Today we’d like to introduce you to Raquel Leal Davies.
Hi Raquel, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I am an Artist and Creative Professional originally from Sao Paulo/Brazil, animal lover (my rescue Yorkie Smokey is a charm and not say loves coconut vegan ice-cream), mother of Lara (my precious life gift) who values home, family, art, dance, charity, traveling, nature, good friends, diversity, and cultures. When I was a teenager, I came to live with an American family (The Nolfo’s) in Connecticut for a year as an Exchange Student. The Nolfo’s became my second family, and my host sister Jessica is my daughter’s godmother. I attended Fairfield High School Senior Year. Fun Fact – I will never forget the day of the school talent show for that year I studied in the US when John Mayer’s (yes, the singer we all know) band performance and my dance routine were the talks of that evening. John was in my history class as well. Well, despite not having all the luck John did in entertainment, I feel grateful for my accomplishments so far as an immigrant in this country.
After my year stay in the US, I fell in love with the country, went back to Brazil, attended university (got an international business degree) and after my graduation, I wanted to give it a shot and decided to move back to the US in 2001 and have been here since then. My life journey as an immigrant here has not been the easiest ride; it felt like an emotional rollercoaster many times, but something about me, I am a fighter. My father did not have shoes to go to school in Brazil and his dad left his mom, him and all brothers and sisters when my dad was very little. He was raised by a single mom with very limited resources. His first job was when he was only six years old. My uncle put him through school and my dad together with the help of my mom, who always worked ethically right and super hard, built a good living in Brazil. They passed their values on to me.
Before I moved to the Los Angeles, I worked in NYC for almost three years where I had the opportunity to work as a volunteer for the Brazil Foundation (https://www.brazilfoundation.org/), as an intern for the Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce (https://brazilcham.com/ – A non-governmental association, with the mission to promote trade, investment, and cultural ties between the US and Brazil and to help develop closer ties between the business communities of both nations), and as an Inside Sales for Knoll Inc., a modern design furniture company. A promotion with Knoll back in 2003 led me to land in Los Angeles. I came here with a good number of dreams and also fear of the unknown. Glad I did not let fear to stop me from achieving my goals and believing in myself. I remember being judged because of my accent and for not being fully educated in the US a few times. As an immigrant and woman, we’re often in need to work harder to prove ourselves, to prove we fit in. Most of immigrants that leave Brazil end up with jobs below their skill level due to the lack of education in the USA, I did not want that to happen to me.
A bit of what I have done and where I am since I moved to LA in 2003: I worked in diplomacy for many years as Trade and Marketing Officer for the Consulate General of Brazil in Los Angeles. To get that job I had to take a 3-day official exam. At the Consulate, I had the opportunity to work in several projects to promote Brazilian products and services in the United States, as well as to attract foreign investments into Brazil. Riverside County presented me a “Distinguished Diplomat Award” for my services in international trade in Southern California. While at the Consulate, under the jurisdiction of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, I provided a wide variety of tools, market insights, guidance and support services for Brazilian exporters aiming at expanding their businesses to the US market and to US brands looking to grow their presence in Brazil. I coordinated several local and international strategic partnerships and initiatives. I was responsible for all major trade promotion deliverables including research and business development and successfully participated, managed and implemented initiatives in partnership with Brazilian business partners to grow market share for international brands, which have generated over $100M in sales over the last ten years.
Art and the Creative Industry – A passion
I have started dancing/performing on stage at the age of six. At age 14, I landed an acting part on a local Brazilian soap opera production. Being an artist in a small town in Brazil, like it is in many countries, meant earning very little wages. I decided to attend business school with focus on International Trade/Relations but never stopped performing, taking dance classes. My passion for the creative industry led me to earn a certificate from UCLA Extension in marketing and branding for the creative industry.
I currently teach dance (modern flamenco – no pressure classes – focus on wellness) classes for teens and adults, work in entertainment (production and as a talent) and as Marketing/Creative Specialist for Ytinga Agency (https://ytinga.com/) together with my friend Patricia Teixeira. I love when business and creativity are aligned side by side. Productions I had the privilege to work for are: Ferdinand (music video for Nick Jonas’ Golden Globes nominee song Home – the film was nominated to an Oscar and Home is its theme song), Tiger Army Punk Rock Band (Rise Records label for song Mi Amor La Luna), Music video/short film style “Mamacita” with Tyga, YG, Santana, Danny Trejo, Freeform / Disney promo for Hispanic heritage month, music videos for Ryan Griffin, Cameron Hawthorn, Dovley Music and the list goes on.
As a former ballet dancer (danced for over 12 years – also did modern, jazz, afro and flamenco), the passion for dancing has been always an important part of me. For the past years when I was not working in the office or busy with my mom duties (side note – my daughter used to dance flamenco and I used to teach her and some of her friends – I volunteered many times at her school dancing flamenco for the kids – when Lara was just five, she even made a solo appearance with my dance group at her school and show some really cute moves and became the talk of the school), I was at a dance studio practicing contemporary flamenco. I used to train and was part of the Celina Zambon Flamenco Dance Company. After Celina left to Argentina, I decided to start a dance group Pasion Flamenca Los Angeles (http://pasionflamencala.com/), with two friends and dancers Kelly Richardson and Elizabeth Ipina. Kelly is a salsa champion and Elizabeth a schoolteacher and a former US National Team Gymnast.
Based in Los Angeles, Pasión Flamenca Los Angeles is a Contemporary Flamenco Fusion dance group with a combined background in Flamenco, Modern, Ballet, Jazz, Salsa, Bachata, and Afro-Cuban dance; it creates unique choreographies inspired by, but not limited to, traditional flamenco.
Elizabeth, Kelly and I met while training and performing flamenco with Maestra Celina Zambón (Actress from Argentina, Master in flamenco and featured in numerous productions including the film Little Fockers). In 2011, we decided to combine our diverse talents, friendship, and love of the Spanish art form to make this original group. Since that time, Pasión Flamenca Los Angeles has created original choreographies that blend the dancers’ individual flavors and combined chemistry and performed in many venues around Los Angeles. Most recently, we have just been cast to perform at the San Pedro Dance Festival on September 19th and booked for another show in West Hollywood on September 26th. The pandemic stopped us for a bit, but we keep on moving forward. Dance is a great outlet and therapy for us women, especially as time passes, we age and face body changes and challenges.
Assisting others is also relevant for me. I have done pro-bono consulting and acted as a volunteer for institutions with focus on Brazil for years. Most recently through Ytinga Agency, I have also supported Present Now with their video production needs for a live fundraising event. At their last event, over $100 K were raised in one hour. Present Now (https://presentnow.org/) is located in Santa Monica and does an amazing work to benefit children and families’ victims of domestic violence. During COVID lockdown, the cases of domestic abuse increased and supporting this cause is so relevant. We’re better when we share resources and promote more kindness towards one another!
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not been a smooth road at all. Educational and cultural differences between Brazil and the US make the process challenging. Raising a child here being from another country is also not an easy task.
As for many other Brazilians, I think the hardest part is staying away from my family (how I miss my mom’s cooking and the smell of Brazil) and friends.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am proud of not giving up despite the challenges I have had (went through a divorce – raising a child in a country where I was not raised – is not easy.) and all the learning opportunities I have had by leaving my country to live in the US. I am proud of my accomplishments here. At the Consulate of Brazil, I was able to help for years on a daily basis members of the Brazilian community living in the West Coast under the jurisdiction of the Consulate and US residents with interest in doing business or visiting Brazil. One phone call and/or a kind gesture went a long way for many.
My art and creative work has brought me a great sense of comfort/pride. I come from a small town in Brazil and working in studios in Hollywood was a dream really far, far away. As a child, I had self-image issues (I was a chubby kid trying to be a ballerina). Never dreamed I would addition for Madonna, Shakira, dance side by side with Nick Jonas and being the cover of a major newspaper and other publications in Brazil interested in my artwork.
Apart from others – in terms of creative work and dance is my focus in flamenco fusion (Rosalia style – modern flamenco). Most flamenco artists in LA focus on very traditional old fashioned flamenco, which I also absolutely love and respect. But what works for me is to think outside the box and let my own intuition and creativity flow without being too attached to strict dance “rules”/technique requirements at all times. Having a focus on flamenco fusion opened doors to work with well know pop singers, punk rock bands, live classical choirs, live mixed culture events (focus Art at the Rendon in downtown LA – sold out Rhythmics of the City with composition by Grammy winner Heitor Pereira) and create an interesting mix of sounds and movements that I love.
In terms of marketing and business, what sets me apart from others is the fact that I understand the marketing / creative needs of international brands that want to expand to the US. When we think about global marketing and international business expansion a lot more needs to be considered to achieve success. If it’s hard to compete nationally imagine going abroad to sell to consumers with very different behavior, language, culture.
We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
Playing at my grandfather’s house with my many cousins in Brazil. School shows and competitions, my mom’s cakes and birthday parties.
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: r_aquelleal