Interviewing Latina show-runner and all-together amazing woman Gloria Calderón Kellet was a dream come true.
And I’m talking the good kind of dream, the one where you wake up and you’re still wondering if what you saw could actually be real, if you didn’t dream it. Because in reality, your heroes cannot possible be so warm, so open, so worthy of the title of hero as Gloria Calderón Kellet is.
Except, sometimes, it’s actually true. People like that do exist. And I was lucky enough to sit down and talk to one of them.
Usually, the intricacies of an interview don’t matter. You don’t care, as I’m trying to weave a narrative about what someone said, if they were late, or early, if they were warm or not. Except this time, the fact that Gloria took not just ten minutes, but nearly forty-five, that her encouragement went way behind just words, that we laughed together, teared up together, and had an absolute blast talking about what it meant to be Latina, and what it meant to be so in Hollywoood, is part of the story
In fact, I would even say it is the story.
Take, for example, the fact that Gloria herself brought up Tanya Saracho, creator of VIDA, to make a point about how we, as minorities, rise and fall together.
“We’re really trying to step forward and show …for the longest time I think people thought there could only be one at the table, and that’s …a lie. There can be many, and there should be many.”
She didn’t just mean Latinas, though in this case, I’ll be the first one to advocate for more of that. But I think the most striking thing about Gloria Calderón Kellet is that she speaks of a personal experience that is wholly hers, and yet feels universal, and it does so in a way that I don’t think touches just us latinx.
Even if speaking from one Latina to another meant we conducted this interview half in Spanglish.
But back to Tanya, and support, and what it means to prop one another up. “We wanted to say we’re going to support each other, and love each other, openly. And that when she wins, I win.”
Forgive me if I take a moment and wipe my tears.
How else can a woman, and a minority make it in Hollywood, though. Gloria’s success didn’t come easily, or quickly. “It took a long time. I’ve been doing this (for) 15 years. My overnight success is 15 years,” she shares. “I put in the time. I worked in very male, and white rooms, and I learned. I spent a lot of time working really, really hard, and trying to get better and better.”
She didn’t say it, but I think it’s clear she learned what to do, and what not to do.That’s the thing about life, it teaches all the lessons at once.
And, of course, she also “learned (that) there weren’t a lot of people like me getting jobs.” And though she couldn’t do much about it then, she’s now in a position where she can lead that change that she dreamed of existing all those years ago.
It starts with hiring women, with hiring POC, with giving voices that might never get a chance an opportunity.
For example, during the Women Rocking Hollywood Panel, Gloria mentioned she was reading scripts by Queer Native women. Just think about it, think about how specific that is, and how many writers you know that fit that description.
And then marvel about the fact that someone is getting that chance. Maybe next year, you will have one person who fits that description in your list, and we’ll be able to thank this amazing woman for that.
But in a way, Gloria is just paying it forward. She, after all, owes a lot to the “white ally ship of Norman (Lear) and Mike (Royce), who said listen to her. Now they don’t ask anymore, now they just listen to me, because those guys paved the way for them to listen to me.”
Yeah, I’m not tearing up again, you are.
As for One Day At A Time, the show that has meant so much to so many, and that Pop TV miraculously brought back after Netflix cancelled it, for Gloria, it’s simple. “We’re just honest,” she says. “Whenever I would hear negative things about our community, I would think, I wish I could invite people to come into my living room.”
Which is exactly what she did with this show.
“That’s all stuff from my life,” she shares. “I’m very proud,” she continues, as she tries to express her “deep desire to tell not just my story, but where I came from.”
Sometimes I think Gloria understands that she managed that, and that by doing so, she managed to show others the good side of the latinx community, and sometimes I don’t think she comes even close to understanding how much it all means.
But that’s the way with art. We all take it in, and make something out of it, something deeply personal.
For Gloria, that deeply personal experience is translated into now having the platform and the desire to speak her mind about what’s going on at the border.
“I can’t stay silent, with immigrants right now. Because I benefited from the opposite happening. I benefited from a United Sates that took in refuges from another country, allowed them a path to citizenship, allowed them to buy homes, get loans to get me to college. I believe in it, because I lived it.”
The only way to pay it forward now is to speak up. And continue speaking.
Finally, Gloria had one lesson that’s sure to stick with me as I go forward in life, and one we could all stand to learn.
“Failure is part of it. Failure is the lesson. A lot of times when sometimes happens that doesn’t go my way, I think what am I supposed to learn in this situation? …and there’s usually something there I have to learn. And if I face it head on, then it makes that growth faster and easier.”
And that’s a direct quote. We might as well make notebooks with that on it. But then again, didn’t I tell you at the beginning that this whole interview was a dream come true? Maybe you believe me now.