August 1, 2008

Latinas front and center on new SiTV reality show

Mishell Livio Velez hopes to use modeling as gateway to acting

By Kiko Martinez

Mishell Livio Velez moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting at the beginning of 2008, but when an opportunity to join a modeling show presented itself, she immediately saw the benefit of joining the cast.

“This is a huge stepping stone for me,” Velez said. “A lot of actresses have started off as models.”

Now, as a contestant on SiTV’s reality show “Model Latina,” Velez will live with and compete against 19 other Latinas from across the country for a modeling contract with Q Management and $10,000.

Originally from Tucson, Arizona, Velez, 20, comes to “Model Latina” with a lifelong dream to have a career in the entertainment industry. Although she says she never saw herself as a professional model, she’s taking the experience in stride.

Velez, whose ethnicity is a mix of Sicilian, Spanish, and Mexican, spoke about the new show and the challenges of working as a model. “Model Latina” airs every Sunday night at 8 p.m. on SiTV.

Why did you decide to compete on “Model Latina?”

Mishell Velez: I came to L.A to pursue acting, but one of the first auditions I saw was for this modeling show. I didn’t think I could do it, but I went to the audition and they liked me and thought I was quirky. I don’t know if they necessarily thought I was model, but they invited me to come.

What is your background as an actress?

I did musical theater at the University of Arizona. Ever since I was little I was always performing. My dad was a mariachi, so I would perform with him and sing. I loved being in front of people and entertaining them.

When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I would go through weird stages where I wanted to be a bull rider. Now, I want to do the whole J-Lo thing. I want to sing, dance, act, model, be an entrepreneur. But it’s always been something in the arts.

Since you didn’t have any experience in modeling until you started this show, were there any surprises when you first stepped in front of the camera?

Yeah, it’s hard. You think, “Yeah, you’re taking pictures, how hard can that be?” but it is. You have to stand in awkward position for hours and you have to wear really uncomfortable shoes. It’s way harder that I thought it was going to be, but it’s fun.

Your heritage is part Sicilian, Spanish and Mexican, so is there one that comes out more than the other and, if so, what characteristics encompass that personality?

My mother is 100 percent Sicilian, so I’m a talker. When the whole family gets together we all talk at the same time. Throughout dinner it just gets progressively louder because everyone is trying to talk over everyone else.

What makes “Model Latina” different from other modeling reality shows?

This show is not just about beauty. You have to know how to market yourself. It’s like “America’s Next Top Model” meets “The Apprentice.” The challenges we have to do take a lot of skill. We have to be really savvy. We have to have a lot of drive and ambition.

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