IN CONVERSATION WITH ELA VELDEN
Interview by Jana Letonja
Mexican actress Ela Velden is best known for starring in Netflix’s hit series ‘Who Killed Sarah?’ and Amazon Prime’s ‘The Game of Keys’. Most recently we’ve been able to see her in Hulu’s Latin American crime thriller series ‘Prime Time’ aka ‘Horario Estelar’. Next up, Ela will be starring in Mexican TV series ‘Senda Prohibida’, which premieres on 23rd June.
full look ZARA
Ela, you made your acting debut in the Mexican series ‘Gossip Girl: Acapulco’. How would you describe the beginning of your career as an actress? Have you always known you wanted to work in this industry?
From a very young age, I knew perfectly well that I wanted to become an actress. I never imagined fulfilling it until I entered into this world and realized that I was achieving it. My first work opportunity, ‘Gossip Girl: Acapulco’, was a key project to discover the industry in which I was developing. There I had a small character and often they used me as an extra. For me, living my career from the bottom makes me the actress that I am today. I value every second I spend on set and I respect everyone’s work because this artistic world is about knowing how to team up.
You’ve done quite some work in the telenovela business. What excites you the most about starring in telenovelas?
After starting in TV shows and with small characters, I got the opportunity to make my first soap opera. My first project as a youth protagonist was ‘Muchacha Italiana Viene a Casarse’ and getting this role made me take off that label that one has for soap operas. Soap operas require a rhythm that can be confused with doing things quickly. Speed is needed, but the actor has to be super prepared with its memory, acting, timing and be able to meet all the demands that the melodrama genre has. I discovered that it is a genre full of challenges, complexity and a lot of commitment. Honestly, everything I have learned so far is thanks to telenovelas and I am so grateful for having started my career as an actress in this genre.
Earlier this year, we’ve been able to see you in Hulu’s Latin American crime thriller series ‘Prime Time’, where you demonstrated your chameleonic capacity by playing Jimena del Solar. How exciting was it to star in a crime thriller series, where you got to explore a completely different creative side?
This project was very special for me because after a time working as an actress, I had been pigeonholed in sensual characters. They had not dared to put me in other roles until Jimena arrived in ‘Prime Time’, a journalist who lives under her father’s shadow. A character that demanded darkness and vulnerability, that managed to show me as a versatile and multifaceted actress. For me, having these opportunities as an actress is what drives me to continue with my passion. I chose to be an artist because I have this need to be a good story teller, create characters and grow personally to transmit emotions and connect with others through the screen.
The series addressed issues such as gender inequality and the role of women inside and outside the media. What is your personal opinion on gender inequality and the role of women inside and outside the media?
I believe that we are barely achieving small changes in the industry, the fight is still on. But I do see a change from a few years ago. Women are more present in each category, from staff to direction and production. Now, with my production house ‘Ellas Cuatro’, I realize how difficult it is to remove labels or this idea that the presence of women in the industry is modern. We have always been there, in the back, and we had never been given the opportunity to demonstrate how capable we are to achieve objectives just like men do. That is why at this moment the door is finally opening up to demonstrate that narratives are necessary from the feminine perspective and developed by women for women because we need to be represented in all possible ways and means.
You seek to leave a mark on the importance of representing current diversity on digital platforms. Can you share with us a bit more on how you are achieving this?
I love that being an actress not only comes hand in hand with entertainment and fame, but it also comes with the opportunity to leave a powerful message to humanity. Human knowledge always encourages us to grow and reflect on ourselves, society and the environment in which we live in. For me, representing inclusive characters on screen makes me rise up in struggle with all the movements that we live with every day. I know that with my work I can contribute to this visibility of diversity by representing different ways of living. I believe that it is time for all of us to come together so we can finally achieve equality between all genders.
Why do you believe digital platforms have such an impact nowadays, both positive and negative?
There is always a bit of everything in life, like ying and yang. On platforms I think it’s the same, but my perspective is always going to be on the positive side. So I think that we are living in an informational and technological age that drives us to seek the best of ourselves as human beings. We have accomplished unimaginable things that have put us in retrospect on what we were before and what we are now. I do see a positive change, but it also makes me very afraid to know that we can get lost in the negative on this path. I believe that we should always cling to the good and to the right path to grow and evolve as humans, but also within us lives the dark side to learn. I just hope that AI doesn’t end up killing art and that art becomes an act of the archaic human.
You have also done some modeling, which you began at the age of 13. How hard was it being in the fashion world in your teenage years?
For me it was something motivational. I think that the fashion industry can either push you towards positive places or it can retract you to dark places. Personally, I rose to a consciousness about beauty. I think that if I had not been a model at 13 years old, it would have taken me a long time to find the wisdom to accept my physique. I think that in modeling it is where you need to know perfectly who you are and where you come from because it is very easy to get lost along the way. I managed to be grounded because my mother always accompanied me and she reminded me all the time that this was a job, that I was a girl and that I had to live it from a fun side. I always saw it more as interpreting different characters than me being super glammed up and dressed up in luxury clothes. I think that’s why I also realized that my thing was acting.
What do you love the most about fashion? What does it represent to you personally?
I love fashion, this passion for dressing up, putting on make-up and playing with my hair. Fashion for me is a form of expression, it is a way of shouting to the world who you are without actually having to shout, it is a first impression that says a lot about your tastes and how you see your environment. I love to have fun in this personal aspect, so you will always see me being very different with my style. I like to inspire others that it is okay to dare to get out of the ordinary and try out new and different styles. There is only one life and if you don’t try it out, you will never know what you like and what you don’t. Of course there is also this environmental awareness you must have, being responsible with the way we consume fashion and looking for different alternatives to achieve your styling goals, like buying clothes insecond-hand stores.
Ela, when you are not filming, how do you like spending your free days?
When I’m not filming, I’m creating projects with my production house. This production house ‘Ellas Cuatro’ intends to go on the search of new narratives and characters that were left aside, to make all those stories visible to others. Esmeralda Pimentel, Frida Astrid, Gabriela Marcos and I have a huge challenge on our hands, so when we’re off set, we’re working very hard to grow our company. We are very focused on selling two TV shows and continuing to write others to make our dream a reality. At the same time, we are studying and learning everything we still need. It is a process of lots of learning, but it motivates us to continue contributing our vision to this industry.
Another fundamental part of my life is traveling. So if I am not working, producing or creating, I am traveling, whether it is in Mexico or abroad. I believe that those trips are the ones that help me recharge my battery to a 100 % and the ones that drive me to find creativity.
Next up, we’ll be able to see you in Mexican TV series ‘Senda Prohibida‘, which will be available to stream in the US and Latin America on VIX+ on June 23rd. Tell us more about the series and its story.
‘Senda Prohibida’ is about a femme fatale from the 50s, who in order to get ahead in life and fulfill her dreams of having money, prestige and luxuries would do anything. She decides to conquer men and steal their fortunes, without remorse or guilt. When she achieves her goals, she gets rid of them. It is a special project for having the opportunity to portray those golden days in Mexico, at a time when women first began their feminist fight, where there was no space for women to have a voice and vote. I am very happy that these types of projects with strong women are shown and that it reflects that the feminist struggle is very real and still on the way.
‘Senda Prohibida’ will also mark your first time playing a villain. How was it stepping in the shoes of a villain? Can you share a bit more about your character.
I loved having played Nora because within the stereotype she could be catalogued as a bad woman, but in reality we discover that she is simply human. A woman with many shortcomings and wounds that are what lead her to act like this. It’s complex to play characters like that because you have to turn them around and make them endearing, adorable, but above all, you manage to empathize with them and understand where they come from. I am very excited for everyone to see this project where I managed to make a complete and round character, where all the cast, direction and production gave their best to bring this story to life.
talent ELA VELDEN @elavelden
photographer BRIAN LORES @brianfls
stylist ALANSO MURILLO @alo_murillo_
make-up GUSTAVO BORTOLOTTI @gusbortolotti
hair ERNESTO VARGAS @ernestovargas_hair
director CLAUDIA VALDEZ @claudiavaldeza
PR AQUILES RODRÍGUEZ @aquilesrdp
agency GET @getagencia
editor TIMOTEJ LETONJA @timiletonja