Well-rounded artist Jessica Cornejo is a dancer, actor, poet, writer and singer. She is a founding member of the Inner-City Arts Repertory Dance Company who had the honor of performing for Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in July 2011. Jessica has participated in TEDxYouth events as a featured speaking artist and as a co-host. She has been privileged to have learned, shared, and performed in cities across Los Angeles County, as well as cross-culturally in La Habana, Cuba and Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Jessica is currently working with Contemporary Arte in Movement preparing for the San Diego International Fringe Festival, where she and her poetry will be featured as part of “Cuentos: Stories from the Living to the Dead.”
Interview with Jessica
1. How did you get involved in theater? When did you know you wanted to become an actor?
I have wanted to be a performer for as long as I can remember. In fourth grade, I was given the opportunity to be in a play where I got to act, dance and sing. I was sold! I didn’t fully embrace my talent or craft until I was in high school. My sophomore year of high school was the year I discovered my passion for performing. Since then, I have embraced every aspect of my craft – acting, dancing, writing and performing spoken word/poetry, singing.
2. What kind of theater inspires you?
I absolutely love cultured theater. As a young “colored” woman in the industry, there are not many roles available to me or people who look like me- unless the role is a stereotypical Latina/o role (gangsters, maids, gardeners, etc.) So, when I see a show or am part of a production that breaks stereotypical molds, where people who look like me tell their stories through their perspective in their words- without any influence of mainstream society- it’s a beautiful and inspiring thing. It’s empowering! I remember watching In the Heights in New York a few years back and thinking to myself, “Wow! They’re speaking Spanish! They’re dancing salsa! They’re waving our flags! They’re telling our story!” I remember being in awe and being so grateful at how Latinos were represented in that show. I believe we need more of that; people of color need and deserve better representation in theater outside of what mainstream society has created for us.
3. Who/What has been your biggest inspiration to you as an actor?
My biggest inspiration and motivation comes from my family and my mentors. They have encouraged me and supported me throughout my career, and they continue to do so. Along with my family and mentors, I believe myself to be one of my own inspirations. By that I mean, this fire inside me- my hunger, my need to perform and share my story- has forced me to exceed any limitations set on me; thus leading me to create, to learn, and fulfill a greater purpose.
4. What's your role in Hollywood In the Hood? Why did you want to work on this show? I'm playing SLICE, the only female member of the Tie-Dye Demons. After being offered the role, I decided to work on it because the Watts Village Theater Company is a prime example of cultured theater. Lynn Manning has done a phenomenal job of staying true to the community, to its history and its people. Any chance I get to be a part of honest work, I’m in.
5. In one word, what is the one thing you are most excited about for the show?
The rumble! I am so ready to dance.
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