Multi-award-winning actor (ALMA, Imagen & NYIIFVF), choreographer (Imagen) and novelist Eliana Alexander has been immersed in the entertainment world for over 30 years in front of, and behind the camera.
She is nominated as leading television actress in the 2016 Imagen Awards;
Eliana Alexander, Sin Vergüenza (www.SVseries.com; Kavich Reynolds Productions & AltaMed Health Services Corporation,
America Ferrera, Superstore (NBC Broadcast Network; Universal TelevisionEva Longoria, Telenovela (NBC Broadcast Network; Universal Television, Unbelievable Ent., Tall and Short)
Jennifer Lopez, Shades of Blue (NBC Broadcast Network; Universal Television, EGTV, Nuyorican Productions, Ryan Seacrest Productions)
Jaina Lee Ortiz, Rosewood (Fox in association with Hulu; Temple Hill Productions / Nickels Productions / 20th Century Fox Television,
Gina Rodriguez, Jane the Virgin (The CW; CBS Television Studios,
Sofía Vergara, Modern Family (ABC; 20th Century Fox Television)
Eliana was part of the ALMA Award-winning ensemble in Foto Novelas, the Imagen Award-winning series, and Sin Verguenza as well as the ALMA Award-nominated ensembles The Elian Gonzales Story and My Father's Love.
Ms. Alexander won the NYIIFVF best actress award for her portrayal of Magdalena Linney in the feature Agenda. She choreographed the Imagen Award-winning musical Paquito's Christmas that performed at the Lincoln Center in Washington, D.C. Her role as Rita Thomas in My Network TV's Desire received rave reviews.
She wrote, produced and directed the television pilot series Next Page as well as wrote, produced and starred in the pilot series Hold the Line. Eliana's journey began as a professional singer at the early age of sixteen and that of course opened doors to musical theater.
Eliana was the featured recording artist on the soundtrack for the musical "DAWGS" composed by Richard and Robert Sherman of Disney fame. Musical theater soon opened the doors to television and film. She embraced it all doing exactly what she loves.
As a young artist she began teaching dance in order to survive and that opened the door to developing young artists. Traveling the US, Canada and New Zealand as a world-renowned dancer with her passion she co-founded the EDGE performing arts center and LA Dance Force.
She was also the founding member of Kids Dance LA and gave numerous scholarships to inner city kids to give them a purpose, a focus and a passion to help keep them off the streets. With Eliana at the helm, all three entities became world-renowned for training topnotch dancers and choreographers who choreographed for and danced with entertainers such as Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Shakira, Madonna and Janet Jackson to name only a few.
Ms. Alexander is honored and blessed to have directed and choreographed numerous theater productions, countless award winning dance competitions, dance videos and theater pieces. Eliana is a consummate entertainer and continues to grace the dance floor yet has immersed herself in a new passion of writing television and film scripts as well as novels.
Her first novel, The Neighbor, received excellent reviews. Eliana has just completed her second novel and is thrilled to see where her journey takes her next. Eliana is grateful for her diverse talents that have enabled her to enrich every project of which she is a part as well as her own life.
Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez had a wonderful conversation with Eliana:
Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez (AC): Tell us about growing up, what type of family, what inspired you to become an artist?
Eliana Alexander (EA): I was fortunate to grow up being stationed in various countries in South and Central America. I learned at a very young age to explore and to be a multi-dimensional person. More spice in life!
I come from a military family and we were stationed in La Paz, Bolivia, Asuncion, Paraguay and Guatemala. We also spent a lot of time in Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Chile with vacations in Ecuador, Honduras and San Salvador. These beautiful countries gave me a lot of culture. I loved the different styles of music, dance and foods each country offered. My family was positive and no matter where we were we had a very close bond. We looked at moving as a blessing to get to know the world. Being able to spend quality time in each country was wonderful, getting to see how people of all levels live. I was touched and humbled by the beauty in each and every one of them.
Of course every experience enriched the artist in me. My parents exposed us to many things making sure we experienced everything. I loved my music and dance classes. Playing classical guitar was a huge favorite of mine. In Bolivia I had the great honor of being taught ballet by Miriam Karpovich. We were part of the equestrian club in La Paz, Bolivia and Asuncion, Paraguay. We owned our own horse and were involved in jumping competitions. In Guatemala I studied gymnastics at La Technica Alemana. Wow talk about tough coaches yet I learned a lot about physical discipline and thanks to that once here in the United States I was able to endure strenuous dance training.
The Universe kept pulling me into the arts. I kept going with the flow and it has been a magical journey ever since. At sixteen I started singing professionally in a band, mostly singing top forty tunes of course filtering in originals. That opened up the door to musical theater and from there TV and film. Everything I had experienced is being used, from horseback riding to music and even languages.
AC: What was High School like? Who was your biggest inspiration? Mentor?
EA: I got here to the US just as I started high school. I was used to smaller schools and the high schools here were so big that it felt as if I was attending a university. Here in United States we are all very fortunate with all the opportunities offered to us. Something funny growing up overseas most of my teachers were British so when we arrived to the US I had a British accent. After about a year I was speaking with an American accent.
My biggest inspiration was my ballet teacher Jody Wintz at Dupree's Dance Academy in Hollywood, CA. She is a spectacular ballet teacher and very spiritual. She taught me to be humble. She taught me that the energy you put out comes back to you. Always send out love. That is very impressive to me and I carry that with me always.
AC: You started out as a singer, what type of music inspired you? Who do you listen to?
EA: The band I sang in mostly played top forty tunes peppered with originals. I love all kinds of music from Rock, Latin, Opera, classical and even Country. Of course living in South and Central America I listened to some pretty amazing Latin groups.
AC: What was the first performance you ever did, when was the moment you decided the entertainment business was for you?
EA: My first performance was playing a little mouse in the ballet Cinderella in La Paz, Bolivia. I immediately loved the stage and the feeling of being under the lights. As the roles kept coming I just flowed in every venue. I guess the Universe is the one that told me that the entertainment industry is for me.
AC: What kind of training have you had, singing, dance, and acting? What was your first commercial success?
EA: I have trained classically in guitar, vocals, acting and dancing. A strong classical training allows me to be diverse.
My first commercial success was in the band. We toured the U.S. and even Japan. My first professional musical was West Side Story with Hilltown Hollywood Production, a bus and truck company.
The most memorable musical I starred in is DAWGS where I played Poopsie the grey mutt and the theme song "Dawgs are Man's Best Friend" was written specifically for me by Richard and Robert Sherman who wrote the music for famed Disney musicals such as: Mary Poppins, 101 Dalmatians, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and many more. That was a huge honor!
AC: You are multi-talented, tell us a little about your work as a choreographer and some of the projects you were involved in.
EA: While pursuing my acting thank goodness I was asked to teach master classes at various schools around the U.S., Canada and New Zealand. In addition to teaching I had the pleasure of choreographing for their company production numbers.
I was in heaven, for this was a great way to survive and make a living while hitting the pavement as an actor. I was able to pay my rent and live well with these opportunities.
All of this choreography allowed me to learn about staging and to see movement from many angles. I got that to make the dance exciting. You need to enhance the staging, utilizing the full length of the stage. This of course opened up a world for TV and film choreography. As I said before the world kept opening doors and I flowed right through them loving every minute of it.
While teaching at Dupree's I was able to meet directors and producers from many shows. I was offered coaching and choreography jobs with The Young and the Restless, music videos for new artists, commercials and of course musicals. I am grateful for being able to open myself to all of these avenues. Everything I do intertwines with each other allowing me to be a better artist.
AC: What is EDGE performing arts center and LA Dance Force?
EA: La Dance Force is a convention and competition company that traveled the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia. We would hold these conventions in huge hotel ballrooms. Various local schools attended the classes and entered the talent competitions.
We gave out awards and scholarships to our studio EDGE PAC. EDGE is a dance academy and I was honored to be one of the founding partners in 1990. EDGE and our teachers are responsible for training top dancers and choreographers around the world. It is a pleasure and an honor to see these talented artists soar to success in the entertainment industry.
AC: Tell us about Kids Dance LA?
EA: I founded Kids Dance LA in 1991 when I realized that there are various conventions and competition geared for teens and nothing out there for kids. I developed a program where students would learn to be versatile. My company brought singing, acting and dancing classes to their cities.
Through Kids Dance LA I created scholarships for inner city kids. Whether they became artist or not it gave them a platform to develop discipline and to know how to multitask. This way they can go on to be successful at whatever they put their minds to. Happy with the work, I've left the dancing projects in capable hands and have moved on blessed to have been a part of it.
AC: Tell us a little about your recording career, and the projects you have worked on.
EA: I recorded four songs with a company that worked with Victor Records. I was happy to have a contract but I was not thrilled with the way they "popped" and "bubble gum" my songs. I have a very earthy and natural flavor yet at that time commercial pop was in so I went with it. Now in December I am planning to re-record my music with a full band to have the Latin flavors and a more organic sound that I like. This way I record the sound I always wanted. This will be for me, to have something of mine for my family.
AC: As a writer, tell us about the TV series you have developed. Where do you get your ideas? Any particular Genre?
EA: I love creating and I have developed several TV shows and films with strong characters. I like characters with huge arcs and dimensions. I get my inspiration from life and some real stories. I get an idea and I run with it. Most of my work is fiction except for my action drama episodic series. In this episodic all stories are based off of true facts that happened on the border.
In Hold the Line Dr. Gabriela McKenna, a former Navy doctor, then BORSTAR (Border Search Trauma & Rescue) throws herself into her work to cover the deep loss of her fiancé. Gabriela leaves BORSTAR to spearhead a new trauma unit right at the US/Mexican Border.
I like being diverse in everything I do. I don't have a specific genre. I write where I flow and I make sure to finish each story, TV show or film that I create and write. I have to feel a sense of being complete. I like to be able to completely move on, opening myself to the fullest to have a complete vision for the next story. Again every experience is intertwined with everything I do.
AC: I am a huge fan of your book The Neighbor, (Highly recommended). Tell us a little about the book, is it torn from the quiet streets of Beverly Hills? Any chance of turning it into a screen project?
EA: The Neighbor is already a screenplay and we are thrilled to have a new team coming together. Jack Sojka is our producing partner. We look forward to filming The Neighbor soon.
AC: Tell us about the new book you are working on.
EA: Right now I just completed my second novel titled TILT, a fun action, sci-fi story. The screenplays have already been written and I am thrilled that it is going to be a franchise. Many have expressed their excitement in reading TILT. It is awesome to have readers waiting for my books!
AC: Tell us about some of the awards you have won. Is there any particular one that is most meaningful?
EA: I am blessed and thrilled for any award that recognizes my work. They all mean a lot to me. Award recognition to me means that more people out there know about your work, which means you have the possibility for more work being offered to you in this delightful industry.
I received a NYIIFVF Best Actress Award for my work in the film Agenda written and directed by Jon De La Luz.
I received an Alma Award for Best Ensemble cast for our work in the Foto Novelas episode Mangas directed by AP Gonzales and created by Carlos Avila.
I choreographed the Imagen Award winning musical Paquito's Christmas written and directed by the late Luis Avalos.
What is important to me is the work. That is what counts and being acknowledged with award recognition is pure icing on the cake!
AC: This year you are nominated for an Imagen Award for your work on the program Sin Verguenza, tell us about this series and the impact it is having on the community.
EA: Sin Verguenza is an amazing series to be a part of. Whenever you get to work on a show that helps people in many ways it's awesome. The show is about a drama that ensues when a member of the Salazar family is faced with HIV. I get to play Adriana Salazar and the series shows how she and her family deal with this news. The show was created by Hilda Sandoval and Natalie Sanchez for Alta-Med.
The show addresses HIV from baby to grandparent. Through the Salazar family you will learn about unexpected contributions and risks in the ongoing spread of HIV in the Latin community and ways to prevent it.
AC: This year's nominees include some network heavy weights, how do you feel about being viewed as an A-list peer?
EA: I am in awe of these fantastic women. To be nominated alongside of them is beyond an honor. I am very grateful to the Imagen Foundation for acknowledging me into a mainstream category. They truly have shown us that our series matters.
AC: As a singer, actor, dancer, writer which artistic platform do you seem to have the greatest love for?
EA: This question is often asked and I say it all the time. When you are fortunate enough to do what you love they are all my favorites. I am always very present in the moment and flow with everything that I am doing. I am blessed that I have had the opportunity to enrich my life by being, learning, and doing many things. I will continue to explore and to learn many more things in life. That is the only way to grow, by being brave to dare to try new things!
AC: What are some of the biggest obstacles preventing non mainstream projects from getting financial backing in Hollywood nowadays?
EA: Everyone has opinions about this. I feel that once you have a track record, things become a little bit easier. Film companies and investors have to trust in your projects and that you can deliver. What I mean by deliver: you have to prove that your projects are good and that they make money. This is show business.
The artist in me wants to jump. The businesswoman has learned a lot this past year by shadowing a sales rep and that is, your project/film has to be financially successful for the next investor to trust you. Are you a company that makes good films that will give them their ROI "Return on Investment?"
Once you get a successful project under your belt the next one is much easier getting your film financed. Patience is key and keep going!
AC: Tell us about your Race Bike motorcycle riding Husband, John Nikitin?
EA: My husband John, thank goodness, does not ride in the city. I am very happy about that. John Nikitin is an amazing man, a great husband and a fantastic partner. We live life to the fullest and when it comes to our company we work very well together. He is incredibly supportive in everything that I do. He is always the one telling me to go for it, whatever it is. He stands by me and helps me with everything. He is beyond smart and graduated from the University of Arizona with a double major.
Thank goodness for that for he is the editor of all of my books, screenplays and TV shows. We have been married for twelve years and to this day we have never been in a fight. We talk about everything and create a possibility to understand each other's point of view. I am blessed to be married to someone who truly knows how to be adventurous and have fun in everything we do. I am grateful to know deep love with him.
AC: What are some of the projects you are working on now? What are some of your goals in the years to come?
EA: I continue to write TV and film projects. Right now we are thrilled to have a director for my comedy action TV show titled PUNCH. The director is Billy Clift and a fun fact is that he is Montgomery Clift's third cousin. Our goal is to start production at the end of September.
AC: Someday when it's all said and done, what would you like your legacy to be?
EA: Oh wow, well, I really want to pass on good energy, respect, kindness, goodwill and love. It is very easy to emanate. We are the drops that trickle into a pond creating a ripple effect; it is our job to make that ripple effect about respect, good will and kindness.
It would be awesome for people to look at the big picture, to give back where they can. Even if you don't have money, there are places that accept volunteers. There are various charities that can use your help as teachers and mentors.
For example: animal sanctuaries, homes for women and children, operation smile and many more around the world. Be observant of how you can help and go for it. Making a difference in someone's life will make a difference in your own life!
Remember we are all one. Let's be happy for one another. Share the stage of life. There is plenty to go around! Life is magnificent that way!
"Luck is preparation meeting opportunity"