Actress and comedian Julissa Calderon will recount her journey from starting as a pre-med major before switching to comedy and how she became a representation of the Latin community on Netflix at Thursday’s University Lecture Series (ULS).
“I think it’s literally just talking about [representation] and just being proud of it and understanding,” Calderon said in an interview Wednesday with The Oracle. “Maybe I was given this platform so that I can teach people so that they can understand [the challenge with representation].”
Raised in Miami and in a Dominican household, Calderon plays a Dominican activist in the Netflix show Gentefied. She is also on her second season of Go Off, a sketch comedy talk show on Netflix’s YouTube channel Still Watching Netflix, with co-host Jessica Marie Garcia from On My Block.
As an Afro-Latina actress, Calderon said she has had to talk about her background more based on generalizations of the Latin community, including how she looks and her accent.
“It’s definitely made me have to talk about where I was from more because when [a casting agency would] try to get me [to play] the African American Black girl they’d be like, ‘You do not sound like that.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, what does that sound like?’ I don’t know, this is what I sound like, I don’t know what to do,” Calderon said.
Calderon will be paid $26,500 for the event, which will be held in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom for the first time since spring 2020. The room has a capacity of 500, but as of Wednesday afternoon, only 33 students had reserved a ticket, according to Student Programs Coordinator Isabelle Arroyo-Acevedo. Reservations are not needed, however, to enter.
The hour long event will begin at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:30 p.m. and check-in at 5:30 p.m. The first 45 minutes will consist of a moderated discussion followed by a 15-minute Q&A with the audience.
Associate professor of entrepreneurship Diana Hechavarria will be moderating the event. She will be focusing the discussion on Calderon’s identity as Latinx, colorism in the Latinx community and her career, according to Arroyo-Acevedo.
Calderon graduated with a Bachelor of Science in theater and telecommunications production from UF, but she was originally a pre-med major. She said she will be speaking about her journey from changing her major to her current role in Gentefied.
“I’ve been there, everything that you’re going through every part of the college experience,” Calderon said. “I just want [students] to expect to just relax, to learn and to just have fun and understand … that what I’ve done in my life, and in my career, you can also do.”
BuzzFeed featured Calderon in her first Pero Like video “11 Things Dominicans Know To Be True” in 2016. The main character she portrayed in many videos for Pero Like, “the Latina mom,” is where she gained much of her fame.
Incorporating her culture and language in her career and daily job is important for Calderon as she said she is proud of her roots and enjoys representing other Latino nationalities that may be forgotten on TV.
“I just feel like [Latinos], we’re so proud of what we are, where we come from and our culture,” Calderon said. “So to bring that into my work and always having to talk about it is a beautiful thing … It allows me to talk about something that I love. It lets me talk about who I am and it lets me talk about my people.”
Additional reporting by Angela Cordoba Perez, news editor.