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Meet Fernanda Haiabe

Today we’d like to introduce you to Fernanda Haiabe.

Fernanda, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I don’t remember where my interest for drawing began, but I’ve always been interested in drawing and painting ever since I was a kid. I think everyone interested in drawing begins the same way: we just hold a pencil in our hands and that’s it. Love at first sight. What I do remember is that I’ve always loved watching cartoons and movies, and I liked drawing (or trying to draw) my favorite characters – my references were VHS covers or tracing magazines or illustrated books. Oh the perks of not having access to the internet in the early 90’s…

My favorite cartoons growing up were The Simpsons, Rocko’s Modern Life, Disney’s Silly Symphonies and a lot of Looney Tunes and many others. Being half Japanese gave me a lot of Japanese influence growing up: anime and manga has played a huge part of my life – Sailor Moon, Yu Yu Hakusho, Dragon Ball, Gundam Wing (to name a few) were some of my favorites. I was fascinated by how people made them come to life as if it was magic, and how colorful and funny they were. I stood in my living room, hypnotized in front of the tv. I decided I wanted to be an animator but I didn’t know where to go to study. Where I was born there was no such thing as “animation industry” yet, so my dream kinda fell apart.

My career as an artist began when I graduated from Fashion School in 2010, but I didn’t feel happy in my career so I decided to switch majors at the age of 26. After reading about CalArts and finding how many talented artists have studied there, I set a goal to myself that I wanted to go there and become a filmmaker. I got accepted into their Animation Summer Program in 2016 and studied for a month in California. It was a wonderful time because I made so many good friends, learned a lot in a short period of time and visited many famous places in LA. I came back home and I worked hard on my portfolio, then I finally got accepted into their Character Animation Program in 2017 and now I have just finished my 3rd year and made three animated films at school. Time flies!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not been a smooth road at all. Trust me, being at school, surrounded by amazing friends and teachers and studying animation is incredible, but being so far away from home can be hard. I miss my animals when I’m in LA, but I know they are fine and well taken care of. I also put a lot of pressure on myself, and that thing called “the impostor syndrome” sucks, but I am slowly learning not to pay attention to that and enjoying the process of drawing again. Making art is better than not making anything. The internet also made us more anxious. There’s a lot going on all the time in the virtual world and you have to be careful how you process all the information. I think one thing that made this road a bit easier was my age. At the beginning, I thought it was a bit crazy to start all over again in my late twenties, but thinking back, I don’t think I’d be able to handle all the pressure of making films in my early twenties!

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I like writing stories and creating visuals. I like comedy! I often hear people say that my content is funny and that makes me incredibly happy. That’s exactly what I wanna do: make people laugh. I think life is already too hard and we all need breaks from reality. The thing I like the most about movies is that ability to take us out from real life and bring us inside the story and experience it. I wanna be able do that too someday.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I’ve been very lucky to have a supportive family and be able to go abroad and study in LA. No doubt about it. I’ve been lucky to have been in the right place and the right time to meet all the amazing people I’ve met in my journey as well. But I didn’t get where I got by mere luck. There’s one quote I once heard that says, “The more I practice the luckier I get.” which summarizes what I did. I worked a lot to get where I am, but I am still miles away from where I want to be, so I wanna keep going! I want my work and my voice to be the “good luck” that’s gonna take me places!

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All photos by Fernanda Haiabe

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