I Wrote a Book on How Not To Go Broke as a Latina Artist—This Is What I Learned

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres
Art by Stephany Torres
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Many people at some point in their lives have wondered if pursuing a career in an artistic or creative field is ultimately worth it. They’ve likely heard their parents say, “I didn’t bring you to this country for you to do this” or something similar. Because, let’s face it, being an artist is a hard road going up, and being an immigrant artist, or a child of immigrants, means you’ll be uphill most of the time. 

The good news is there’s plenty of successful Latina artists who have been there to reference as examples — and they have plenty of advice to give. I gathered all that advice for my upcoming book The New Latina: 100 Millennials Shaping Our World, which features exclusive interviews and advice from exceptional leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, activists, athletes, and celebrities. The conversations touch on the tools necessary to thrive, both personally and professionally, and the confidence to dream beyond limitations.

How did you get to where you are today? What do you do when you feel self-doubt? How do you move forward? These are the types of questions I asked Kali Uchis, Kat Dahlia, Emeraude Toubia, Linda Yvette Chávez, Reyna Noriega, Valheria Rocha,—among 94 other extraordinary women. See, self-doubt is not discriminatory, especially when you’re striving after a career that our communities or parents don’t deem safe or worthy. No matter how much fame or success you have in your life, it’ll creep up. But getting to a place where you’re financially stable as an artist requires plenty of swatting away self-doubt and moving through periods of stagnancy. 

With Remezcla, I’m here to share some of the best lessons I learned after those 100 interviews, in hopes it’ll give you the momentum in your pursuit:

DO listen to your gut even if mami and papi say being a doctor or lawyer is the only route to success

This might seem the opposite of practical advice but it’s, in fact, something that was reverberated throughout every interview and what appeared to be the most important factor to success. Parents only want what’s best for us, and sometimes, they push us into more traditional careers because they recognize those to be the most stable. But in the digital age, there are more routes than ever to thrive as an artist. 

Cuban-American singer Kat Dahlia said it best: “… Coming from two immigrant parents, being an artist was not meant to be an option. You’re supposed to go to college and be a doctor or a lawyer… I think you have to trust yourself and your gut. That’s why I said what got me here was obliviousness, not thinking about all the things that could hold me back, and having the blind faith to keep going.” 

And that brings me to my next point, the two words I heard a whole lot (and not just from successful artists), but from most of the women I interviewed: faith and stubbornness.

DO hone into your stubbornness—one of the few times it's useful

It makes sense that so many influential women have an inability to take no for an answer. And it’s not just about being blindly stubborn, it’s about learning to keep going until you hit your yes around the corner. 

Colombian visual artist Valheria Rocha said it best when she described the moment she was hired to design the cover art for Taylor Swift’s Lover album: “I didn’t realize it until it was happening, that my stubbornness had paid off and I had succeeded—but it was stubbornness along with a lot of faith.” She then added, “I didn’t listen to people when they told me my work needed to be less glittery, less pastel, and more sleek, commercial, and polished. I had a feeling that if I believed in myself enough for everybody, it would get me somewhere.”

Although the digital age has opened many routes to reach your goal, it’s also become overly saturated with people trying to make it on the big screen. Describing how she got to where she is today, actress Emeraude Toubia shared this sentiment: “Persistence and working harder every time I get a no, especially because the entertainment industry is filled with so many no’s,” she said. “The world is a spectacular place, it’s filled with so much possibility. But in life, you can’t just wait for it; you need to prepare for it so when that opportunity comes, you’re ready.”

DON’T create work you think will sell, create work you want to see

Most of the visual artists in The New Latina shared muralist Nani Chacon’s opinion when she said, “Don’t create the work you think will sell, or the work people expect from you; create the work you want to see in the world.”

Believe me, I know it’s difficult to keep going when no one is watching or cheering for you, but the good thing about that is it implies there are millions of people out there waiting to stumble upon your work—that means there are around 7.6 billion people in the world who haven’t seen your work. And if you’re anything like Afro-Latina visual artist Reyna Noriega, you know your vision didn’t come to you by accident. “If it is born in your mind, it is because you are capable of bringing it to life,” she said. 

What I’m getting at is, create your work as something uniquely yours and not something that fulfills others’ expectations before you take it out into the world. When it’s yours, it’s easy to sell it because you believe in it, so marketing then becomes conversations you have with people about the work you’re passionate about, not something you desperately have to sell. 

Kali Uchis is the perfect example of staying authentic to your vision regardless of what you do. When she doubts herself, she shared, “I remind myself that I am like no other living being. I remind myself of how powerful I am and of all the reasons I love my most authentic and free self.”

DON’T forget making a living is not the same as making a life

Generally, artists get way more caught up in making a living than any other field of work because the world makes it more difficult for us to do so. We don’t want to compromise our vision and we don’t want to waste our talents in a corporate job.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you have to take that corporate job to increase your savings for a little while, do it. If you have to sell notebooks on Amazon as another form of income so that you can see your family once a week, do it. Your life is not going to start when you finally become successful from your craft. It’ll certainly get better and flow easier, but the living you have to do is right now, as you read this. 

Linda Yvette Chávez, the Award-winning Xicana producer and screenwriter, explains it best, “One of my favorite quotes is by Maya Angelou: ‘I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.’ I carry those words in all I do to remind myself that I am not my work. I love my work and I pour my heart and soul into it, but it doesn’t define me. Having a life filled with self-love, family, friends, and good health are so important to me—I’m always striving for that balance.”

You can pre-order a copy of The New Latina: 100 Millennials Shaping Our World now.