Courtesy of Maria Quezada
It's so important to know about your family's unique traditions, heritage, and all the ways those things make you truly special. When we chatted with Nickelodeon's Talia In the Kitchen actress Maria Quezada, we asked her to share little bit about her family's roots and traditions, and what inspires her most about her family. Catch our Q & A below.
TWIST: Why do you think it's important to celebrate your heritage?
Maria Quezada: Hispanic Heritage Month just passed, and it was amazing. In my house, however we celebrate Hispanic heritage every day, not only during the designated month.
I believe it is important to celebrate because we should embrace our heritage and our culture. The Latin culture is truly beautiful and we should celebrate our roots proudly. Own that Latin spice!
TWIST: Have you always embraced your heritage? Or has it been a journey?
MQ: I was raised in a home where we embraced our heritage and waved our flag proudly, so to speak; Spanish was my first language and is still the dominant language we speak in our household. Most holidays were spent in Dominican Republic with my big family and numerous cousins. Embracing my heritage to me is a way to connect with my family; despite the fact some of them might live overseas.
Growing up I never really considered or thought of myself as a "Latina." I mean, I’ve always been proud of being Dominican and I’ve always valued the culture, but it wasn’t something I’d ponder and contemplate. I guess I didn’t really understand labeling in general. To me, I was a human; I was a typical kid with an awesome family.
TWIST: Who is a family member that has really inspired you?
MQ: Everyone in my immediate family has influenced me in countless ways, but I think when it comes to whom I look up to and aspire to be like, it’s a tie between my grandma and my mom. They are my role models and I admire their dedication, their strength, and their “anything is possible” attitude. If I am even remotely similar to them, I’m content.
TWIST: What is a family tradition you love most or are really proud of?
MQ: In our household, spending time with the family is super important. One of my favorite family traditions is what we do when it’s someone’s birthday. Everyone goes into that person’s room early in the morning, while the birthday boy/girl is still asleep. Then, they wake them up by singing "Happy Birthday" loudly and then proceed to bombarding him/her with presents, balloons, and signs of affection.
But it does not end there. My family also loves surprises, so every once in a while incredible surprises occur, like longed concert tickets, mariachi, trips to a certain destination, and so on. It’s unpredictable fun and guaranteed happiness.
TWIST: What's an issue facing the Latino community that you are really passionate about?
MQ: One of the issues the Latino community faces is perception, misconceptions, and stereotypes. I love being a Latina; it’s a part of who I am and I’m proud of it, but like I said it’s a part of me. It does not define me and it certainly does not define a whole population. Having said this, all Latinos cannot be put in a box. We come from different countries, eat different foods, we have different traditions, we have different jobs, and different ideals, and all in all, everyone is unique in their own way.
Yes I’m a Latina, but I’m also a hard worker, I’m not into spicy food, I like playing guitar, I love literature and learning new things, I’m an actress, I’m an American, and I’m human. Let’s portray the Latino community in a positive light and show the world what really makes us who we are, not what the world think makes us distinctive.
TWIST: Your show, Talia In the Kitchen, was recently honored at the Imagen Awards. What was the experience like?
MQ: I was nominated as “Best Young Actor” and Talia in the Kitchen was also nominated as “Best Children’s programming”. Growing up, I didn’t really have a show I could relate to, in the sense that there was nothing on screen that matched my life at home. Talia in the Kitchen blended the American and Latin worlds on one screen for the first time on a children’s network viewed by millions worldwide.
The fact that I was the lead in a show that broke down cultural barriers, and that taught kids that it is okay to be proud of who they are, of their heritage, of the languages they speak, and of all the little things that makes them different, is extraordinary. It was a huge honor and an incredible experience to be nominated in two categories in an award show that celebrates positive portrayals of Latinos in film and television and embraces diversity.
Diversity makes us stand out, but at the same time it unites us into one big family.
Editor's note: this interview has been edited for clarity and length.