Mayans Star Emily Tosta On Why She Thinks Mayans M.C. Has Captured The Cultural Zeitgeist

Yitzi Weiner @ Authority Magazine

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Authority Magazine
…you have to always remember that what is meant for you will find you, at the exact time that you need it. Everything happens for a reason, and everyone has a divine plan.
…you have to learn to not care about what others think of you. People are always going to have something to say, no matter if you’re successful or not, and if you let the opinion of others take over, especially when you’re in the public eye, it’s easy to spiral down a detrimental path of self-hatred.

I had the distinct pleasure to talk to actress Emily Tosta. Emily was cast in her first feature film, landing the female lead opposite Oscar winner Nicolas Cage in the genre thriller, Wally’s Wonderland. In the film, Emily plays the rebellious teen ‘Liv’ who joins Cage’s character ‘The Janitor’ in their bid to survive a hellish night trapped inside an abandoned family entertainment center populated by possessed animatronics. In addition, Emily heavily recurs on the hit FX series “Mayans M.C.” from creator Kurt Sutter (“Sons of Anarchy.”) In recent years, Emily was also seen as the female lead of HBOMax pilot Camp Friends as well as the hit Freeform reboot series “Party of Five” that premiered in January 2020 from the original show’s co-creators Amy Lippman and Christopher Keyser. Emily can also be seen recurring in PBC comedy series opposite Kate Flannery and Danny Trejo which is currently filming its second season.

Born in the Dominican Republic, and the daughter of a mixed Venezuelan mom and Dominican father, Emily is fast becoming one of the most sought after young actresses in Hollywood. She has been in the entertainment business since the age of seven, when she discovered her passion for acting, while also pursuing dancing and singing. At the age of twelve, Emily moved to Miami, FL with her mother to make her dreams of becoming a successful entertainer come true. After a couple of years of landing small acting and singing gigs, Emily and her mother decided it was time to take Hollywood by storm, and they have never looked back! Once in Los Angeles, Emily landed guest starring roles on such shows as “The Resident,” “Rosewood” and “NCIS: Los Angeles,” but her big break came when she landed her role in “Mayans M.C.,” which brought national attention to her amazing acting abilities.

When Emily is not working, she devotes her time to philanthropic endeavors and supports causes that are important in the Latin community. She recently took part in the CELEBRATE IMMIGRANTS campaign and participates in NALIP. Emily also has her own charity, Karttos International which helps children in Venezuela that are in need of food and medical supplies. Additionally, she is also a supporter of PETA, The Thirst Project, Music for The Heart and St. Jude’s among others. Emily resides in Los Angeles.

Emily, thank you so much for joining us on this interview series. Our readers would love to know your origin story and how you grew up. Can you tell us about that and what led you to your illustrious career?

I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic where I lived until I was 13. I began acting at a young age, and I used it as an escape from the issues I was facing at home. I began with theater, next came commercials, then on to TV and film. Being from the Dominican Republic, the opportunities were limited, so anything that came along, I jumped at the opportunity. After a while, it got to a point where I wanted more for myself, and my Mom was a huge supporter of wanting me to follow my dreams, so we talked about the next steps, and both agreed that moving to America was going to lead to more opportunities.

So my Mom and I moved to Miami, and thankfully, we were able to stay with my sister and her husband as we had no legal documentation for us to work. We packed our bags and left with little money, resources, or knowing the language. That was a huge experience for me and it shaped me into who I am today as I’ve always felt that the immigrant story makes you stronger, while also having to grow up so quickly. I was able to get my work visa and I began working in Miami, but after a while, I wanted to move to L.A. as I felt that would afford me better opportunities as an actor. My Mom found a family member on Facebook who was living in Redondo Beach, but we had never met him before. He was gracious enough to let us sleep in his library and from there I immediately started auditioning for various roles. I was able to find an agent and began working very hard to make my way in the industry. I began booking as many co-stars and guest star appearances as I could, and from there I landed my current role on Mayans, which is what opened a lot of doors.

You probably have a lot of fascinating stories. Can you share with us one of the most interesting stories that have happened to you in your career so far?

For me, the struggle that I faced as an immigrant, really shaped who I am today. Being from a different country, we tend to face a lot of discrimination, from racism to sexism. I remember when I first came to L.A., I was made fun of for my body type and the way I looked in general because I wasn’t the typical girl that would be chasing her dreams in Hollywood. At first, it weighed me down and I felt as though I had to shape-shift to get any opportunities. But, after a while, I landed at a point in my life where I began to realize that my roots were my superpower and I needed to embrace my identity around them. For me, going through all those moments of being put down over who I was, made me realize that I should turn that frustration into momentum to propel me to the person that I was meant to be and allow my true self to shine as an artist.

It has been said that mistakes are our greatest teachers. Do you have a story about a mistake that you made when you were first starting and the lesson you learned from that?

When I first began auditioning in L.A, there were a few mistakes, but there were also a lot of things I didn’t know and that I had to learn along the way. During the entire process of auditions, callbacks, producer sessions, testing sessions, etc. I learned so much through the mistakes that I made even down to what I should wear, how to step into the room, how to read your script, how to engage with your reader, and the list goes on. But really, that’s just life at the end of the day. If you don’t take the risks, you don’t get the results, and for those of us who are creatives, we need to constantly be taking risks and making mistakes because we’re never going to learn how to do things differently and I think mistakes propel us to make those much-needed changes.

No one has been able to achieve success without some help along the way. Do you have a particular person you are grateful for or someone who helped you get to where you are and if so, can you share a story about that?

That is for sure my Mom. She is my biggest supporter and my rock. She is the most resilient woman that I have ever met in my life. I’ve watched her be completely selfless with others and she has always taught me so much through kindness and love. She is a huge risk-taker and a warrior. She came to this country with absolutely nothing, no documentation, not knowing the language or anything about the culture. That alone showed me to always take significant risks and never take no for an answer. That has come in handy along the way and with hard work, I’ve been able to do something I love because of her mentality growing up, so I am eternally grateful for her. I can say without a doubt that she is my best friend.

You’ve been blessed with a career that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on a similar path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

The first thing would be to not let the thought of failure get in your way. Failure teaches us how to be successful and through failure, we learn our strengths and weaknesses and the areas we need to work on. Next, focus on yourself. Find a routine that you enjoy, and that allows you to find what you like learning about and study that as much as you can. Whether it’s going to a class, analyzing your favorite actor and their performances, or simply standing strong in your passion and vision, always make sure that you work harder than everyone else and have faith that everything will work out the way it is supposed to.

Emily, you have some impressive work including Party of Five and Mayans. Can you share with readers some of the interesting projects you’re working on now and what you hope to achieve in the future?

I just finished filming season four of Mayans and that has been such a beautiful journey with my castmates and crew. We are currently waiting to hear if we will be picked up for another season. Right now, I am filming a holiday movie, Holiday Twist, which is a first for me! I will also be filming the second season of the comedy series PBC this summer.

Additionally, I am producing a film titled Semi-Colon. Producing has been a very exciting opportunity and has opened my eyes to creative storytelling behind the camera. After this experience, I would love to work more in a producing capacity and content creation to bring representation and inclusion to our industry, while also taking charge of the storytelling.

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So as you know, Mayans has been one of the most popular and intriguing shows of the last few years. In your opinion, what was it that captured people’s attention about the show?

Mayans is a show that speaks so much truth, and all the characters have several layers to them. That’s what attracted me to the script initially, as I thought it was truly unique how real and raw the show was going to be. The writers of the show are amazing storytellers and have done a wonderful job at humanizing the characters. We’re showing different sides of everyone from their darkness, weakness, strengths, passions, and more and I think that because of this, the show has had such a following due to it being relatable. Everyone is going through different journeys, learning about themselves and diving deep into who they are and it’s been a beautiful experience to have the freedom to express ourselves on screen, especially as actors of color. At the end of the day, I think it is really about the representation that the show brings and I love the fact that the cast is Latin.

What are some of the lessons you think our society can take from Mayans and apply to our lives today?

For me, our show represents a lot of truth. We speak about politics and crime, among other topics, and that allows people to pick and choose what resonates with them through various characters.

Emily, you are blessed with a lot of success in your career. What are the five things you wish someone would have told you when you first started your career and why?

  1. First, always remember that rejection is both protection and redirection. This one took me a while to learn as there is so much rejection in this career field.
  2. Second, you have to always remember that what is meant for you will find you, at the exact time that you need it. Everything happens for a reason, and everyone has a divine plan.
  3. Third, you have to learn to not care about what others think of you. People are always going to have something to say, no matter if you’re successful or not, and if you let the opinion of others take over, especially when you’re in the public eye, it’s easy to spiral down a detrimental path of self-hatred.
  4. Next, find ways to fulfill yourself for those times that you are not working. As an actor in the beginning, if I wasn’t working, it was a struggle for me to find self-love and ways of focusing on myself. But once I realized that just because I wasn’t working at that time didn’t make me any less, that is when I stepped into my power and began to feel invincible.
  5. Finally, eat, live and breathe your passion. As I mentioned earlier, you have to work 10x harder than anyone else and continually take risks, otherwise, you will become comfortable and may never break past the limit that you’ve set for yourself.

Because of the role you play, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can inspire.

There is so much going on in the world and I believe that due to what my Mom instilled in me when I was younger, helping others has always been at the forefront. Because of this, we created the Karttos International Organization, which helps the people of Venezuela. Within our organization, we do things such as fundraising events, donation drives, toy drives, and host food banks. This allows us to help orphanages, hospitals, elderly centers, and other organizations within the country. We bring them items such as food, clothes, and medicine, among other things. The journey that we have been on over the last few years has been so fulfilling for both of us and we enjoy it so much because it feels as though we’re doing our part to try and help those in need. Because we already have this organization, I would like to continue on this path, but also expand it to other countries that would benefit from it.

I am also the co-founder of a non-profit called Diff Education, which I work on with my friend, Anaya. In this organization, we help to build schools in Africa. That has been very fulfilling for me as well and is something I will continue to do as long as I can. I think it’s important that those kids not only have an education but the resources and basic needs that they need to improve themselves and also make the world a better place.

My Mom always told me to let the world be a better place than how I found it, and that line resonated with me. The legacy that we leave behind is important, so I would like mine to be the fact that I was able to help others not only with basic needs but to help them just feel as though there are people out there who care about them. Yes, being a celebrity and having people know who you are, having your face on billboards, and being in movies is nice, but what are you leaving behind after all of that? I believe life should be about you keeping a high vibrational frequency, and using that higher frequency to spread love and positivity to those around us.

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We are blessed that prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person who you would like to have lunch with? We can tag them and see if they would be willing to sit down with you.

Hmm.. that’s a tough one! Can I say more than one?

The first person I would like to have lunch with would be Angelina Jolie. Not only is she an incredible actress and creative, but she is an ambassador for good in the world. She tirelessly dedicates herself to charity and is amazing at using her platform to change the world for the better. I would love the opportunity to pick her brain on not only our craft but on activism and positive change because I think she does an amazing job at blending the two.

As for the other person, I would say Michelle Obama. She has such a strong voice for women of color and she exceeds so much strength, power, and positivity. She is an overall amazing inspiration and to watch the change she brings to the world is so amazing. I would love the chance to sit down with her, learn more about her journey in life so far, and see what new things she has on the horizon regarding her goals for the future.

How may our readers follow your work online?

They can check me out on Instagram or Twitter @emilytosta.

Thank you for these fantastic insights, Emily

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Yitzi Weiner is a journalist, author, and the founder Authority Magazine. He is also the CEO of Authority Magazine's Thought Leader Incubator, which guides leaders to become prolific content creators. Yitzi is also the author of five books. In 2017, he created the popular, “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” series that highlights the empowering lessons learned from the experiences of high-profile entrepreneurs and public figures. This series has inspired a mini-movement among writers, with scores of writers worldwide profiling inspiring people to share their positive, empowering, and actionable stories. A trained Rabbi, Yitzi is also a dynamic educator, teacher and orator. He currently lives in Maryland with his wife and children.

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