Latin Biz Today’s Teresa Hernandez speaks with April Hernandez-Castillo about acting, writing, and motivational speaking as well as about parenting an up and coming actor.
I had the pleasure of interviewing my friend, actor, writer and motivational speaker April Hernandez-Castillo. April discusses stardom, motherhood, marriage and watching her daughter Summer follow in her footsteps.
What is your background? Where were you born/raised?
I identify as a Nuyorican, born and raised in the boogie down Bronx. I am married to Jose Castillo and have two beautiful daughters, Summer Rose and Lyla. My daughters are half Puerto Rican and Nicaraguan, also born and raised in the Bronx.
What were the significant experiences/events that shaped your life? Family? Friends? Influencers?
One significant moment in my life was the first time I saw John Leguizamo perform in his one-man show Mambo Mouth. It was the first time I ever saw someone who looked like me and told stories I could identify with. I never saw a Latino on a stage until I saw John. The moment I watched the show, which was on a VHS, I felt like I could one day do the same. He sparked a light in me and here I am years later still acting.
Tell me about your journey not just as an actress, but as a motivational speaker. When did your acting career take off and what was your “aha” moment that paved the way for you to become a motivational speaker?
I always tell people acting found me. I was attending Hunter College in the hopes of becoming a nutritionist, but science was not my strongest subject. I walked into a chemistry class then walked right out because I just knew it was not for me. I decided to look into other courses to fill up my schedule and this is when I discovered Acting 101. As the saying goes, the rest is history. I changed all of my courses and dedicated my semesters to everything in Acting and Theater. I eventually left school as I began booking work rather quickly. The defining moment is when I booked Freedom Writers, which changed my life forever. I also appeared/featured in several other shows such as Dexter, Law & Order, Person of Interest, New Amsterdam and many more. I realized I had a gift for speaking, for sharing my ideas and thoughts while we were promoting this film. I also knew I had my own story to share, a story that not many were aware of. I was a survivor of intimate partner violence. For the last ten years, I have done motivational speaking at several professional events and it gives me great joy to share my story, to speak in front of thousands of people. It makes me feel so alive knowing that I have made an impact on so many individuals who come to listen to me speak. This led me to write my first book, Your Voice, Your Choice: A Story of Resiliency & Redemption.
My greatest speaking accomplishment thus far is when I spoke on the TEDx stage in 2019. The theme of my talk was “The Gift of Transparency.” I spoke about the hardships of motherhood and postpartum, which is something not often discussed, especially in the Latino/Hispanic culture. I also wrote a second book entitled, Embracing Me. It tells my story, that behind the glitz and glamor was a woman dealing secretly with a traumatic past.
At what point did Summer express interest in becoming an actor and following in her mother’s footsteps?
The first time we knew Summer Rose had a knack for speaking in front of the camera was when she was 5 years old. My husband and I created a video for her to speak about “3 Ways on How to Be an Awesome Kid.” She blew our minds and knocked it out the park! That is when I knew she had something special. She displayed a level of confidence I had never really seen before in a child.
Tell me about Alma’s Way.
Alma’s Way is created by Sonia Manzano, who played Maria in Sesame Street. It is about a 6-year-old Puerto Rican girl who lives in the Bronx with her family. Alma encourages kids to think things through and empowers them to use their voice.
How do you balance not just your career, but family and now Summer’s journey as a young actress?
I am not sure if I have mastered the art of balancing my career along with hers and family life, but I am figuring it all out one day at a time. My husband and I are a team and we make all the decisions together. We are both involved in her career, which really makes a difference and is much easier to manage. However, because of my background in the entertainment business I feel like I am fully equipped to guide Summer in the business of acting.
Are there any other projects in store for Summer?
Summer Rose filmed two films she worked on during the summer. She is the lead in her first on- camera movie called Brownsville Bred, written and directed by Elaine Del Valle.
If there was one piece of advice you could give your younger self, what would that be?
One piece of advice I would give my younger self: do not dim your light for anyone.
Do you have a favorite quote that you use for inspiration or motivation?
My favorite quote is from the movie Rocky: “It’s not how hard you hit, but it’s how hard you can get hit, get up and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”