Today we’d like to introduce you to Victor P. Corona.
Victor, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’m a sociologist studying the culture of Los Angeles. Two years ago, my book about New York nightlife was published and I felt ready to start a new life in LA, a place that I have always been fascinated by. I packed up my apartment in Harlem and made the move. I was also eager to start a new book project about LA performers and their careers, so I started interviewing actors, dancers, singers, directors, and others around town about how they’re pursuing their Hollywood dreams. I’m about halfway done with the book.
I majored in sociology in college and then finished a Ph.D. at Columbia a decade ago. I taught at a few colleges in New York for eight years and am now very happy to teach at Emerson College’s LA campus and Cal State LA. I became a sociologist because I love talking to people about why they do the things they do. I’m intrigued by how different identities can make up who a person is.
Has it been a smooth road?
My family moved here from Mexico in 1983 and I grew up in a suburb of New York City. When you come from an immigrant family in a low-income community, the biggest challenge can be learning the rules of the game—figuring out how things work in the real world and what success requires. My parents never finished college, so I felt very lost when I started school at Yale. I had no one to really guide me and I mostly had to face and overcome my very deep insecurities on my own. Sociology gave me a way to make sense of the world and my place in it. My favorite professors were a huge inspiration and I really owe them a lot.
In sociology, we study people’s identities and how social forces shape them. Over the years I’ve been able to write about Mexican politicians, U.S. Army officers, New York nightlife, and now Hollywood. Despite their differences, in each group, you find very similar ambitions, intrigues, and obsessions.
We’d love to hear more about your work.
I teach at two local universities: Emerson College, Los Angeles Center, and California State University, Los Angeles. Emerson students are mainly focused on training to work or perform in Hollywood’s creative industries, while at Cal State, students are pursuing a variety of career tracks, mainly in the non-profit, government, legal, and education sectors. Although I work with very different student populations, I have really enjoyed teaching classes on LA culture and all its contexts, from red carpet premieres and film shoots, to strip clubs and goth raves.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
LA is a truly magical town. At sunset, palm tree silhouettes burst across a pink and ginger sky tinted by light bouncing off the Pacific. When you come here you quickly realize why it has been such an inspiration to everyone from Ed Ruscha and David Hockney to Lana Del Rey and Alex Prager. It’s a place built by generations of wildly ambitious (and sometimes delusional) people dreaming the biggest of dreams.
The toughest part about being an Angeleno is the daily reminder of how bad the homeless crisis has gotten. People are living in the most deplorable conditions in a town that stands as a huge monument to glamour and stardom. There’s also a feeling that those in government are powerless to do anything about it.
Soo Mee Kim