.
When I was Pocahontas, we worked with the Make a Wish Foundation. I got to meet these amazing kids whose last wish was to meet a Disney princess. It was very humbling.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
- Live your life. Travel. Don’t put off starting a family or getting married because of your career. Life experiences can only enhance your storytelling. I’m a better actress because I’m a mom.
- Find another passion to feed your art: yoga, hiking, crafting, surfing. Something!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Cultural appreciation of differences. My daughter was diagnosed with autism and ADHD. She’s considered twice exceptional. She’s one the smartest people I know. If I had to start a movement, it would be a movement towards empathy and inclusion via education. We are all trying our best.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Get a business degree. Even if you go to school or conservatory for acting, the business side is an entirely different beast. It requires as much continuing education as the craft.
- The world and the industry will catch up with you. My parents and the people in my community were coming from islands where they were already multicultural and multiracial. We have indigenous roots. I had an abuela who spoke Spanish to me. TV and film didn’t reflect a multi-culti world until very recently.
- Enjoy the ride, but, don’t party too much. Enjoy the times when you get to sing, dance and act. Savor the good stuff.
- Drama belongs onstage or onscreen. Not in your real life. Like Mary J. Blige says , “No more drama.”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“What we think to be our greatest weakness can sometimes be our biggest strength.” -Sarah J Maas.
Too tall, too brown, too loud, too athletic, too funny, too much. The very things I got criticized for are my gold, now.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve been blessed with many angels in this life. My high school choir director, Mrs. Bishop, heard me singing in the bathroom and recruited me for the Bryn Mawr acapella group. I was running with a bad crowd and she got me to fall in love with music.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Shonda Rhimes. She writes women as strong, smart, feminine and imperfect and men as vulnerable. I am fascinated by her empire and all she has created. It’s a dream of mine to play a Filipina American doctor on a Shondaland show. I grew up with so many talented Filipino doctors and nurses and I would love to bring those untold stories to life.
How can our readers follow you on social media
on instagram @maritadelara