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Life & Work with Paulina Gamiz

Today we’d like to introduce you to Paulina Gamiz.

Hi Paulina, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I am from a small town in Mexico called Cuernavaca, and since I first got on stage at my first Flamenco performance at the age of four, I knew that’s what I loved. Being on stage. I love performing. After that flamenco stage performance, I figured out ways to keep getting on stage basically. I joined a dance crew all throughout middle and high school and we actually won nationally a couple of times. And on my last year of high school, I discovered theatre and that was it for me. I loved it so much, I still do. And we got the amazing opportunity to be sponsored to go to The Edinburgh Fringe Festival with our Shakespeare play “Much ado About Nothing” and really immerse ourselves in theatre. I literary still dream of that festival, and since I was already in Europe, I decided to stay in London for six months and take acting, singing, and dance classes over there before I applied to College. Anyways fast forward a year, I applied to tons of places but at the end, I decided to go to New York!

I got accepted at The Stella Adler Acting Studio and oh my, I am so happy I did. It was definitely so challenging the first year, having all your classes in English, new city, new HUGE city, work. But it definitely prepared me for many challenges ahead and this was also a moment of a lot of personal and artistic growth. After graduation, I headed to LA for what I thought was just gonna be a summer program but little did I know that I was gonna end up staying indefinitely. Even though NY was great and I still miss it sometimes, I felt LA had so much more to offer this Latinx girl. I felt more connected to the vibe, they are a lot more auditions in Spanish as well as in English, and people are surprised about this but there is actually a lot of theatre happening here. Plus we have the beach and is warmer. The only problem here is that even though I am 100% Mexican, I am not what you would considered a “stereotype latina”, in auditions I usually get the ” Do you speak Spanish?” “You are too light” “oh! but you don’t look latina”.

To me is like, but what does a Latina look like anyways? I do feel it has started to shift and people are a little bit more informed and more doors are starting to open but it was also this same frustration of people not recognizing me as Latina or my Latinx identity that pushed me to create more. And don’t get me wrong, I´ve gotten some amazing opportunities to work with people like Alfred Molina, Tim Robbins and Bob Cicchini and doing new plays, commercials, music videos, etc. But you always want to strive for more, and I wanted more control over my career and to do roles that nobody was offering me. And that’s when I decided to start producing. Someone once told me, “Actors always complain there is not enough opportunities or work for them, but why don´t they/you create more opportunities for yourself and others?” And that really stuck with me. It also empowered me because I felt the shift of my creativity not depending on the opportunities out there but on my own needs and what I wanted to explore and show the world.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I feel like achievements are always linked to some challenges or obstacles right? I think at its core the challenge for me has been learning that people will have many, MANY opinions or will want to impose their ways on you but they are not always the truth, and I had to learn what served me and what didn’t, you can’t make everyone happy. Like for example people will tell me “lose the accent” but someone else ” Never hide your accent”, now I know for me it depends on the character. In Producing and Directing, at the beginning I was so nervous because I felt that I didn’t know enough, I didn’t have the tools and it made me not fight for my vision enough, I let others decide, but then when the final product was out I was always mad I didn’t listen to myself or at least explained what I wanted better. And is always good to listen to others and get opinions but it’s always that tricky spot, that fine line between what I want and my vision and where you are messing up and you should listen to others. And again, that struggle of not fitting in the box that people want you to fit, “you don’t look Mexican enough” “you’re not American enough” “you should lose weight or gain weight because you are just in the middle”.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Well, I started out as an actress but I wanted more I wanted to be able to create freely so I started creating original works. I produce, write, direct and act now. I think I feel more comfortable acting for sure, but producing has shown me a different kind of stress and rush that I actually enjoy, I have acted in tons of plays like “Den of Thieves”, “Desafecto”, “El Curioso Caso del Perro a Medianoche”, “Midsummer Night’s Dream” to name a few. and also, since I have a dance background, choreographed and performed in music videos and plays, You can hear my voice in the latest LA Olympics, Amazon commercials, and see me in Walmart and Pelotons adds. I think what I am most proud of is starting an independent production company from scratch, Cultura Contrabando Productions, our vision is to create non mainstream content. It might go there but what I want is to give opportunities to people who don’t usually get them or shine a light on subjects not getting enough of the spotlight. And on that note, the latest thing we’ve done, which is still in the works but what I am most proud of “ORO VERDE” an uplifting documentary about Mexican coffee. It has definitely been the most challenging but it is also one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
I would say perseverance and listening to your interior voice/ instinct.

Contact Info:

  • Email: info@culturacontrabando.com
  • Website: culturacontrabando.com
  • Instagram: @culturacontrabando @pukitagamiz
  • Other: vimeo cultura contrabando


Image Credits:

Gus Sanchez Photography Daniel J. Sliwa Photography G. Lefranc

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