At just 18 years old, actress Isabela Moner is leapfrogging up the ladder of success. Her turn as Dora the Explorer in Dora and the Lost City of Gold attracted critics and families earlier this year. But the actress isn’t content with just professional happiness, she’s also seeking something more personal.
While promoting her new bilingual song, “Papi,” the starlet sat down for an interview with Refinery29 to announce that she’s changing her last name from Moner to Merced. The actress says the name change marks the transition to her “writing my own story” and will represent “everything that has and will continue to define me.” The last name comes from her late Peruvian grandmother, Yolanda Merced Salazar Pittman, who died when Merced’s mother was just 15.
Isabela describes the late grandmother she never knew as a “force of nature” who was entirely fearless and refused to back down from any challenge. At the same time, Salazar Pittman was just as willing to spend time with her family, partaking of “alitas or ceviche,” which the young actress says is very similar to herself. Merced grew up hearing stories of this fabulous woman which brought her closer to her own mother, who is currently battling breast cancer.
“My grandmother was the one who got my mother to the United States, and the reason that my mom had the opportunities that so many people do not have.” Isabela says her grandmother sacrificed so that her children could live the American dream and that, without her grandmother, “I wouldn’t be here.” Isabela explains that her grandmother is her guardian angel and that changing her last name is a reflection of the love and support she’s received from her.
While Isabela is sure her family will be surprised by her decision, it is meant to be empowering. She believes her relatives in Peru will be “moved and happy” and that, more importantly, her grandmother will be rejoicing “wherever she is.”
For an actress of Isabela’s young years to make this decision is amazing. Hopefully, this gives her happiness during an incredibly trying time.