Monica is based in New York City. She currently works as a Programs Coordinator for an art non-profit organization. Her interests in programming events include bridging multiple disciplines to collaborate and cultivating a more inclusive and accessible arts industry. She's Cuban and Dominican and was raised in Las Vegas, NV.
What is an album that sums up your teenage years?
Born Ruffians - Red, Yellow, & Blue
Let’s talk about your experience growing up in the States, did you ever feel like an outsider?
Sometimes I feel like [my dad] also had a little bit of an identity crisis. He wanted to move into a nicer neighbourhood for us and have us grow up in white suburbs. So we did that when I was in second or third grade. We moved from this really rough neighbourhood with a lot of Latin families to North Las Vegas which was very white, very clean, very new, just very cookie-cutter family. But we were never that of course.
In middle school, I remember straightening my hair, wearing Hollister because that’s what all the white girls [wore] and they were the popular girls, getting attention from all of these males. I thought to myself this is how you operate, this is how you perform.
I remember going to their [friends’] houses and seeing how different their family dynamics were. I wanted to feel white, I wanted to feel accepted. I wanted to not feel like an odd person. I’ve always had curly hair and people would ask me, “What are you? Are you black?” And they would touch my hair and I just felt like I wanted to not stand out and I wanted to blend in a little more.
What is a piece of advice you would give to your teenage self?
I kind of wish I could have a conversation with my teenage self. As a teen, I was so much more free in my decision making and much more open to social engagements with excitement to meet new people. I still have that within, but it's not without a slight worry, skepticism or analyzing.
What is an album that you love now?
Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell
How was your dating experience? Any stories that stick out?
I found that I constantly gravitate towards white men. I mean, white men are celebrated in society so [I’m] unconsciously gravitating towards this person and this idea of a man and this idea of man that can be a caretaker of sorts. I’m trying to kind of deconstruct that the older that I get.
When I went upstate, they (ex’s family) were like What does your mom do? I just found myself, in that situation, lying a lot. Meaning that, I just wanted to have a very safe conversation and I didn’t want to disrupt this tone, feeling or wavelength that was occurring. I was never truly being honest because I didn’t want to be judged by a white, perfect family.
What are 5 words your friends would use to describe you?
I actually texted 5 of my closest friends, haha! Here are their responses,
Kevin - Selfless
Did you ever feel like an outsider in your profession?
I went to university and I had to work and I had to sustain myself because my mom didn’t have money. Privilege of not having to worry is something I’ve never experienced.
I’ve never really fit this mould of a ‘photographer’. I went to an art high school for photography. And I was like I’m gonna move to New York and be a fashion photographer like David LaChapelle, Annie Leibovitz and Yelena Yemchuk. I had all of these people that I looked up to and I thought this was how I related to this art form. But when I went to [Parsons], I realized that I’m more conceptual. It was more about the process than the product. And I’m still trying to navigate that. I think that’s where I still struggle with audacity and reclaiming that. I feel it here too, especially talking to white-male photographers and artists, it’s always like What are you doing? What are you up to? Instead of, how are you feeling? What are you thinking?
What does audacity mean to you?
It means reclaiming my authentic self as a Latina woman, as a woman working in this male-dominated art industry. It means being unapologetic, being forceful, being present, and being awake. Really reclaiming who I’m meant to be.
And also re-inserting my boundaries. Boundaries mean different things to different people, to different genders and different cultures. The older that I get, the more I’m OK with saying ‘no’ when someone has overstepped their boundaries towards me.
Sometimes people don’t take you seriously. Especially being younger, I experience a lot of ageism. My ideas are valid, my experiences are valid, my perspective is valid.
Find Monica on the internet at: @mterrero