My name is Elisa Noemí. I was born and raised in Los Angeles by a diverse community of Activists/Artists who instilled in my an ardent faith in the healing power of art, music, and storytelling. I am the daughter of a German-American woman from working-class Boston and a Guatemalan man from civil-war raging Central America who came together in their shared dreams of making the world a better place. I am an Actor, Director, Visual Artist, and Singer, and beyond making Art, I make a living working all sorts of Jobs, whatever I can to pay the bills: Nanny, Personal Assistant, Backstage Manager/Crew, Waitress, Catering Server, House Cleaner...you name it.
I call myself "la Guategringa," aka Guatemalan-American. My papi is from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, and my mother is German-American from the Boston area. I used to use my Mother as an excuse to explain my whiteness, but then I got honest. Latino/as come in all sizes, shapes and colors. I look a lot like both my parents, I am truly their daughter. My mother jokes that I got the best of each of them. My papi, who is Latino, is as white I am. He has green eyes and fair skin, and he grew up in the Caribbean where most folks were either black or brown, their phenotypical identities a reminder of the histories of colonialism and slavery: a legacy shared by all the Americas. I also look a lot like my mom, I got her blue eyes and her strong chin, and her appreciation of yoga, and education, and even Latin American cultura. Culturally, I am a mixed baby, born and raised in the city of Angels, and I am proud of it. Does it annoy me to receive the same questions/comments about my ethnic/cultural identity every single day? ("Where are you from?" "You have an accent." "Pero no te pareces Latina" "Hablas con un accento." "De donde eres?" etc.) As it has been said and has been sung, "No soy de aquí, ni de allá." Yes, my wound of belonging gets irritated with these questions and comments from strangers and friends alike, but it is a burden well worth the price of my privilege. I am grateful from the wholeness of my beauty, and to have grown up half-and-half, for it has helped me to relate to the majority of people in the world, people who also struggle with a sense of belonging and who seek to be accepted, and accept ourselves for ALL of who we are, not just the parts.
As a teenager, I struggled with an Eating Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa that was rooted in my need to take control amidst challenges in my family, my perfectionism and not feeling that I was ever "good enough," and my longing to belong as a person of bicultural identity. I am so grateful to now be in Recovery, and to practice Recovery every single day, one day at a time. Sharing my story helps me to stay healthy. Expressing (not repressing) emotions and talking about my feelings with someone I trust helps me to stay healthy. Being gentle with myself, and yet also challenging myself to grow and take on responsibility helps me to stay healthy. Being honest, with myself first and foremost, and then with others - that helps me stay healthy.
I believe my "natural beauty" is rooted in my genetics (thank you Mami! Gracias Papi!) and also in the way I practice health and wellness on the daily. I love sleep, sleep is the best medicine and best beauty supplier. That and drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Especially in the summer, I like to carry little spray bottles of rose water with me wherever I go, and spritz it on my face whenever I need a refresher. You can buy empty 1 oz Spray bottles and Rose Water (look for Distilled Rose Water without added Fragrances) from most grocery stores, just keep the bottle in your fridge and fill your spray bottles as needed.
I was excited to learn recently that my tias (on my papi's side, from Guatemala) are also knowledgable about natural herbs. I thought that was an interest I just picked up somewhere, but their experience hints at a cultural lineage in connection with the earth and natural beauty and healing practices. I haven't learned any beauty tips/tricks from my mom's side of the family. They are German-American Working Class Catholics, and there is a inter-generational cultural message that deny's beauty and bodily needs. As if we aren't deserving of pleasure and luxury and self care. It makes me really sad to have inherited these false messages, and angry. I have to work hard to rewire, and embrace my enjoyment of beauty and beauty practices.
I have blonde hair and blue eyes, and walk with a lot of privilege in this world. I carry a lot of guilt connected to that privilege, and for a time, I really rejected my whiteness, and the societally acceptable beauty that comes with it. I see that a lot of beauty products are geared toward my kind of skin color and hair texture. I am often told that I am beautiful. I am just as affected by (both positively and negatively) mass media materialistic beauty standards as anybody.
While I work hard to "unpack the invisible knapsack," so to speak, to quote Peggy McIntosh, I also work hard to unpack the guilt. I don't need carry that, personally, on these two shoulders. They carry enough as it is. It is enough to be the beauty I see in the world, and to be thrilled by all the many diverse expressions of beauty in the world. I have a Pinterest board called "Todos Somos Arte," and it features the many artistic ways people around the world decorate, adorn and paint their bodies in cultural celebration - it brings me much joy and reminds me that Beauty can take shape and color in many, many, many forms.
It's challenging to name my favorite feature. I could tell you my least favorites! See? How do we learn to be so critical of ourselves? How do we learn that it's not okay to celebrate our own beauty? As a teen I remember learning that the worst insult to a girl was to be "full of yourself." Now that I am 29, I am finally getting that the best thing one can be is FULL of ONESELF, and this is not the same as being selfish, it's actually a most generous thing to be and share one's true self with the world.
I love my cheekbones. I love them because they connect my to my ancestors. They are my papa's cheekbones, and his mother's before him, Amelia Olivia Arriaza Aldana. There is a lot I don't know about my family tree, on my father's side. Perhaps it wasn't well documented, or perhaps the stories haven't reached me yet. But I've got my cheekbones, I know where they come from. They are mine, but they also remind me that I have a people and a place that I come from. I have beauty, and inside that beauty is a sense of belonging.
When I choose beauty products, it's got to smell divine. For me to bother with applying face creams and the like, I have to love the way it smells and feels. My sister Marine taught me that. At this point, I like to make a lot of my own products. I'm quite witchy when I want to be (and apparently it runs in my familia!). In college, I worked at a little shop that sold organic herbs, supplements and beauty products and I learned A LOT in my time there through customer's questions and concerns, product trainings, research and trial and error. When choosing products to buy or ingredients for my own creations, I look for great quality, integrity and sustainable practices (and yes, sometimes this means spending a little more money up front, but it's worth it in the long run: both personally and politically).
If I were to create the perfect beauty product for myself...I feel silly sharing this but what the heck: I'd love to create a magical anti-tangle hairspray/serum. I've tried so many different kinds, and haven't found the one that does the trick. I have very long, very fine, and very thick hair (meaning there is a lot of it), so it can be a challenge to find the right balance for haircare.