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  • Emily Van Gorder-Pantig

Maria

I met Maria through my parents roughly a year ago. They would speak of her frequently and in such a positive light. The circumstances where we finally met weren't the best (we both sang at my grandmother's funeral) but it gave me the opportunity to hear her beautiful singing voice. The power that came from within the soul of Maria spoke volumes. Her instrument was compelling and dynamic. It would come as no surprise that her personality matched her gorgeous voice. She stood firmly in her place and was the definition of a woman with a commanding presence. She was incredibly well spoken and seemed so much more mature in age. Instantly, I admired the strength of her character and could see exactly why my parents enjoyed her company so much. I later learned that this talented singer has been featured in blockbuster films such as "Coco" and "La Llarona". Being a MASSIVE Disney fan, when I heard she was in a Disney movie...she was basically a celebrity in my eyes. :) Being in the singing community, you always are reminded what a small world it really is. We know several of the same people and I later learned she was dating a gentleman who graduated the same year/music dept from my smaller, liberal arts school. In addition to being a talented opera singer, she is also involved with the church and Reiki healing. Her positive light shines everywhere she goes, and I find myself blessed to be in it.

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What is your name and how do we know each other?

"Maria Dominique Lopez. So many weird ways. I guess we could say 'adopted sisters' sort of. And, you went to undergrad with my partner."


How old are you?

"34"


What are you currently doing with yourself?

"I am mainly an opera singer. I sing for the church, as well. I am Reiki healer and I have a side gig at a friend’s office. She is a professional fiduciary."


Are you where you hoped you would be? If not/ Why? If so-what do you love about it and could you see yourself doing anything else?

"I think that in my meditation practice I’ve learned how to be grateful and mindful of the present moment I’m in, and to have an open heart full of gratitude. With that, I can say yes-spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. I think when I was young, I used to imagine life milestones. The older I’ve gotten the more I've realized that these are social constructs that we make up. The boxes we’re supposed to tick off aren’t real. I think if I get up in the morning and I like who I see then that’s what I am damn proud of, and that’s all that really matters."


Women are becoming a resilient sound that cannot be silenced. What are you doing to contribute that sound?

"Hmm..Well, I have done a lot of things since the 2016 election. It has involved talking to my friends about how we can mobilize ourselves to make real, actionable change in our own communities. I’ve also created art in response to my feelings as a woman in today’s political climate. Last year my friend, Maria Cominis-(she is my acting coach and teaches at CSUF) and I created a feminist cabaret called 'Maria Maria'. It was full of activist folk songs from the 60’s/musical theatre excerpts that wove together to discuss what it feels like to be a woman in today’s political climate. It was very cathartic and we hope to resurrect it for fundraisers for 2020 candidates. Finally, part of being a voice of feminism is to live my life in a way that supports feminist ideals and that supports my fellow sisters/calls out misogyny when I see it."


What is something you learned from a younger age that has stuck with you?

"Choice. My parents raised me in a way that was very accountable. Instead of disciplining me, they would say things like, 'Maria, you can keep throwing that temper tantrum and this will be the consequence, or you can calm down and this will happen. You choose.' It gave me a great sense of autonomy and empowerment over my own life from a very early age. It taught me that there are consequences to every choice I make, whether good or bad. In a sense, they were my first mindfulness teachers--they taught me to think before I act or speak."


Who is an individual who made a profound impact on you and why?

I think that everyone comes into our lives to teach us a very important lesson. I Feel like this modern western society has misunderstood the concept of ”soulmates”. We’ve been raised to believe that soulmates are a once-in-a-lifetime pairing that’s romantic in nature. But I’m increasingly sure that our parents, our friends, our family, our current or former loves, and so many people in between have huge impacts on our lives—and that is what makes them soulmates. They’re people who change the way our souls form and our lives develop, and so for me, there are simply too many to name.

What is a weakness or something that exposes your vulnerability and what do you do to combat/embrace it in order to grow?

""I take issue with the wording of this question because I don’t believe that the word ”vulnerability” is synonymous with weakness. I’m happy to be vulnerable anytime with nearly anyone and being a big fan of Brené Brown, I subscribe to the belief that in showing our most vulnerable side to others and giving them the opportunity to show up for us, we can create a more harmonious and empathetic humankind."


What is something that you want to accomplish and what are you doing to get to that place, if anything?

"I feel like I have been on this really long journey. Between the traumas I've experienced to the heartbreak and the challenges I've faced- I think my only real goal is to see the journey through until I feel like I made it to a place where I’ve arrived. When I feel the most like myself, I’ll know that I’ve gotten there."


And now..a few questions to lighten the mood...


Dogs or Cats?

"Both. Dogs love you unconditionally. Cats are quirky and hysterical."


Cheeseburgers or Salad?

"Cheeseburgers with bacon."


Beach or Mountains?

"I honestly can’t decide."


Sweet or Salty?

"Salty"


Lose all of your old memories or never make new ones?

"Lose all my old memories. I already have a terrible memory anyway."


Disney..or is there any alternative?

"I like drama. Disney is fine. I like Musical Theatre. I like angry, sad movies. I like to feel my feelings."


What is a fun fact that someone may not know about you?

"Most people don’t know I am Reiki healer. I know how to make my own jewelry."


And the final two important questions...


What is a common misconception about you that people make based on your appearance? What is your truth and how do you personify strength?

"Well—not to sound arrogant or conceited—I do understand that I have beauty privilege. I recognize that with that privilege come certain assumptions of my character, my intelligence and my accessibility. Studies have shown that people who are considered 'conventionally beautiful' are more likely to be thought of as trustworthy, responsible, and intelligent. They’re more likely to be given loans at banks. They’re more likely to get jobs over other candidates etc. The point is, is that I understand that this face buys me a lot that I didn’t earn and I think one of the most important things to having any kind of privilege is understanding the power that that privilege yields and using it to help others and not just myself. My truth is that despite my profession or my appearance, I am a normal person who has the same fears and insecurities as so many other people out there. How I personify strength is fighting everyday to find ways to love and respect myself and others."


You have inspired me. What about yourself do you hope to put out in order to inspire other young people?

"I think if I can impart anything to the younger generation it would be not be afraid to be vulnerable. I know it’s a Utopian ideal but I think if we could all open our hearts up to each other, it would end every single problem we have as a society."














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© 2017 by Emily Van Gorder-Pantig.