Sunday, March 19, 2017


3 year old Marissa 
2 more risings of the moon in my 30's and on Wednesday March 22 I will awaken a 40 year old woman. I am ready to be liberated of the secrets of my childhood, torment of my teens, the struggles of my 20's and the lessons of my 30's. But the road was not one taken overnight...and one I continue to forge on daily. On New Years Day 2016 I meditated on the cliffside in Malibu and a very clear message came to me, "Step out of your fear and into your faith."

 I had lived, at that time, 38 years of life in fear: of failing, not being good enough, not being pretty enough, being violated,  being hurt, loving too hard, not being loved, being a burden, being afraid of being invisible, losing time and the life altering experiences I have had that many people don't know about. Living up to the ideal of "Marissa" was terrifying. My fear paralyzed me. But I wore many masks, all decorated to perfection WITH perfection. I have been a performer my entire life and "the world is a stage" took on a very literal meaning for me. If I "acted" like everything was ok and I was happy and healthy people will believe it, and it worked...and it was exhausting. To the point of a clinical severe exhaustion, that had been pre-disposed by years of anxiety and depression, that my adrenal glands said no more and I had to stop: everything. I couldn't work, I couldn't create, I couldn't even get off the couch for weeks...actually months and self care became my primary focus. My life literally depended on it.

I love my therapist. Truth be told I have been to a lot of crappy ones before I found her and have been with her for over 12 years. Now mostly just as a check in to share the beautiful space I am in. She has been a saving grace of clarity, hard questions, self accountability and guiding me to develop my own tools and healthy boundaries to heal the parts of me that were broken. Wounds that were inflicted, others that were self-inflicted, some that weren't even mine to carry and those I created that didn't even exist. Breaking patterns of generational trauma is even harder work. When you are surrounded by people who won't look at their own traumas and pain, addressing your own is a very lonely process but I also learned it is work you can only do for yourself. There were times I wanted those masks back but I had nothing to hide behind anymore. The more I started to fill myself up and love myself there was no going back. I remember asking her if I would ever get to a place where I wasn't processing traumas from my past and just be "normal" and live my life every day. Her response was, "You will. When you no longer allow yourself to be defined by your past and those experiences no longer define who you are in your present, you will find your peace." That day has come.

I always say I am going to create a t-shirt that says, "Acupuncture Saved My Life" because it has. I have been treating for 8 years and it has for sure played a huge role in my healing- physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I am grateful for my practitioners who have been patient with me, guided me and held space when I couldn't hold it for myself.

Meditation. The space I have created in my life that has been the greatest gift to me from me. My creative brain doesn't stop and I need that 20-30 minutes a day to be still, to be love, to be grateful, to be peace to wrap myself up in my own white light that I so freely give to others. The more I practice, the more those energies are carried into my every day life and existence.

The last 18 months I have stepped into that faith the universe put into my spirit. I faced many of my biggest fears, one very big one that was the foundation for ALL my fears and being able to deal with it showed me it never really had the power over me I had given it. The details of it are personal but not letting it have control over me changed everything. I have let go of what no longer serves me, those masks no longer exist, I have forgiven others, and myself, I have created healthy boundaries, and can say I truly fully love and accept myself for all that I am, and all that I am not.

In doing so I have been able to create my own non-profit 4C LAB, become the Creator/CEO of my own production company "De Mi Alma," create a TV Pilot "Two Feet In" that goes into production soon, a series of short films, choreography and I am utilizing my leadership, passion and gifts to inspire and create change on a larger scale than I had ever imagined and SO much more that is manifesting as I type.  I am learning to balance my work, making time for living my life and people who mean the most- including myself.

I don't look my age, I know that, and I am grateful. I am the healthiest and happiest I have ever been. I have great genes, (have you seen my mother?!) but I will tell you the light and vibrancy comes when you shed the layers and allow your authentic self to shine through. I am not the size I was in my 20's, I have more curves and some added pounds but I have finally come to a place of accepting myself. I look at old pics of myself and sometimes I don't even recognize that girl. This woman I have become I know on a much stronger level.

This is 40!
It's still work, every single day and I still have knee jerk reactions to things that happen in my life or triggers that appear. The work is NOT easy! But it's nothing compared to the weight of pain and sadness I carried for a majority of my life. My life's work of inspiring people to use their gifts to make this world a better place has taken on a whole new meaning. I am no longer the "wounded healer," but the "healed healer" and creating and loving from that place is SO much more impactful. I'm walking the walk, actually, I am dancing in its glory. I have created a life that I love.

To little Marissa- it was not your fault.
To teenage Marissa- it wasn't your responsibility to carry.
To 20's Marissa- it wasn't yours to fix.
To 30's Marissa- keep doing the work, it gets better.
To 40's Marissa- you are loved.

Meditation time. 
On Wednesday I turn 40. On Thursday I will be 40 and a day. Does anything REALLY change? I know there won't be a euphoria. Life will continue to happen, the good and the lessons I still have yet to learn and to share (there is no "bad"). But I do know I am finally the woman I was always destined to become. It's not about getting "there" anymore, it's about being here, NOW. The wounds have healed and the scars just remind me of my strength to endure. I still cross paths with moments of crisis but I have the tools to navigate through them, my core is strong and grounded in truth and light. At 40, I will look at myself and will love myself in a way I never thought I could and know that I am enough. I always have been, and I always will be.

"And one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong, and full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears."

Friday, May 6, 2016

4C..."The Vision is Clear."

It has been written...As a 3rd generation little Mexican-American girl there was one word that could describe me- CREATIVE. Born and raised in the City of Azusa I would help my neighbor with her monthly yard sales for the best payment I could ever ask for- her collection of National Geographic Magazines. I would lose, and find, myself in cultures, geography, art and my vision of being IN this bigger "world" outside of the community that I was raised and loved in. Growing up, we couldn't afford expensive classes at studios. I had teachers and mentors who believed in me and I promised I would provide the opportunities to create that were given to me. Throughout my education and taking the stage in school musicals and talent shows, I knew I was destined to travel and create my life's work as an artist and educator.
"Little Marissa"(age 3) performs "La Negra" in the Victor Hodge Elementary talent show where my mom worked as an instructional aide. I became an artist this night. 

My work as a choreographer, actor, creative director and teaching artist has taken me far into those National Geographic Magazines: performing on stages across the nation, sharing my pedagogy and collaborating with artists in England and Cuba and taking my students to experience it first hand. Teaching and creating original work with young artists that connect us and tell this story we call the human experience. Thousands of lives, my kids, have changed mine. It's not just the process of "making art," it is the experience of growing and transforming through the process and sharing it that changes lives. I've witnessed the power of transformation and healing through art time and time again. A voice that finds itself, a connection to the world and love for our art, ourselves and each other. Witnessing some of them become college graduates, working artists, teachers and advocates for change in their communities has been incredible. It has also brought me full circle- back to the community, the schools, and the home that provided the foundation for the person I am today. Through the 20 years of my professional career as an artist and educator I have been asked, "When are you bringing your work back to Azusa?" 

Full circle....Over the last 9 months I have been immersed in the ACTIVATE Arts Advocacy Leadership Program presented by Arts For LA. Thanks to the recommendation of Mario Davila. A friend, a fellow artist and an angel who has always believed in my gifts and power of the work long before I could see it myself. Representing my hometown, and school district, of Azusa, I was among incredible leaders in the Arts and Education representing 26 cities and 27 school districts where we sharpened our skill sets, and learned new ones, on advocating the value of arts education and creating initiatives for ALL students. Through this process it became more than obvious the time has come to create and lead the vision I have for the youth in my own community to create art, tell their stories and connect them to the world I saw myself as a part of in those National Geographic magazines at their age. The "vision is clear," and 4C Lab has finally come to fruition. 

What are the "4 C's?" - to Create, Communicate, Collaborate to build Community. 


Providing opportunities for young creative visionaries to share their stories through artistic expression.

Building a global community of creative visionaries who communicate and collaborate through art to inspire positive social impact.
Our Values:  Create art that is authentic to our truths and a pathway to express our stories. To Communicate and open dialogue, verbally and through our art, between professional and emerging young artists to develop mentorships, build on best practices and share stories. 
 To Collaborate  and create work as a collective and "family," across art forms and partner with like-minded organizations and artists. 
To build a global Community where creativity and vision are essential tools in sharing our stories and to foster healing. The 4C Foundation will focus on 3 areas of impact: Multi-disciplinary Arts Residencies for Middle and High School students, The Creative Coalition: enabling like-minded organizations and artists to partner, share best practices and connect and the "Creative Visionaries" Youth performance ensemble (ages 16-23).

Now what?!... My initiative was to present the idea to two members of the Azusa Unified School District who I know are passionate and understand the value of a quality arts education in the lives of young people. But then what?! How do we fund it? How do I pay the artists? How do I lead and execute quality programming I have provided schools and community organizations for decades by myself?! I don't do it alone. I have incredibly talented fellow visionaries and community members who believe in the work, believe in our kids in Azusa and are saying, "yes" to being vital roles of actualizing an"idea" into an organization of creativity, hope and love. 
"The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho

It takes a village... Once I made the commitment, the universe responded- and quickly.  Darci Manzo and Zoe Rappaport are anchors, powerhouse leaders, and Visionaries and are the best partners I could ask for. Watts Village Theatre Company, an incredible organization I have been honored to create with, signed on to be our fiscal reciever and a community partner. I completed a letter of intent to apply for the "Canyon City Foundation" grant in hopes of funding the program. We didn't qualify without our own 501c3 status BUT they have agreed to provide us the resources and funding to receive our non-profit status in order to bring our organization and programming to the youth in Azusa! This is HUGE! This all led up to my action item which was the meeting to share my vision with 2 incredibly dedicated school board members- Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez and Helen Jaramillo. Their response-  "How do we make this happen for our students?" "What do you need?" and "When can we start?" Yes. I got a, "yes," AND a successful proactive meeting with the Superintendent of the Azusa Unified School District. We are on target to begin a residency program for "Creative Visionaries" into at least one Middle School in Fall of 2016- and it's only the beginning. 
Creating with young artists at Inner-City Arts, Los Angeles, CA

Build it, they will come... in arts advocacy there is never an "end." Even in a time of a "creative economy" funding and sustainability are constant challenges. But all of my experiences, my expertise, my leadership and my spirit have led me to this place, back to where it all started- Azusa. We will write the grants, we will have the fundraising campaigns, we will create the partnerships because we must. Our kids in Azusa have stories to tell through art, a local community that is ready to listen and a global artistic community to connect with. These young creative visionaries will have a foundation beyond access to arts education to create and produce original work together because it is essential, not a luxury, to a well rounded quality education. A safe space to create, to love and be loved, to heal, to "be." 

I believe in the power of art in the lives of youth. Art creates hope and with hope anything is possible. Let us begin. 

Marissa Herrera
Artistic Director, The 4C Foundation

For more information on programming and how to support please visit 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"My Message to America" #alllivesmatter

My heart is heavy and for once I have been at a loss for words. My post is not about "the verdict," per say but the larger conversation (or lack of) in America. These conversations ARE being held- but not to the attention of the privilege, and no that is not "PC" for white people. I am talking privilege. Where people are able to exist in an isolated environment unaware of things happening outside of it. Not until so much outrage begins to burst at the seams and the internal fire becomes external that media begins to cover the "riots" and the "looting." But there are thousands of people of all ethnic backgrounds across the country not just "protesting" but gathering in solidarity to bring attention to inequality and crying out for peace.
My brother went to private high school, graduating college, a Div. 1 baseball player, a guy who makes friends everywhere he goes. Yet, SOME people will 1st and foremost always see him as a 21yr old BLACK MAN. Because of his privilege he doesn't even realize this exists for him. I fear for him, I pray for him.
Racism exists. I have traveled the country with my art. Jasper, Texas and told we could not leave our hotel because "tensions against people of color" were still high shortly after a black man had been tied, dragged and beheaded behind a truck. West Virginia, not to go find food after dark because "the klu klux klan" gatherings are in close distance from where we were. I couldn't believe this was still happening in my lifetime, and it is just "the way it is" in places. But my post is not about race.
It's about privilege. When one cannot see a problem that exists because it does not affect their community, their families, their LIFE there will always be a disconnect. If it did, change would happen- quickly. Privilege brings resources, resources allows for tangibles, tangibles become concrete policies, opportunities and eases the tension and breeds faith in the system that those resources helped support. The result? The system works for them.
As a Latina I have had more than my share of injustices. I have been told to
"calm down," "be quiet," "let it go," etc. Even in business and as an Arts Educator I have been "put in my place." When you are brought to a table because of your talents and expertise and from the make-up, you know you STILL have to fight harder, be smarter, be louder than everyone else just to be heard because in many circles your lack of privilege. Yes, this still happens to me TODAY.This is what we are experiencing in America.
As I reflect on the work of my fellow brothers and sisters who are walking the walk and using art to empower our young people we all come form different ethnic backgrounds. It's not just about race. I shed tears knowing that after creating and empowering hope with my young artists that I pray they get home safely on a DAILY basis. Art DOES change lives and I have dedicated my life to the work. But when I hear about what many of my kids encounter daily and I have no answers for them it breaks my heart.
Change MUST happen. How? I wish I had the finite answer. Privilege will always exist. But it must stop denying that realities that do not exist for them can in no way not exist for others and need to be changed. I do know it must begin with each and every one of us. America must get to a place to not deny that MAYBE there IS inequality, that some things are NOT working and to acknowledge that there is a long, documented history of inequality, oppression and pain has to happen. If we continue to ignore it, it will be detrimental to us all.
Let's unite in love and in peace. Start today.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Post Mother's Day Note from An (Aging) Professional Female Artist

Another Mother's Day passes. At 37 years old, it is not a day I received breakfast in bed, flowers or coupon books for "free hugs" or "washing the dishes." I was at an 8 hour rehearsal for an incredible upcoming production titled "Veteranos." I have MANY titles: sister, daughter, artist, activist, mentor, and "mother" to countless number of young people who I have taught, mentored and literally helped raise over the last 20 years of my career, yet "Mommy" is not one of them.

Some folks feel sorry for me that I have not experienced the joy of Motherhood. Some envy my "free time" and that I can take a shower without someone pounding down the door. Some can't fathom that I have "chosen" my career over the gift of children. Here is a little clarity-

1. "You don't have much time left."
I am very clear that my child bearing years are coming to an end. We are reminded- monthly. There are many a times I think, "Was that my last egg?" We do enough "reminding" for ourselves.

2. "A job is never as important as your children."
Exactly. Which is why I don't have biological children yet. If and when the time comes my child/ren WILL be my priority. I would not be able to keep up the demanding schedule I have now and be present in the lives of my children the way I know I would want to be.

*Note to #2- I don't have a "job," it is my life's work. A creative being can't just "clock out" and it will NEVER be a 9-5.

3. A year down equals 5 years as a professional female artist.
If a man is going to be a father he can continue to audition and work as usual. Once a woman starts showing she can't audition for roles for a character who is not prego (unless you are Kerry Washington and the script and camera shots are written so you can continue to film- oh and you are the STAR of the show). Months of pregnancy, baby is born THEN you have to not only get back to pre-baby weight but look even BETTER because now 10 months later…you are a year older as well.

4. "Get a regular job so you can have a baby."
I am not married and self supporting. My art is not only what feeds my soul, but how I feed my face, pay my bills and sustain. I would be miserable in a career that didn't fit my passion and destiny. I would be a depressed mother to my kid.

5. It IS a sensitive issue.
Don't assume a female artist in her later 30's/early 40's doesn't WANT kids or respect the incredible sacrifices mothers make to be "moms." We go back and forth DAILY. It is one of the biggest decisions and commitments we make in our lives. There are many factors that play in. Plus you may not know the history of the female artist. Maybe she CAN'T have kids. Maybe she has had a miscarriage. You don't know what you don't know, don't assume.

6. Biological kids or not…I AM a "Mother."
My Buela, who raised me was not able to conceive. Yet, she was the most nurturing, "motherly" person I know and raised MANY children throughout her life. I am honored and blessed to have touched the lives of so many young people throughout my career. Referred to as "Mom, Ma, Dance Mama, Madrina etc." I have baptized, been maid of honor, confirmation sponsor, Quince's galore, family functions, high school graduations, college graduations, career planning- I have been a part of it ALL! Many incredible experiences and relationships that I may not have been able to have had I had a family of my own before now.

It's not about a "Career vs. Family" discussion, and trust me it is not an easy feat. It is about balance, timing and fulfilling our artistic destiny and being the best Mom we can be and that our kids would deserve. 37 years came quick! As I look back on the last 20 years I have traveled the world, created amazing art, contributed to my community and have loved "my kids." I DO want a family but have accepted that if it is meant to be it will happen, and in its right time. If it isn't meant to be, I will have had a pretty fulfilling life as well.

So if next Mother's Day you come across an aging female artist, who isn't a Mother, don't ask questions, give a lecture or a look of pity. Give a smile, a hug and ask her what she has been up to. I guarantee you she has been "birthing" some really creative art.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"I'm not a gangster...I just play one on T.V."

Tattoos on my neck...coldness in my eyes...and the library of guns in my bag....
All my years in this business and my first prime time gig on a huge network show I'm cast as "Anna"-the hard core gang banger who moves loads of weapons and cash. A few lines in a great closing scene with a pretty good pay check (thank God for the union).

"That's it?" "I thought it was gonna be longer?" "You look so mean!" Just the few comments I received post airing. None that were taken negatively. Then there is the ultimate..."Why do you choose to "just" audition for gangster roles?" Now time for some clarity-

1. I don't CHOOSE to "just" audition for gangster roles. 9 out of 10 tv/movie roles casting directors want to see me for are stereotypical roles- gangster, mean girl, single mom etc.

2. Most leading roles for tv/film are not written for people who look like me. Even if they are, networks and producers want a "big star" for the leading role to help lock in an audience hence knocking the rest of us out of the running.

3. Even these smaller roles are not easy to book. I beat out about 40-50 other actors for that lil ol' scene.

4. It is easy for people to say taking these roles is demeaning to Latinas and I should say, "no." Trust me I have said "no" to ALOT of gigs.

5. The writes guild has a limited representation of writers who are female. Latinas? Even smaller. We aren't the ones writing these characters or story lines.

6. I am an actor. Just because I am not this type of person in real life doesn't mean I can't play one on TV. I don't have any kids of my own in real life but I can for damn sure play a mother on screen! So why wouldn't I play a gangster?

7. Lupe Ontiveros played a maid hundreds of time in her career. She said it was her job to bring integrity to each one of her characters. It is my commitment as well.

8. Should I be playing the doctor? The teacher? The detective? Characters with depth, clarity and relatable? Yes, yes and yes.

9. I have. BUT mostly on stage in the theater. Theatre in L.A. isn't livable. You do theatre for the love, you do tv and film to pay your bills.

10. This is why I write, this is why I produce, this is why I create art to tell our stories.

1-10 . No one is going to do it for me.

Monday, July 1, 2013

When the "you don't look your age" gene works against you

I thank my mother for both my "youthfulness" and "dance" genes. No one can ever believe I am 36 years old and that my mother is now a senior citizen at 55. Most of the time people think we are sisters. I live a pretty active lifestyle as an artist, especially with all the dancing I do. This has benefited me in most aspects of my life and at times even my career. I recently finished a run of "The Mission Play" as 18-20 year old "Anita"....on stage. One of the reasons I love the theatre is as an actor you are creating your character on a blank canvas.

When it comes to tv and's a different story. In the last few years I've come into the "the middle." If I get called in to audition for "mother," I'm quite often told I look too young and honestly, I sometimes feel too young when I look around at other women I'm auditioning with.

Then if I get called in for a role between the ages of 18-25...I'm the old lady in the room. You see, it's not that I can't play the role of a younger or older woman it's that I don't look it- on camera. Let's get serious, I don't look like a 20 year old when I'm standing next to one (damn I miss that fast metabolism) -especially in front of a casting director. So why not just audition for the "in between?" I would, and I do but there are very limited roles.
As absurd as it sounds, think about it- how many middle aged latina roles are there on tv and film today?  More than the past, yes, but many casting directors will cast well known latina actresses to boost ratings. Secondly, our middle-aged, 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation, college educated, family oriented, leaders in the corporate world stories aren't being written. Even when they are (I've read some incredible scripts), networks aren't pouring millions of dollars into making them happen.

I would never trade my "you don't look your age" gene in but I will continue to write and produce stories of all walks of life and ages. Especially that "middle-aged latina" that I know there is an audience for even if networks don't think so. All while continuing the audition grind and kickin' that 20 year old's butt in the casting office every chance I get.
36 year old me and 55 year old mom and Tia Linda (yes, they're twins...and yes we look like triplets)

As 18-20yr old "Anita" in The Mission Play

Young in spirit, mature in life experiences... neither matter when it comes to the camera.

Monday, December 31, 2012

"On & on and on & cypher keeps moving like a rolling stone"

Most of us use the end of the year to evaluate our accomplishments, our failures and set new goals for the upcoming year. As an artistic creator I, too, use the end of the year as a self-reflection. I rang in 2012 on the runway at LAX headed to La Habana, Cuba. Full of excitement, creativity and love. Little did I know the momentum it would build for an incredible year of ups and downs, trials and tribulations, letting go and letting in and most importantly creativity and fulfilling my life's purpose of connecting people to themselves, to each other and building community- through art.
La Habana, Cuba

"MY L.A" original production Heart&Soul Collective
Dance Workshop in Yorkshire, England

"Worlds Together" Conference in London, England

Creating in Paris, France

West Coast Regional Premiere of "In the Heights"

"Creating Possibilities..."
What did I learn?
That everything in my first 35 years of life has prepared me for where I'm at and what I have yet to accomplish. Nothing would be possible without all the doors that have been shut on me personally and professionally to be able to do the work with love, compassion and to connect the human spirit. 

Although I can do ANYthing...I can't do EVERYthing. I had a few health scares. When you love what you do and it is your "life's work" you tend to think you are superhuman. I learned I must take care of myself as an individual and as an artist or I am no good to anyone (still working on this one).

This was a year of healing and affirmation. The universe continues to remind me of my purpose, my gifts and strengthen my faith in it. I had to let go of people, painful experiences and negative energy to make room for all the light and love I have been so blessed to receive and ALLOW myself to live it.

To always, always, ALWAYS trust my intuition. The only decisions that have ever left me uneasy are ones that didn't resinate with the higher being. Living in truth is the most difficult and most rewarding form of art and I do my best to live in gratitude for every thing I am and every thing I am not- every day. 

2012 was a foundational year for me but even at the year's end my creativity and life is an endless cypher with no beginning and no end. That being said...this is only the beginning. 

I am blessed for all of you that have inspired, shared, participated, loved, supported and believed in me as a person and as an artist. 

2013 is already off to a fulfilling year. I have youth to teach, new countries to visit, art to create and lots and lots of ideas :)

Peace and blessings!

Keep Creating, 

"Art creates hope, and with hope anything is possible"- Marissa Herrera