Inspiring Latina of the Week: Model & Autism Advocate Christina Mendez

You were born and raised in New York City. How do you feel like your upbringing shaped who you are today?

Being born in New York City, aka “the city that never sleeps,” and the “fashion capital of the world” definitely shows in my attitude and work ethic. I consider myself a hard worker and I would say that my city molded me to be as prepared as much and have a tough skin.

There was a situation where an agent have said to me “You would be perfect if you lost some curves....have you thought about surgery?” and the perk of being from NYC is I didn’t let that end me or my career. Yes, I admit, it hurt to hear that criticism, but as a New Yorker you acquire a thick skin growing up. You take that criticism, turn it into a positive, and prove them wrong.  

You have an autistic son and spend a lot of time supporting the charity Autism Speaks. Can you tell us a little about your son and your work with the charity?

My son was diagnosed with autism at 2 1/2 years old. They said he would never speak, care for himself, or show affection to others. After consistent praying and creating a plan of action including therapy, proper diet, doctor’s visits and schooling, he started showing improvement around the age of six. To celebrate his achievement I signed up to participate in Autism Speaks’ first walk-a-thon and that started a 10+ year relationship. Although I come from a caring, supportive family, they didn’t understand firsthand how I felt and what I was going through and Autism Speaks NY gave me the support I needed.

I now serve as a spokesperson and parent advocate for the New York Chapter of Autism Speaks sharing my story and doing all I can to spread awareness and provide hope to newly diagnosed families. Many hispanic children are greatly at risk for a delayed autism diagnosis because of limited access, communication, or cultural barriers with physicians  and I am proud to be on the forefront spreading the word and referrals to hispanic ( and african american) parents that help is out there!

The journey is long and hard but it makes it easier when you are not alone and meet parents/grandparents/brothers/sisters that have been through the same difficulties and hurdles you are currently trying to overcome.