We are continually becoming our fuller, authentic selves. Nothing in nature is static; everything always expands and becomes more. As we embrace our unique self-expression, we get to experience life in its most satisfying movement. The embodiment of knowing that our worthiness is beyond any external contextual belief will set us free from looking outwards for validation, hence we start to look within ourselves to experience our innate wholeness.
Bernardo Badillo, who is a Mexican American artist, says about embracing his authentic self, “I think I spent a lot of years trying to find my authentic self. And once I really tapped into who I really was and my strength, I felt all the things that made me different were things I could finally embrace. And so every unique distinct quality about me makes me special, makes me who I am. Before that, I felt like I was just the odd man out, sort of the black sheep in my family who was very different from everybody else. I was reading Jane Fonda’s autobiography, called My Life So Far, where she shared about how she had won the Oscar and she had done all these amazing things, but it wasn’t until the third act of her life that she felt like she found her authentic voice and was her authentic self. Very few people know about it, but I actually got a tattoo inspired by Jane’s words that say Segundo Acto (Second Act in Spanish). I felt like it was in my 30s that I embraced everything I am and was my authentic self. So I feel distinct, which encompasses everything I’ve learned to love about myself.” Bernardo pauses and continues, “I think especially growing up Latino, there’s a perception of what your job is supposed to be, what you’re supposed to look like, how you’re supposed to act or behave. And I didn’t fit any of those molds. So I definitely felt different and unique, which is a better word for it. And now I’ve learned to embrace myself and my family has embraced me for all the things that I am. They are super proud of all the things that I’ve accomplished because they see the things that made different are what have contributed to my success.”
Most of our experiences are a reflection of the bank of memories we have observed, taken as ours, and integrated into our life. There are environments where it’s easier to succeed, but nevertheless we all have the empowerment to be able to express ourselves as we desire. What can be more inspiring than witnessing someone who we relate to living their dream life? What can be more inspiring than becoming an example for others to accomplish anything they want? Leading by our own example—honoring who we are becoming—creates an infinite ripple effect through living the life we consider is best.
Bernardo grew up in Anaheim, CA, but especially during his childhood, he traveled to visit his family in Mexico back and forth all the time. He says, “I always felt like I had the best of both worlds because I understood the roots that I was coming from, I understood the values. I learned a lot from my family because my mom was a single parent, and she raised me, but people who also would take care of me were my grandma, grandpa, and my aunts and uncles. Through them I had a wide variety of perspectives and influences growing up Latino. And I do think I bring a lot of that work ethic to my work because, like I said, in a family of immigrants who restarted their whole lives here; they worked in the fields, they worked in factories, they worked in construction, and some still do. So in terms of Mexican values, I value hard work. I bring that to any job I do. As an artist I had access to university training and a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t grown up here in the US. I know that there are a lot of people that struggle with that, and not being able to pursue their dreams as I have. I don’t take that for granted. Because of that I always bring forth the Latino flavor, that Latino perspective as much as I can and spread love and light for all Latino artists.”
Inclusion starts with including ourselves in expressing who we are beyond certain stereotypes of cultural context. Even within each culture, there are a vast variety of expressions, and even then, everything changes and expands. It all starts with one person making the choice to be who they want to be from its purest desire, and then that inevitably redirects the course of what is possible.
“I feel like inclusion is about acknowledging who I am, where I come from, and what I look like. But also being able to go beyond those things and saying, ‘Okay, great, you are this thing, this type, this person, but how can we then move the dial, so that you can be seen in a variety of roles and a variety of different ways, not just as this one thing.’ I want to be celebrated for my Mexican and Latino heritage. But I also want to be included in more of “the mainstream” of what we do as artists. Even as human beings, you want to be acknowledged. And I think that for me, what I’ve started to realize, and notice is that in the past, I would go out for a lot of the immigrant roles, a lot of the gangster roles, narco traficantes and stuff like that. And I still go out for those sometimes. But I feel like it has changed drastically. And now I’m going out for astronauts, journalists, teachers, sheriffs, and cops. And that never happened before. It was rare that I would ever go out for those roles. I’ve been doing this now for 17 years. And that wasn’t the case, even seven years ago. Now I feel like I’m getting the opportunity to not only go out for more white-collar roles but also leading roles and series regular roles. So I feel like we’re expanding what it is to be Latino. To me, inclusion is acknowledging who I am, but seeing that I am much more than that,” passionately expresses Bernardo.
If you ever compete against anyone, it is always against your own ability to trust that every experience is valuable and beneficial, whether to clarify what you prefer or to experience what you want. We all get what we are ready for, and what we are ready for is always perfect and precise in its vibrational equation. One of the most empowering tools that allows us to soften our physical senses and then experience the alignment of the energies that create words flowing through us is the process of meditation.
About his trust, belief in himself, and competence, Bernardo shares, “I never think about who I’m competing against. One of my coaches always said to me, ‘If you were to have cast yourself, based on the work you did to try to get that role, then that’s all you can do.’ So when I look at the audition that I have, and the work that I put in, and the resulting casting tape I’m going to send out, I’m like, ‘If I know that I would cast myself based on that performance, that’s all that I can do.’ So I don’t even think about, ‘Oh, I didn’t get it because I was competing against this famous person, or I didn’t get it because I wasn’t good enough, or I’m not good enough, period.’ If the role is for me, it’s for me. Of course, I had to come to that point. I’ve gotten to the point now where I allow myself one day to feel sad. And then I keep it moving because I don’t want to bring that energy to the next audition. Because then you just start getting in your head about should I get out of this business. Should I not be an artist? But because I believe so much in my gut and my soul that I’m an artist and that I have to do this, it keeps me going. I just feel I was born with that artist spirit. So now I meditate. I do that a lot. But not just after auditions; I get myself to meditate before in order to be aligned. And that gives me confidence because I think confidence and belief are the two main factors to me that have gotten me to my success. If anything, I would say to people, ‘Believe in yourself, have the confidence, and find those things that get you there before and after your audition.’”
Sometimes when we activate our intellect too much, we can get overwhelmed by more of the “how” of the situation, instead of allowing ourselves to sense and feel who we are in that moment, trusting our inner selves. Both intellect and inner sensing are necessary for us to create, but the balanced movement between both brings forth the most natural, enticing, and satisfying experience. This is the ease with which we navigate our own creation.
Bernardo stars as Javier in the film Emily the Criminal alongside actress Aubrey Plaza who portrays the main character, Emily. “I felt like the character just came through me. I didn’t overprepare; I didn’t overdo anything; I just said, this is me, I can play this part. So I did the scenes, and I prepared, and I got the part. And then, when I was on set, working with Aubrey Plaza, she’s very much alive and in the moment. And she comes from an improvisational background, and on set, we got to improvise a lot. I knew that going into this character; I didn’t have to overwork and overthink it. I realized I needed to trust myself more and just be open to anything versus having a preconceived idea of how it’s supposed to go. And the team welcomed that. Of course, that’s not always the case in every single shoot, because sometimes, they’re very didactic about how you have to do it, how to say the line, and you have to stop right here and look at the camera. But in this experience, I could be alive and still be technical. That duality, being technical, and being alive in the moment is what you strive for. That’s the key,” says Bernardo.
Everyone’s choice is a valid choice. But most importantly is that once we make any choice, whether it’s considered good or bad, we can accept it as it is and not beat up on ourselves for it. We can see ourselves at a distance from the problem and make a choice that resonates with us more. Judging others for their choices comes with the price of judging ourselves, as we are the ones experiencing the judgment we are giving out. Instead, giving the benefit of the doubt to others is giving ourselves permission to feel better, therefore to choose to live better. When we feel frustration and resentment, we make choices accordingly. When we feel good, we make choices accordingly.
Bernardo says about his expectation for the audience to take away from watching Emily the Criminal, “I feel like in the movie, I help Emily. Well in quotation marks, because I basically give her the information of my contact, who gets people to dummy shop. And Emily gets really deep into that. My characters chooses not to go deep into those jobs. So I think it’s about what choice would you make when you’re in dire straits, when you’re in need, when you have to survive. And I think, the character Youcef, portrayed by Theo Rossi for example, is an immigrant. He has very limited options and resources. So he chooses to, or I shouldn’t say choose, but has the option and takes it to be in charge of this criminal ring of illegal activity. And for Emily, who has a criminal record, it’s hard for her to get jobs that pay enough and move up in life. So she’s really struggling. I think, part of the conversation around this film is about what are you willing to do? Or what would you have to do in order to survive if you didn’t have options or had limited resources? And I feel like a lot of us can relate, at least for me, I’ve had to work many, many, many, many jobs all at the same time. And it is hard. So I hope that people would have an open mind and think to themselves, if I was in that situation, what would I do? How would I choose to live my life?”
And about his experience on the Hulu series This Fool, where the entire cast are Latino, Bernardo excitedly says, “Oh, my God, I was on cloud nine. It was such a dream come true. I’ve had the experience of working on Queen of the South, where there were a lot of Latinos. But it was the first time that I was part of a project, where the family of Latinos was the focus, and I was like, ‘If I can be on this show for the rest of my life, I would. I mean not only am I working with these incredible comedians, but the crew is so great, just everybody was super nice. Also, I hope that people watching are like, ‘Why don’t they make more Latino comedies?’ Because there are so few out there. I think to me the most exciting part is not only did I get to work with an incredible cast, but how often are you flipping through the channels or streaming and you see Latinos getting to be funny. It’s such a rare experience. My mind was blown. I’m super excited. I got to work with Frankie Quinones, Chris Estrada and Michelle Ortiz, who are hilarious, and Fred Armisen is the producer, who was on SNL and produced Los Espooky. I am so proud to be part of it. And I can’t wait for people to see it.”
Being right is absolutely subjective, otherwise every single person would think the same. But the beauty of the variety that represents every single person, is that it stimulates us to ask for more of what we prefer. We all project from our unique vantage point of view. Therefore, we can all be right, but never assertive of our rightness towards others. Because what do you prefer, to be right or to feel good?
“I’m a loyal friend and will always help anyone in a moment of need. I love seeing people who are just open and non-judgmental. I think sometimes more often than not, it can be a rare quality, for people to just accept you for all the things that you are where you feel safe with them. Sometimes you’re around people, and you do or say things and they judge you and you’re like, ‘Well, I’m trying to be my full authentic self, but you’re not giving me that opportunity.’ And so I feel like someone who’s open and non-judgmental, that’s what I love. I guess feeling good is what I prefer.”
Like Bernardo, are you allowing yourself to embrace your authentic self regardless of any reflection of the outside? Try it; it feels really freeing.
Photography // Veronica Hernandez