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Conversations with the Inspiring Wandalese Miranda

Today we’d like to introduce you to Wandalese Miranda.

Wandalese, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Okay, well, I’m a Puerto Rican from the Bronx, but no one ever believes me when I say that because I don’t have an accent and the first thing people get from me is “sweet”, quickly followed by, “quiet” and “shy”. I used to hate when people described me with those words because I thought it meant “weak”.

I was very sheltered when I was growing up. My mom and aunt came from Puerto Rico so NYC was very different for them and they considered it dangerous. They made sure to walk my sister and me to and from school every day even though our school was only two blocks away. And it’s true, I was very shy and quiet so I kept to myself and I didn’t have many friends. I think this made me an easy target for bullies so I was bullied a lot and I didn’t know how to fight back or stand up for myself.

Although I was shy, I always loved acting and performing. I would make up dances with my sister and we would do talent shows together. I loved that feeling of performing something I had worked so hard on and I had so much fun doing it. But that feeling was stifled. The more I was bullied, the less I wanted any kind of attention.

I went to that same school for 8 years and for 8 years I wanted to be invisible to escape the bullies. I hated that school so much that when I applied to high schools, I made sure to pick a school where none of my classmates would be attending. I didn’t want anyone to know who I was. I wanted a fresh start and I didn’t want to be the quiet girl anymore. I remember thinking I would reinvent myself.

On the first day of high school, I did what I was used to and sat alone in the cafeteria during lunch. But I was so desperate to get away from my old identity, I looked around until I recognized a girl I met during orientation and, quite literally, forced myself over to her table and asked to sit with her and her friends. That was the first time I made a decision like that, to face my fear and do it anyway, which is how I’ve tried to live my life ever since.

From joining the theatre club in high school, minoring in theatre during college, to making the decision to pursue acting as a career once I graduated, and moving cross country to Los Angeles to do so, I feel like I’ve had to constantly fight against my child self who is scared of everything. Acting has transformed my life in more ways than I thought possible. I’ve learned about awareness, I’ve been able to explore all the parts of myself that I don’t usually get to express like anger, power, sexuality, quirkiness and even the parts I’m used to expressing like being shy and quiet. They are all parts of a whole person and I’ve learned to love every part. But I still lead with that sweet quality that will probably always define me.

The story from the cafeteria on your first day of high school is so great.  Sometimes these just those moments where we change our MO and it plays such a huge role in the trajectory of our lives. Can you talk to us bit about the challenges you’ve faced? I imagine it hasn’t been a smooth road? What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
Is it ever a smooth ride? The big struggles for me were fear, self-esteem, hiding. I didn’t want to be seen and I felt like I wasn’t good enough and didn’t belong in this career. Those beliefs were ingrained in me for the first 14 years of my life and that’s been the belief system I’ve had to fight against to this day. But I know they are not true.

My advice is for anyone being bullied anyone who feels alone, anyone who feels they aren’t good enough, anyone who is quiet and isn’t the most “confident”. My advice is to express yourself, take up space, go for what you want and do the thing because I believe everyone deserves to be seen. Everyone is valuable simply because they exist. You have a story only you can tell, you have a lesson only you can teach. You are enough right at this moment whether your life is a mess or you’ve got your shit together.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
After I graduated, I decided to pursue acting as a career and joined a theatre company, Love Creek Productions, where I got to perform one act plays every month. I started auditioning and booked the lead in my first film, Susie and the Ether. Shortly after, I moved to Los Angeles and started taking classes at Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop where I’ve been ever since. Since moving to LA, I’ve had the opportunity to work on many web series, short films and commercials. My latest love is writing which I didn’t see coming. I just finished writing my first short film and am currently working towards shooting it. It’s about how anxiety can affect your life in psychologically horrific ways.

One thing I’ve noticed in both acting and writing is that I am particularly drawn to psychological thrillers and drama. I love getting into the mind of anyone and being able to understand them. Why they are the way they are, and why they do the things they do. I’ve even been able to get into the minds of those bullies who used to pick on me and I can understand why or at least try to because I believe everyone is good. Like that Anne Frank quote, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”.

Do you feel like there was something about the experiences you had growing up that played an outsized role in setting you up for success later in life?
Growing up, my mom and aunt taught me to never give up. They also taught me that I don’t need a man but that’s beside the point haha. When I moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting, I had so many people ask me, “What’s your deadline? If it doesn’t happen by (insert date), what’s your plan B?” I would respond by saying, “I don’t have one”. If you set an expiration date on your dreams, you’re just going to be waiting around for that time to come. You can’t have a deadline, especially with acting. So many actors move to LA or NY to pursue their dream and if they don’t see “success” after a few years, they give up, they move back home. If acting is truly your passion, what you want to be doing with your life, don’t give up. I’m not giving up.

It’s a process and there are times I’m auditioning four times a week and booking, and there are dry spells when it seems like nothing is happening. But this is the life I chose. This is what I want to be doing with my life, so no, I don’t have an end date. And when it comes to success, it’s all in how you measure your success. My dream is to move people with the stories I get to tell through acting, through writing, maybe even through this article. And I’m living it right now.

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