Today we’d like to introduce you to Monika Peña.
Monika, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I guess I started like most people. I loved to sing and dance from a young age and people noticed how happy it made me and encouraged me to do it! I’ve been surrounded by creativity all my life and I always felt comfortable expressing myself through art thanks to inspiring women in my life and many encouraging teachers. I would sing along with my mother to her “Best of Andrew Lloyd Weber” tapes, sing and play guitar with my godmother, and read and create art with my Auntie.
I sang in all my school choirs, danced competitively, and yes, even auditioned for a few talent reality shows but, my zeal for musical theater was planted when I did my first children’s theater show, “The Wizard of Oz”. I was a rosy-cheeked munchkin, a monkey, and sassy beautician and it was life-changing. Sadly, I didn’t get to do my next production until I was 17 but I haven’t stopped since!
Over the last decade, I’ve performed throughout L.A. and Orange County found a family of artists, a theater to call my artistic home and continue to explore new ways of creating and telling stories and connecting with others. Oh yeah, and by day I’m a Veterinary Technician! But that’s another story…
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?
I can’t say it’s been easy. We’ve all got issues but, my toughest obstacle has been my mental health. I’ve always been quite diffident and unsure due to childhood scars, mom was working and going to school, dad was absent, and theater was been a sanctuary from any troubles where I could be unapologetically “me”. But before you can be in a show you’ve got to audition. You have to be willing to let people judge your safe space and deem your image and talents as a right or wrong fit for their production within 60 seconds and most of the time you bare it all just to get a “no, thank you”. It’s a tough industry for any performer and even tougher for those, like myself, who have image and confidence issues.
There are certainly times when my depression has gotten the better of me but, I couldn’t stop because performing was the only thing that made me feel whole and the risk was worth it. And I’m here to tell ya, it still is. Slowly but surely I’m realizing that none of the rejection is personal and timing really is everything. I’m just as good as anyone else because I am uniquely me. If I wasn’t then I wouldn’t have so many people who support me and give me such amazing opportunities to do what I love! I can’t say that I’ve overcome my insecurities and depression entirely. It’s something I continuously work on but, I do know that with each audition and each performance, I believe more and more that I was meant for this and I am good enough just by being me, scars and all.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Well, I’m in the business of sharing stories and connecting with others. I sing, dance, act, I even do a little puppetry and some funny tricks but, most people know me for doing musical theater. However, I’m not just passionate about live theater because I like to perform. I think the arts is the best avenue to tell untold stories, to connect with people, help our communities become more empathetic and understanding, and share an experience that has the potential to teach and inspire others. That’s the importance of art and stories and I love being a part of that.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I think I’ve been incredibly lucky throughout my career! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked extremely hard, too but, some things have just worked out where I’ve been in the right place at the right time to meet the right person. Whatever you want to call it, luck, fate, destiny, it’s had a huge role in my life but, my choices have a big influence on how those opportunities play out.
Casey Long, Doug Catiller of True Image Studio, Adam Trent, Thea McLean