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Conversations with Solmyra Araiza

Today we’d like to introduce you to Solmyra Araiza.

Hi Solmyra, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I got my first taste of acting in the 6th grade. I attended Madison Elementary school in Pomona, CA, and although the city’s schools don’t get much funding for the arts, we did have a program where either a music, drama, or art teacher would come to the school once a week and teach for an hour. My favorite was when Ms. O (O for Olsen, but she had us call her Ms. O) would come and teach drama. I remember I always wanted to be a surgeon growing up because the sight of blood never freaked me out (I watched A LOT of horror films as a kid), but one day while Ms. O was teaching drama, she asked for volunteers to act out a small scene of a Greek play, I forgot which one it was, but I remember no one raised their hand to go up and act. As a kid, I always loved reading out loud in class during group readings, so I raised my hand and volunteered to read for Aphrodite. Eventually, more kids got up, but I remember distinctly that when we finished, I thought to myself, “I could do this!” meaning acting because I was not afraid to be in front of a group of people.

In middle school, there as no “Drama Club”, so a couple of friends and I decided to start one, where after school we would just have fun and “act”. Fast forward to high school, my first two years I joined the softball and volleyball team, there was a Drama Club and they did two shows throughout the year where they performed for an audience, but I was too afraid to audition. I sucked at volleyball and softball, having no prior experience in either sport, so my Junior year I finally decided to audition for the Drama Club and got one of the lead roles. After that, the rest of my Junior and Senior years, I was all about acting and knew I wanted to take it seriously and pursue a major in “Theater” in college. I attended UC Santa Barbara in the fall of 2012, and before my Sophomore year started, I auditioned for the BFA Acting program and got in. It was there where I really learned what it meant to be a professional actor, I took Acting, Voice, and Movement classes (all part of the BFA curriculum) and performed in some shows. Upon graduating, I secured an agent from the BFA showcase (my class and I performed in front of “industry people” such as agents, managers, directors, etc. and from that they reach out to you if they liked what you did on stage), and have been pursuing this wild dream of mine ever since.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Not the smoothest of roads, all was easy peasy until college. Coming from a predominately Latino/ Black community and a lower-class city, going to UC Santa Barbara was a HUGE culture shock for me. It was the first time where I was made aware of the opportunities that were not offered to me in Pomona or in the schools that I attended there. I remember feeling “less than”, because a lot of my classmates in the BFA went to high schools that had a lot more funding for the arts since they were in a “wealthier” city. My classmates would talk about what roles they have done and show pictures of the show, and I could tell their schools had MONEY. It made me feel like I wasn’t as prepared for this as they were. That was definitely one of the first mental struggles I had to work through, meaning allowing myself to not feel less than and to trust that I was right where I was meant to be, I mean I auditioned and got in, same as them, so that must mean something.

After college came the next big hit, I encountered. Since I got an agent from showcase, I went straight to work in Los Angeles as an actress, and anyone who attended a BFA or MFA acting program can tell you that what we learn in school does NOT prepare you for the business side of the industry or on what it means to act in front of the camera. I did well and booked a few commercials and short films, but deep down inside, I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing and started to doubt myself like I have never doubted before. This all came from being uncomfortable and fearful of a new playing field, I know that now, but at the time, I felt like I couldn’t do it and gave up. I stopped acting after a year and a half of working in LA. It would take me another two years to finally decide to just suck it up, learn as much as I can about the business side of this industry, and to give it my all no matter how long it takes me or how hard it gets. And I must say, since having this new perspective, things have been nothing short of exciting.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am an actress, I love both Theater and Film, but I want to focus more on acting for the camera and learning the technicality of it.

I am most proud of a painting that I did on my bedroom door a few years ago during my time off as an actress, I don’t consider myself a painter, but this piece to me is some of the best work I’ve done. I just got a paintbrush and didn’t stop painting the door until every blank space was covered.

I guess what sets me apart from others is my life story but everyone’s life story sets them apart from everyone else. Or perhaps my amazing dance skills on the dance floor…

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
My favorite childhood memory is playing hide and seek with the neighborhood kids and some friends from school. We would all meet at my house and start to play before sunset all over the block of my neighborhood. I especially loved climbing walls and fences in order to avoid getting caught.

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Image Credits
Main photo: @ Stephanie Girard

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