Viewscapes

Blanca Blanco breaks the mold

July 11, 2022 Washington State Magazine Season 2 Episode 1
Viewscapes
Blanca Blanco breaks the mold
Show Notes Transcript

Actress, model, and author Blanca Blanco grew up around Chelan in north-central Washington state. Her parents from Mexico—her dad was a farmworker and her mom took care of peoples’ kids—had very little money, but Blanco had big dreams for her future.

In her recent memoir, Blanco tells her story of tenacity and determination, how she went from a tough youth to graduating from Washington State University with a psychology degree, and finally to a career in Hollywood.

In this episode, she talks with Washington State Magazine associate editor Adriana Janovich about her childhood in Chelan, time at WSU Pullman, acting career, and writing her memoir during the pandemic lockdown.

Read more about Blanco and her book in the Summer 2022 issue of Washington State Magazine.

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Blanca Blanco:

I remember while living in the garage, I knew that the only way to break the cycle of poverty was to get an education.

Larry Clark:

Actress model and author Blanca Blanco grew up around Chelan. Her family, farm workers from Mexico, had very little money, but Blanco pursued her future dreams at Washington State University. In her memoir, Breaking the Mold, Blanco tells her story from living in a garage to a college degree to an acting career in Hollywood.

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You're listening to Viewscapes: stories from Washington State Magazine, connecting you to Washington State University, the state and the world. 

In this episode, magazine associate editor Adriana Janovich talks with Blanco about her book, her time at WSU, and her career in TV and movies.

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Blanco:

Hi, I'm Blanca Blanco and I live in Beverly Hills. I'm an actress and I went to WSU for my undergrad and I loved it there. And I'm actually a proud Cougar. I'm here to talk about my book. I wrote a book during the lockdown because I thought that we needed more stories of hope and resilience and overcoming hardships. In I write a lot of information about my experience at WSU. I'm excited about sharing the book with you guys. I definitely have a lot of great memories from growing up in Chelan. Even though we live in a car garage, my family of six, eventually, seven, we didn't have any hot water, we had no heating. And the winters were so I see that. Basically, like I could see my breath in the garage, it felt like you're in an igloo. I remember while living in the garage, I, I knew that the only way to break the cycle of poverty was to get an education. Because I saw the struggles my parents went through because of they didn't have a degree from the US. And they had the language barrier. So I also began learning English at an early age of nine. And I knew that the only way I was gonna get out of poverty is to attend college. And that's what I focus on my entire childhood. 

Adriana Janovich:

Where did that idea that education can break the cycle, where did that come from? 

Blanco:

Yes, well, I definitely I knew that we had limitations. Like I could see that. And I knew that my parents didn't have jobs like other people, like my father worked in the fields, picking apples, making $4 an hour for a family of seven. My mom was a babysitter. So I knew that the jobs they had were not jobs that were helping them in many ways that they needed. 

So and then also, while in school, I had a lot of great support from teachers, where they were reinforced that idea like, you can change your life pattern, if you just get an education; that's the key. And so it definitely is from teachers, and also just, you know, experiencing the struggles. We’re not having food at home, we would eat at school, that was like, Monday through Friday. The weekends we didn't like because then we had to struggle. We go to the Salvation Army, the food banks. We didn't have a shower or tub hookup. So we will ask, you know, some neighbors or just some relative. I would brush my teeth at school. But even though I didn't have a lot of the basic needs, my mom was very supportive and very loving that it just didn't feel like we were that poor.

Janovich:

When did you kind of have that kind of realization that not everyone lives like us, like not everyone lives like this? 

Blanco:

We never really had nice clothes, like everything we got was from our Salvation Army. And they would have holes or just stuff like that, but I knew that we look different. And compared to other kids where they would do things on the weekends. You know, they were “Oh, I went skiing. I did this, I went on a vacation.” Or I remember the Christmas. I didn't like the Christmas time going back because then the teachers asked everyone to tell us what you got for Christmas. And I would just make up stuff when I got there. But I was just making it up because I would get like something like a puzzle with missing pieces, you know, or socks. So I just wouldn't say anything. Or you say oh yeah, I got a shirt. And where's the shirt? But I realized we had a different lifestyle. And we will be in lines waiting for the turkey dinners.

Janovich:

And I think at one point in the book, you write about how your dad basically told you not to go to college.

Blanco:

So my father, who was very old school, very traditional machismo, something that he really believed that the women belong in the kitchen only. He didn't believe women should get an education, or that I should be playing sports. That's only for boys. I had to fight for my freedom and independence. And I couldn't understand why my brother was allowed to do sports and I couldn't. So then I would just still stay in practice. 

Once I decided I was gonna go to college, because I realized I'm not going to follow the family tradition. Because that's not what I believe in. I'm gonna make my own path, because I want a path that is gonna have a different lifestyle. And so I applied for schools, and got scholarships. And that's how I was able to go to school. But when I moved to school, my father didn't talk to me for a year because I was rebellious by going to college. But that was expected, you know, and so I really encourage people that even if you have parents that don't want you to go to school, follow your instincts, because education is the key. Even though with all the struggles, I just thought, I just have to work harder. 

Janovich:

Did you ever, at any point, feel like giving up and going home?

Blanco:

Never. I really love the independence that I could just be becoming, having my own voice, having my own opinions. And I knew that I was learning so much that I was very glad that I didn't just allow the family tradition to just interfere with my choices.

Janovich:

And then how did you decide on WSU after Community College?

Blanco:

It was one of my dream schools, I just pictured myself there. I know they have great teachers, and it's a small community, just like my town. So I just feel that that was a good match for me

Janovich:

What about psychology interested you?

Blanco:

I always enjoy the human interactions, behaviors, what drives a human mind. And I just thought, I'm just such a nerd. This is my area, psychology, you know, just understanding what drives people. When I went there, I was very blessed. The teachers were amazing. I learned so much from them. I still apply everything that I learned to my life here. So definitely it is a program that really influenced my life in my career now, especially as an actress.

Janovich:

How do you apply the psychology that you learned at WSU, and then later at Eastern Washington University, into your roles?

Blanco:

Definitely, whenever you work on a role, you have to find out what is the emotional state of the character. And so you have to really like dig in within yourself. And then you have to, like bring out the emotions, you also need to understand the dynamic in the scene. What is the objective, the relationship between the two? So psychology really helped me in doing like an assessment. I'm able to provide the information and then also I go always go back to childhood with every character, like I develop their childhood. And that stuff that I have learned, you know, within psychology, you learn about how everything affects you from childhood, that's how everything starts. So everything that I learned is applicable and then also to group dynamic. There's a lot of, you know, every set is new crew, new directors, you're gonna learn how to work with different personalities and behaviors and it prepared me for that career.

Janovich:

Talk just a little bit about your time in Pullman at WSU on campus or, you know, do what are some memories that you have of living here? Where did you kind of spend the most time? 

Blanco:

I know the library was one of those places. The library is the best library I have ever seen. It's so beautiful and iconic. I spent like eight hours there a day, sometimes on the weekends. I had my own room there. I would schedule the study room. 

I remember walking in the snow and that was painful. The struggle was real going up to the classes, but definitely I just felt very proud to be there. This is why it changed my life. And then my internship, I did it in Portland and that's why I moved to Portland. And at the same time I was doing commercials, I was doing short films, I was taking workshops. I was preparing to move to Los Angeles because as a child, when I was in the garage, I will do a lot of plays, like in scenes in in the garage. I had so much passion for it. But when I would tell people, I'm going to be an actress in Hollywood, they will just, you know, look at me like I'm a weirdo, like, sure, you know. So I just don't have to say anything about that dream, because it comes across like a little bit, you know, illogical. So I just thought, okay, well, actions speak louder, you know. So I thought once I was ready, I finished my degree, moved to Los Angeles and started working as an actress. And most people, classmates, were like, “Oh, wow, we had no clue.” 

With academia, everything is predictable, you know, you study and you, you get good grades. But here, you could take all the workshops in the world, do all this training, and you don't even get a call back. You will be working in one movie, and then maybe four months later, and another one or maybe six months later. So I'm basically I learned how to just go with the flow. 

Janovich:

How did you kind of break into the business?

Blanco:

So I knew that when I came here, I realized I need to get a real job in the beginning. So I worked in hospice care for four years. I was also, you know, doing my auditions, doing my trainings, my classes, workshops. Eventually, I joined the union and that's when I decided to quit my job. And it took six months until I booked something after and I was like, the whole time thinking, “Oh my God, did I make a mistake?” 

I got an agent, I got a manager, like the entire team that I needed. Out of 10 auditions, you maybe get one call back. And so then I had to learn to just let go and, you know, move on after each audition. Because it really hits your self-esteem when you go into so many auditions, and then you don't hear back. There's so many areas that are not in my control.

Janovich:

Have you been working throughout the pandemic? Or did that kind of shut things down? 

Blanco:

For a while everything was shut down for the industry. That's when I decided to write my book. I just thought, well, I cannot watch Netflix all day. I gotta do something.

Janovich:

What was the writing process like for you? I mean, you've done graduate school-level research. Obviously, you've written papers and things before but that's different than writing a memoir because it's really personal. And you really have to, I feel, dig deep into yourself?

Blanco:

Yeah, I had to do the opposite of my writing from college. Whenever I felt I was doing similar to college, I had to stop and be like, no, I cannot do that. I wanted to be transparent, and really share my feelings. It was an emotional process for me because my life is divided you know. I have like the public life and then I have the private life. And I like to keep both separate. When writing this book, I'm just like, “Oh, God, I can't believe I'm doing this because I'm exposing my private life to go into the world.” It’s gonna be something that I haven't done. So that gave me a lot of stress, but like that, well, I cannot just not follow through when I started.

Janovich:

Why did you want to write it in the first place?

Blanco:

Well, I did it because I just thought we needed more stories of hope. It's time for me to share my dark moments in my life. Even if I just helped one person, that's already good. It took me a lot of anxiety to really release the book. Because it's like totally opposite from my nature.

Janovich:

I feel like you know, there's a lot of children in Washington state and California in the Central Valley and in Yakima Valley and Wenatchee, there's a lot of children still whose parents are farmworkers who, you know, want something else for their kids and I feel like your book could really resonate with them and inspire them and help them see that there's something else out there for them. And it starts with school. 

Blanco:

When I was in school, I didn't see a lot of Latinos want to go to college. Like it was expected that you were just gonna graduate and get married. I didn't have a lot of role models in school. But I remember I went to a training in DC, like there were a lot of Latinos like me with their parents being farmworkers. And I would meet the professionals like the same people that were immigrants that were living, you know, in situations like mine. They’ll share their stories and they're like top scientists in the world. They're like high positions in the US. You know, like, wow, so that's possible. That opened my eyes. Because before I didn't have a lot of confidence and like, how am I going to do this? My Latino friends, I would like, share, I'm gonna go to college. And they're like, oh, that's only for white people. And I'm like, seriously?

Janovich:

What are you working on now?

Blanco:

So I'm gonna be working on season two of “Tale of Tails.” And it's been doing really good. The first season got so many awards. So I just finished “Eye for Eye,” which is a Western. It took place in 1800s. And I was the lead. We shot in Montana so it really felt like 1800s. There was no reception at all. That's another thing about my job, that I work in so many places. This just doesn't feel like a job, you know, just feels like a passion. 

If you have passion for something, don't allow anyone to dictate your future You're the decision maker, not anyone else. Sometimes you have to break traditions in order for you to get by and get through the steps that you need to in order to become who you want to become. We can't blame other people for our decisions. We're the ones making the choices. So you got to make sure that it's something that you want to do because at the end of the day, that's gonna be your life that you're shaping. Even if you're living in poverty, remember that doesn't define you. You're more than poverty. There's other layers that define you. We just have to work harder.

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Clark:

Thanks for listening to Viewscapes. Greg Yasinitsky composed and performed the theme music. 

Read more about Blanco in the summer 2022 issue at magazine.wsu.edu.