Cover Story: Nadine Velazquez

Hi, I’m Nadine

By Teryl Warren

We’d been trying to make this interview happen for weeks, but life and work seemed to always get in the way. One week, she’s jetting off to shoot the new “Charlie’s Angels” pilot in Miami, the next week I’m swamped with screenwriting deadlines and editing projects for Wiles. We almost decided to do the whole thing by phone—after all, that would’ve been the easy thing. But after finally sitting down and meeting with her, I realized a feature based on an impersonal over-the-phone Q & A could never have done Nadine Velazquez justice. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and as a model and actress, Nadine Velazquez has thousands of gorgeous photos. Her flawless appearance is, in fact, chameleon-like—flowing effortlessly from California casual to chic couture. But it’s only when you’re there, sitting across from her, that you understand that it’s her inner beauty, her infectious laugh and her self-deprecating sense of humor, that truly make her fascinating.

We agreed to meet for breakfast at a trendy café on Melrose. I’d arrived first and I was checking out the menu when a light, unassuming voice announced, “Hi, I’m Nadine.” Even though I’ve worked in Hollywood for years, and I’d like to think I know the difference between fact and fiction, I’m ashamed to admit that a small part of me had expected “Catalina” from the hit sitcom “My Name Is Earl” to be standing there when I looked up. After all, that was the role that had made her famous, and regular re-runs on cable networks keep that image fairly fresh. Pleasantly, it wasn’t “Catalina” who’d shown up at all. Donning a gray sweater, jeans and black ankle boots, it was Nadine: fresh-faced, hair pulled back– your loveable Puerto Rican girl-next-door.

Breakfast turned out to be healthy freshly squeezed juices. “I’m doing a cleanse,” she‘d informed me, and she insisted on paying for my apple-cucumber-ginger blend, as well. And that, I realized, is also Nadine: Charming. Generous. Completely unpretentious.

A self-proclaimed “seeker and people researcher,” she relayed to me–with perfect comedic timing – a story about a women’s T-shirt she’d seen while shooting on location in Miami. “It had a list of ‘wants’ on it, and at the top of the list were things like ‘I want a hot boyfriend, I want a hot body,’ and so on… and things like ‘peace’ and ‘happiness’ were at the bottom! I want peace and happiness at the top of my list!” And, like most actors, she experiences those feelings the most when she’s working.

“When I’m doing what I love, that’s when I feel most powerful.”

A comedienne with natural flair and a quick wit, she hopes to begin developing comedic projects for African American and Latina women. “We’re funny,” she exclaimed. “Where are the projects about the things we go through with our relationships, and our hair?”

When asked what the most difficult challenges she faces as a working actor in Hollywood are, she said, without hesitation, “The waiting. I seem to always want things to happen now, and that’s just not how it works.” But, when the going gets tough, she insists, that it’s her faith—a result of her solid Christian upbringing—that keeps her going. She regularly reminds herself, that acting isn’t her passion, it’s her purpose. “The desire to succeed is so important. You can never give up on what you want to do. You never know how [opportunities] will come, but you have to believe that whatever you want will happen and that things will work out.”

Nadine recognizes that being optimistic is a choice. Her mantra, in fact, is “Life is about choices and our choices are our power.” She is motivated to succeed by a burning desire to live life at her fullest potential. And not only is she practicing what she preaches, but through her Follow Your Art program, she’s inspiring teens in her native Chicago and in Los Angeles, where she makes her home, to do the same. As a graduate of Columbia College, Nadine knows the importance of obtaining an education; and as frequently as her busy schedule permits, she works with teens to guide them, step-by-step, through the process of reaching their personal and professional goals.

“If one of the kids wants to become a photographer, then we will go get him a camera to build his skills, first, then we’ll take him to watch a working photographer in action, then we’ll put together a small show so that he can show his work, and so on.”

The point of the program, she reiterates, is “to empower [the kids] to be the hero of their own movie. Like with any good movie, we don’t just cheer for the hero at the end when they reach their goal, we’re right there with them, cheering them on, every step of the way.”

Although the program is in its infancy stages, it’s already won support from teachers and parents in both Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as from the Los Angeles Police Department. Nadine’s ultimate goal for the program is to see it become a fully-funded afterschool program in communities all over the country. In these challenging economic times, Nadine knows that growing Follow Your Art will take resources and support from parents, corporations, philanthropists and students. But she is unwavering in her belief that Follow Your Art will grow and impact the lives of children for many years to come. That’s Nadine: Optimistic. Earnest. Committed.

As we sipped the last of our breakfast drinks, we whipped out our respective smartphones and checked our calendars. She had to prepare for her next audition, and I had to return to my laptop. After exchanging sincere promises to stay in touch, the meeting that began with a handshake ended with a hug. And as I walked to my car, I realized that that is so Nadine: Warm. Personable. Genuine.

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