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This week yummyZEST talks with Yesi Rodriguez (Maxim Magazine, The Today Show), a multi-faceted artist and scholar with a passion for performance and creation. She has excelled as a model as well as a performer and filmmaker. Yesi has modeled in NYFW, the TODAY show, been Featured on International Magazine Covers, and Billboards in Times Square. Below we spotlight her work as a producer, actor, director, model and singer.
How long have you been a part of the industry?
I started officially pursuing a career in entertainment in March of 2013. That was when I signed with my first manager, American Talent Management, as well as when I started taking acting classes with Anthony Abeson in his studio. It was my first time pursuing acting outside of school, which I put on hold for many years and finished in 2021.
What inspired you to pursue acting, writing, directing?
I knew that I wanted to perform since childhood. Performance originally drew me in through singing but that quickly turned into acting in musicals. I was inspired by both Selena Quintanilla, a Latina Legend who died too young, and Jennifer Lopez in her representation of Selena in Selena: The Movie. They were my role models in both music and acting. Writing came to me through my love of books which also started very young. I wasn’t very popular in school and often picked on. Meanwhile my life at home was also rough. I am a first generation American and my family struggled in many ways for most of childhood and adolescence. Books became my escape and writing and storytelling became my outlet. Directing, on the other hand, is a newer pursuit for me, one that came out of the necessity to garner some control over the types of roles that I would play and the types of stories that I would tell. Of course, it often works alongside my writing and my acting but one thing that I’ve realized over the years is that if we want to make a positive impact in any industry, we need to put ourselves in the position to do so.
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What work are you most proud of recently?
I’m very proud of all of my work but I’m most recently proud of my short film, “Notice Me,” which I wrote, directed, and starred in. It has won Audience Choice Award, 2nd Place for Best Horror film, a Best Actress Award, and we have snagged various nominations at film festivals. I was also nominated for Best Director at the Brightside Tavern Film Festival. My cinematographer and co-star Larry Rosen was also nominated for both his cinematography and acting in the film. I am also very proud of “Complexity,” another project that I was involved in as an actor-writer-director alongside the creator of the project Melissa Guzman. “Complexity” has also received recognition in the Film Festival circuit. Most recently we won Best Writing in a Drama at NJ Webfest and I was nominated for Best Actress in a Drama. Other projects that I’m proud of are featured films, “Into the Outbreak” and “El Condor en NY,” both of which acquired distribution on Amazon this past year.
What advice would you give to fellow actors, writers, directors?
My biggest piece of advice would be to network. Go to film festivals, meet people, and make friends because you never know where your next opportunity is coming from or where it will lead. One of the terrifying and beautiful things about this path and this industry is that things can click into place in an instant. You need to be ready for that moment.
How do you stay motivated and active in your career?
I do a lot of work on myself. We can’t control whether a pandemic is happening or a film loses funding but we can control our mindset and how we feel about it. I do my best to stay positive and happy, that includes finding peace in the moments of quiet while remaining fully aware that the busy days are on their way. I also know in my gut that I am meant to be on this path and keeping that faith and fire alive are crucial. One way I stayed active in my career through the worst of the pandemic for example was collaboration with other artists that I love and respect, whether that was being involved in a writer’s room, brainstorming ideas, collaborating in front of the camera as a model or actor, sending notes on edits, or writing music.
What are you working on now?
I have my hand in a couple of cookie jars at the moment. I am finishing my debut EP, which I am also writing. I am currently collaborating with another writer on a few personal projects. My feature in Maxim Magazine will be released in the next month or so, in the March/ April 2022 edition so I am eagerly waiting for that! I am cast in a Feature film alongside a few Hollywood actors, which I am also very excited for. I will also be filming my next music video for my single, “Sigo Esperandote.” There are a few other things in the works but those are the only ones I can share at this time.
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