By: Daisy K. Espinoza
“Your inner voice is the most valuable thing you have. No one can take it away. You know it in your gut, you just have to trust it.”
Imagine this: It’s 8:59am on a Monday in Los Angeles. A large boardroom is filled with every top executive at a major filmmaking studio. They are gathered to discuss the development of their next next multi-million dollar film. In your mind, who fills those chairs? They’re probably all men, right? But at this meeting, one woman walks into the room. No, she’s not walking in late, fumbling her papers and spilling coffee, while making the boys uncomfortable per the usual Hollywood scenario. She takes a seat at the table. The clock strikes nine and she says, “Wow! There are many of you boys here today. Where are the women?” Yes, she said that. She addressed the elephant in the room. She’s strong and outspoken and she’s the Executive Vice President of Production at Marvel Studios. She is Victoria Alonso.
Victoria, one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, is known for being vocal about the lack of female representation in her industry.
In every meeting, she makes it a point to address the lack of women in the room. Consistently addressing this disparity is how Victoria is moving the dial. “You must always make those thoughts present, so it’s in the subconscious,” she says. “Now, whenever I walk into a room, everyone present immediately thinks about it. That’s how you create change.”
This courage has been a trademark for Victoria since she was young. At 15 years old, she moved from her home country of Argentina to San Diego for six months as an exchange student. “I loved the English language. I loved the freedoms that this country had compared to the dictatorship where I grew up.” Four years later, she moved to the United States permanently, but never really thought she would go into filmmaking. “I didn’t grow up in a family of filmmakers. My dad died when I was 6 years old and my mother was a leader in the Ministry of Education in Argentina, so media was never at the forefront. I was interested in theatre. I was attracted to the art, the life and the people.” Her love of theatre led her to her degree at the University of Washington.
Soon after, she settled in Los Angeles where she worked 3 jobs, one of which, introduced her to film. “I was a page at Paramount studios giving tours of the sets of shows like Cheers, Dear John, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. This led to my first job as a P.A. and from then on, I just started working my way up the ladder until I arrived at Marvel.” Now, “working your way up the ladder” as a gay, immigrant, woman of color can’t be easy, but to Victoria that was her strength. She continues, “I knew I was a little different, but I embraced those differences. When you come from different places and points of view, and you have a position where you have a voice that is heard, you can open up someone’s ideas.”
Her voice has led to creating impactful changes, which include expanding representation at Marvel Studios.
“Consistently, we are trying to figure out if we’ve hired the right amount of balance. I always ask, ‘Why can’t we hire women to do that?’ and I ask for the resumes of females that can do that job. I will not stop until we can create a 50/50 inclusive and diverse studio at every level.”
Victoria’s mission to diversify Hollywood is also reflected on screen. She was an Executive Producer for the film, Black Panther. “People consistently had the excuse that if you make a movie like that, it’s not going to sell, it’s not going to make money and it’s not going to have a forum or an audience. Black Panther made $1.3 billion worldwide. You are leaving money at the table by not making these movies. You are losing money by not taking representation into consideration.”
Victoria is also an Executive Producer for the upcoming film, Captain Marvel, the first Marvel film with a female lead, a project that Victoria sees as a dream come true. “In Captain Marvel’s journey, she listens to herself and she breaks those barriers. If there’s one thing I want women to remember, it’s that your inner voice is the most valuable thing that you have. No one can take it away. You know it in your gut. You just have to trust it.” And it was by trusting her own inner voice, that Victoria was able to push through challenges and remain resilient through constant rejection throughout her career.
“Because I get knocked down, you don’t stay down. To be denied of your opinion, doesn’t mean to be denied of your voice. Silence is your enemy. Silence will not lead you to your goals. Find strength in your voice.”
Victoria’s success is also fueled by confidence and persistence, two characteristics that are necessary for all women who are fighting to break corporate barriers.
“For women on the journey to becoming – be the best person you can be and not who someone else wants you to be. If for some reason you show you are not okay with who you are, people will question it. Who you are is part of the unique that will allow you to be in the game. “
“I am not any smarter than any of the girls reading this article. I just never gave up. “
“I knocked on a door, and if it wasn’t open, then I’d knock on a window. Maybe it’s a gate, maybe it’s a doggie door, maybe it’s a tree, but there has to be a way in. Do not lose hope on your journey. The journey will be what the best journey for you is and the best way to do it is your way.”
As Victoria focuses on making positive changes behind the camera and fighting for representation on screen, I can’t help but think of the key traits she shared for success – courage, persistence, and confidence. Characteristics that are also embodied by every superhero whose story Victoria tells – from Iron Man, to Captain America, Thor and Black Panther, not all heroes wear capes, and in this case, she wears what she wants.