Linda Yvette Chávez, co-creator and executive producer of the Netflix show “Gentefied,” talked about finding one’s place in the world and establishing a safe place to talk about each other’s experience in the world as a guest speaker for the University of La Verne’s Influential Voices series, Sunday via Zoom before a virtual audience of 40.
Chávez talked about her experience as a first generation college student and first generation American – and how she felt different her from her classmates at Stanford University.
“I grew up in a low-income family and I wanted to make money, so I went to Stanford for my undergrad as I wanted to be a lawyer,” Chávez said. “As I checked into my freshman dorm, I saw the other students did not look like me. I struggled and it was a trying time. I spent the year just finding myself.”
Chávez said as she moved into her sophomore year of college, that is where she found her place in the theater working on a two-week program where she met other people in a similar situation as hers. It was after working in this program that she decided to become a writer, a decision she said her family knew was coming all along.
“I always said I wanted to be rich so I was going to be a lawyer, when I told my family I was going to be a writer they just said ‘okay, we knew you would be’,” Chávez said.
Chávez said to students in the audience that it is fine to switch majors and change career paths because it will lead people to what they truly want out of life.
“It’s okay to change your mind, (Chávez’s) story helps send that message,” Anne Collier, cultural and natural history collections curator at ULV, said. “You are not tied to any decision you make.”
Chávez said she worked three or four jobs throughout college to help get herself through. That was one of the biggest differences she saw as a first generation student. Chávez balanced the differences both at college and at home.
“There were people at home who didn’t understand my struggle at school, and then there were people at school who did not understand the struggle from home,” Chávez said.
Chávez said that it was important to her to have a community space to connect with people who had similar experiences as her.
“Having someone that could help you pinpoint your struggle is priceless,” Chávez said.
Chávez said that one of the most important things for her was becoming vulnerable and it was important to help herself feel relieved. She also said the ability to let go is important, finding a therapist to give the burden to help her get through some tough times.
“At the beginning therapy is so dirty and it hurts, but you’re getting everything out,” Chávez said.
Chávez discussed her journey from graduating from Stanford, getting away from writing and eventually coming back to screenplay writing which led her to her creation of the Netflix hit show.
Chávez spent time with a theater company in Los Angeles, where she then applied and got into USC for film school which was her biggest accomplishment at the time.
At USC, Chávez worked as an assistant producer, researcher and a booth production assistant in a Latino theater all while studying screenwriting and working on her own short films. Chávez said all of this helped her gain experience that led to her success later in life.
Sam Sanchez, senior criminology major, said that “Gentefied” is a groundbreaking show like she has never seen.
“’Gentefied’ breaks barriers in that it is unafraid of Latinidad in the diverse, intergenerational, multi-ethnic and intersectional identity that Latinidad is,” Sanchez said.
Chávez said with “Gentefied” she wanted to tell her raw story and show the audience the real life experience and relatable moments the audience can grasp.
“I wanted to tell the stories of my journey and my community as a whole,” Chávez said.
Jacob Barriga can be reached at email@example.com.