Inspiring Latina of the Week: Actress Wanda Arriaga

Puerto Rican Wanda Arriaga does it all. She’s an actress, former professor, writer and voiceover actress -- and if that isn’t enough, she’s also the mom to two young children. Talk about having a full plate! Never satisfied settling for the way things are, Arriaga is committed to propelling herself forward in her career, even when that’s meant writing roles for herself instead of waiting for them to come to her. She’s constantly finding ways to make money doing jobs that she’s passionate about while remaining incredibly dedicated to her husband and children. Arriaga is living proof that Latin women can truly have it all!

Forget about one job, you have several! Can you tell us a bit about each of those?

I’m an actress. I studied theater professionally, and I have a master’s degree in acting from the University of San Diego. I also used to be Spanish professor at a college in New York up until last semester. In addition, I do voiceovers, mainly in Spanish, for commercials and eBooks. I just finished a job recently doing an audiobook in Biology for blind or ESL students in Spanish. On top of all of that I’m a writer too. Well, I’m not a writer; I’m an actress who writes.

A career in voice acting seems unique. How did you get into that field?

I studied theater throughout my life, and I attended a school for music and theater since the age of 11. I knew I wanted to be an actress, but I also wanted to have a second career. I could see myself traveling abroad and meeting new people, and I thought the perfect way to do that was by learning their languages. I learned German, Italian, French, and Portuguese and have a BA in Modern Languages, so a career in voiceovers from that point on seemed like a natural thing. Theater is, unfortunately, generally non-profit, and I don’t always end up making enough to pay my babysitter, so for me doing voiceovers is profitable, enjoyable, and something I can be passionate about.

Does reading through something like a text book ever get boring?

It’s actually quite interesting for me, especially when I read texts about the history of the United States. I’m from Puerto Rico so I did not study here, and I don’t have a good background in the history of the U.S. I enjoy learning about things like Abraham Lincoln and the Boston Tea Party.

Do you believe that being Latina has held you back in your career or helped it?

It’s interesting because I’m an atypical Latina. I have blonde hair and green eyes so it is difficult for my agent to find me roles. If you see me and then hear my accent it doesn’t really match. A few years ago I wrote a monologue for myself called How Happy Barbies Are about a woman who’s obsessed with surgery and feels that every time there’s a flaw in her relationships with men she has to do something physical to feel better about herself. It had great reviews in The New York Times and a casting director from CBS read it, invited me over, and told me how impressed she was. I asked her to tell me honestly if she saw me in any of their prime time shows, and she said someday, but not yet. She was honest, but isn’t that amazing? I was lucky getting cast in a short film that HBO produced called The Acting Lesson. They were looking for a Mexican woman to play a maid, but I didn’t think I could stretch their minds to see me as Mexican. I auditioned, they chose me, and it was a success! I can always dye my hair, but I don’t want to because it’s not who I am. I am Puerto Rican and not all of us have dark skin and dark hair. The image is my biggest challenge. I’m patiently waiting for people to become more risky.

You’ve been involved in so many projects, what do you consider your biggest career success to date?

I am very critical of myself. Even when I get a great review I still want to work on the piece again because I never feel like it’s complete. In that way I don’t even think I’ve been successful in anything. I’m grateful that I’m working, but I’m always finding ways to get better.

On top of everything else that you do you’re a mom! Do you think it is possible for women to have it all?

Yes, it’s possible. Organize and prioritize. I have two kids and for me the key is to spend most of my time with them, and I need a lot of support for that which my husband provides. I’m not saying it has to come from a husband, but women need the support of someone whether a family member or dear friend. People need to think about where their investment is, and investment doesn’t always mean money.

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