Dreaming Big with Julissa Calderon of Buzzfeed

Julissa entering out to Sia’s, “Alive”, before breaking bread with the MC for the evening, Veronica Chapman.

If there is one thing I know, it’s that Buzzfeed producer Julissa Calderon is a whole mood! The beautiful Afro-Latina was the featured guest for the October 17th edition of BREAD Boston’s Start Up Classroom. This being her first time to Boston, she was met by large crowd of eager creatives, entrepreneurs and Buzzfeed fans at the Roxbury Innovation Center. The stylishly dressed Calderon is widely known for producing viral videos like “How I went from Server to Buzzfeed Producer in 1 Year”,“If Housewives were Dominican” and “When You Code Switch at Work”. It was immediately apparent that Calderon’s on screen larger than life personality was the real deal; her bubbly demeanor, candid approach to questions and comedic anecdotes stole the spotlight.

Calderon shared her journey from Miami to LA, beginning with her undergraduate studies as a student at the University of Florida. She impulsively changed her major from nursing to theatre after accidentally walking past the theatre department and seeing how engaged and excited the theater majors were. Like many others, Calderon would later graduate from college but soon faced the harsh reality of college loan debt and very few job prospects. She would eventually land on her feet, securing acting jobs here and there. Eventually she’d find herself in L.A. after landing an audition. Calderon didn’t land the job, but it didn’t matter; she knew she was meant to stay. What was initially supposed to be a five day trip, turned into a permanent move.

For a few years, Calderon did what many actors do who move to L.A. with a dream and a headshot — she got a job as a server. The years ticked by, and she grew more and more discontent with her job. A huge believer in that you get back what you put into the universe, Calderon was suddenly fired from her job and was now unemployed without a support system. Overwhelmed, she turned to her journal as a means to cope. As she read through some of her past entries, she found one she had written a year earlier; her goal was to be out of the server business within a year. Well, guess what? The timing of her getting fired lined up with that year being up! With a new perspective on her current situation, Calderon realized that her getting fired was just an answered prayer. Albeit not the way she intended, life was simply pushing here in the direction of her destiny. This revelation motivated her to take charge of her life and get herself out there.

Calderon would soon find herself at Buzzfeed’s headquarters with no understanding of how this place would be instrumental in changing her life. She admits she had no prior knowledge of who or what Buzzfeed was, but it was an intern who took a liking to her and would help connect her to the folks at Buzzfeed’s Latinx channel, Pero Like. For nine months, Calderon would freelance with the Pero Like staff and really shined as an actress. Every video she took part in did well, but it the creation of her most famous character to date, the Dominican mom, that solidified her. Their collaborations were wildly successful that she was eventually asked to come on board as a full time producer! And the rest, is as they say, history!

Now, to Calderon’s credit, her journey is that much more intriguing when she tells it! For the sake of time, there were key parts to her story that weren’t included in this piece. For instance, how instrumental her mother was in supporting her dreams, her bout with homelessness where she slept in her car or even how she never thought her big break would come via making short internet videos. So, make sure you watch her tell it here! But in addition to being a mood, Calderon is also the quote queen! Sis dropped so many amazing gems she learned along her journey and they really resonated with the audience! See below for some really good ones.

“There is no backup plan, because if you fall on the backup plan, you ain’t worried about the real plan.”

The Buzzfeed actress initially went to L.A. for an audition and decided to stay permanently. She admits that it would’ve been ideal if she had planned the transition (i.e. saved money), but also believes that some opportunities you just have to figure it out as you go. So for the first six months she was in L.A., she worked three jobs to make ends meet.

“If I can tell you anything, it’s to write it down.”

Whatever ‘it’ is, Calderon swears by the power of writing your goals, dreams and aspirations down. After being fired as a server, it was a journal entry from the year prior that provided her with perspective she needed. The universe was simply moving her along in her purpose.

“It’s so funny that I’m talking about positivity because I once was a negative person.”

Calderon shared how her negative thinking manifested in all aspects of her life. It wasn’t until a close friend confronted her about her attitude that she decided to actively work on being a positive person. She credits her positivity for the wonderful blessings she is experiencing now.

“It’s hard to dream big, but if that shit don’t scare you, it’s not big enough.”

Enough said!

“If I’ve learned anything it’s to embrace where you are in your journey.”

Calderon realizes that to many, she’s ‘made it’, but for her, she’s only touched the tip of the iceberg. She understands that life is really all about the journey; and while she’s on that journey, she plans to embrace every moment!

In regards to making mistakes when going for what you want…“If you fall, that’s fine, because you can get back up. But if you don’t reach, you’ll stay in the same place.”

Lastly, Calderon shared, “Your plan is never the plan.”

By no means did Calderon ever think she’d be working for a company called Buzzfeed, producing and starring in videos geared for social media. That wasn’t part of her plan to become an actress. But yet, here she is! She is a walking testament to the fact that you don’t always know what opportunities will come or be the gateway to the manifestation of your wildest dreams. Be open!

Follow Julissa Calderon on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

Julissa receiving a standing ovation.