Interview with Melinna Bobadilla | I am a Progressive Hedonist
As humans, we are used to offering action in order to make the change. While there is a lot of truth in that, the action that is preceded by purposeful desired thought behind it is way more powerful and gives wanted outcome faster. What made us as species more organized and speed up our evolution is curated storytelling – by the ones who tell it and the ones who listen. To be, do or have anything we want we are to tell the story we want more often to bridge our beliefs with our desires, so beautiful manifestations flow to our experience.
We only can give back to others what we feel within ourselves. Hence, when we are experiencing emotions of love, joy, pleasure, or any other emotion that feels good to us, every single action we do will be inspired by the abundant and infinite source of well-being. In that state, we become an example for those who want to be uplifted benefiting ourselves and others.
Actress Melinna Bobadilla who can be seen as Santos Chaj on the final season of Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black says, “I do believe in pleasure, joy, and self-love, but only if it doesn’t infringe on other people’s human rights.”
In this uplifting interview, you will enjoy discovering Melinna’s journey and passion for who she is, what she does and social justice.
- Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Melinna Bobadilla?
I’m a progressive Capricorn hedonist! Haha well, sort of, I do believe in pleasure, joy, and self-love, but only if it doesn’t infringe on other people’s human rights. So, a hedonist who prioritizes social justice!
I am a bilingual Chicana born and raised in LA by two wonderful parents born in Mexico. I am a quintessentially hyphenated creative and cultural commentator: professional actor/educator/ voice over artist/activist and advocate around issues of race and gender representation in media. I have a B.A. in Ethnic Studies and Communications from UC Berkeley and an M.A. in Education and Theater from NYU, and an honorary degree in Selena studies. I believe I am an Ambivert- which lies somewhere in between Introvert and Extrovert, which makes sense because I tend to connect to the grey areas in life.
- The entertainment industry is evolving and becoming more accessible through diverse online streaming platforms. How do you view the current status of the industry and how do you envision its future?
I know we can do better. I still think we have a very long way to go when it comes to equitable and inclusive representation on screen, even streaming platforms. It’s important to unpack the concept of ‘diversity’ because It’s such a buzzword in the industry these days, but it shouldn’t be the end goal in TV and film representation, because it’s insufficient. The idea of diversity falls short of being fully inclusive and creating equity in media representation because it does not rattle the status quo and oftentimes, reinforces the dominant paradigm. Essentially, it’s not enough to have one Black friend in the movie, or one Latina maid in the background with no complex story to humanize her. I can’t think of how many shows/movies I see that take place in LA but have little to no Latinx representation – in a city that is practically 50% Latinx. Diversity is having one Latinx co-star with maybe one line; Equity and Inclusivity is a show with Latinx leads, supporting characters, writers, directors, etc. We can do diversity, but let’s make it intentionally anti-racist, inclusive, and reflective of a society with a vivid spectrum of identities and realities.
In terms of the future – I have hope that the industry will shift and grow as more creatives (actors/writers/directors/producers/casting directors/etc) and execs from previously under-represented and under-resourced groups begin to have a seat at the table, and actually- create their own tables. I am ready for more Women of Color and LGBTQI folks to be decision-makers in the industry because our voices and stories have been dismissed for too long and if the current moment in this country tells us anything, it is that people are ready for a paradigm shift where the traditional gatekeepers of power are no longer withholding resources and equity from the larger population.
- In the final season of Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, which premiered on July 26, 2019, you portray Santos Chaj, a Guatemalan migrant woman who speaks no English. How does Chaj react to being imprisoned and find her own way to communicate?
Santos is an indigenous woman from the rural Altiplano region of Guatemala who speaks only Maya Kiche who makes the brave decision to leave everything that is familiar and dear to her in order to make a life for herself in the US. We don’t know exactly why she leaves, but we do know that she, like every other immigrant being imprisoned in the US, did not plan on completely having to succumb to a cruel, oppressive system in which all of her agency is stripped away from her. When she is near the US/Mexico border, she is raped and ultimately becomes pregnant with her attacker’s child, so her most immediate goal is to seek reproductive care so that she can terminate her pregnancy. She is surrounded by other prisoners and guards who dehumanize her and dismiss her because of their own ignorance of her indigenous language, but time is of the essence and we meet her at a time when her paramount focus is her health. She is isolated and frustrated, but determined to find a way to have an abortion, which ultimately for her, is a step toward healing from the horrible trauma of rape. As someone who is a supporter of survivors and a woman’s right to choose, it was maddening for me to think of Santos’ traumas, and in having the responsibility to breathe life into her story, I inevitably had to put myself in the position of imagining what it would be like if I literally had no control of my own body on multiple levels: first, with an unwanted pregnancy and secondly, as a person being imprisoned.
- Chaj and Fig spark an unlikely connection as Fig helps Chaj obtain a translator and illegally abort her pregnancy. How does Chaj view the relationship?
I don’t think Chaj has much time to assess the relationship or brief interactions with Fig, because she is purely on survival mode. I think there is a glimpse of hope behind her desperation because Fig is the first woman in a position of power that she comes in contact with while being imprisoned. I also think it’s important to look at Fig’s actions with a critical lens because yes, she does in fact help Santos by rightfully giving her an abortion pill, but at the end of the day, she is still an employee of a horribly violent and oppressive institution, thus validating it. Whether or not the abortion would be deemed illegal is less relevant than the disgusting position taken by someone like Litvack’s character, the ICE officer who for some reason believes he has the moral authority to preside over a woman’s medical choices, while being an accomplice to grave human rights violations on a larger scale. I challenge the viewers to look beyond the black and white confines of legality and instead, consider the characters’ actions in the context of human rights and social justice.
- You will be playing Gloria Rosado on the Apple TV+ series Little America, which explores stories of immigrant families in America. What do you expect the audience to take from watching it?
Yes, I am so honored to be playing such an important role in a highly anticipated series that will help launch the exciting new streaming platform. Unfortunately, I am not yet allowed to delve into any details about the storylines in the show, but I can say that I hope audiences will continue engaging with content that humanizes the stories of people of color and immigrants.
- You will be featured in Netflix’s The Laundromat alongside Meryl Streep. What was it like working on a project with such an iconic actress?
It was amazing and too brief! Meryl was extremely kind and warm in the time I spent with her during a few scenes. I respect her as an actor so very much but after having met her and interacted with her, I was pleasantly delighted by her being so down to earth and personable.
- Is there an object of creative expression – a book, song, film, TV series, etc. – which especially resonates with you right now? If so, why and how does your emotional realm connect with it?
I am currently in love with the book Sabrina & Corina by the brilliant writer Kali Fajardo Anstine. It’s a collection of short stories that focus on the lives of Latina and Indigenous women in the southwest. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that so authentically captures the lived experiences of Latinas/Chicanas in a way that isn’t contrived or full of tropes. It’s so honest and core shaking. I’m also a huge fan of the show POSE on FX.
- Are you involved in any charity organization or humanitarian cause you would like to mention?
Yes, I am an ambassador with Define American, a nonprofit media and culture organization that uses the power of story to transcend politics and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a changing America.
I am also starting to work with the East Los Angeles Women’s Center, a leading voice and center for advocacy and resources for survivors and their families affected by sexual, domestic, and intimate partner violence and HIV/AIDS.
And Finally, I’m proud to have recently partnered with Revolve Impact’s initiative BLD PWR- which engages culture, education and activism to build and train an inclusive community of entertainers and athletes to advance radical social change. Through this initiative, I will be collaborating with the esteemed immigrant rights org Al Otro Lado.
- The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is The Essence of a Joyful Living. How does Joy during the creative process affect your own experience and in consequence the final manifestation of your actions?
I believe in balance and dualities, so I recognize that joy exists because or despite of pain. I think that with acting in particular, one has to be fearlessly committed to truth and the examination of the whole human experience, which may include joy but also includes pain, sadness and a whole gamut of other emotions that reflect the human condition.
- When you hear: “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words from the Abraham-Hicks teachings, what is your take on such a statement?
I think it’s a lovely idea but the critical thinker in me can’t negate the very real systemic inequities that have been imposed on us via colonialism, racism and capitalism. Now having said that, I believe I can be and do everything I want, but as a woman of color, I don’t have the luxury or privilege of pretending that my commitment to positivity will erase hegemony. However, my spirit and the spirit of my ancestors are strong and nothing can ever erase that. Sorry, not sorry!