We had the good fortune of connecting with Monika Peña and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Monika, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
Many artists have asked themselves this exact question. I know I have. But at the end of the day we have to do what makes us feel fulfilled and happy and I can’t get that anywhere else but in my art. So ask yourself, “Does this still give my life purpose and bring me joy?” If the answer is yes, then keep going! If it’s a no, maybe it’s time to explore new things and find that special something that DOES bring you joy. Sometimes what we used to want changes and we hold on to an old idea of happiness. If you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, then don’t do it and find something that does!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a performer through and through! Music and dance have always been a part of my life and I couldn’t imagine a life without the performing arts. I started off like many people do with humble beginnings as a little girl who simply loved to sing and dance and was encouraged by family and mentors to pursue my passions but, with realistic expectations. I was told time and time again to have a back up plan. So I studied Zoology to pursue a career in the field of animal husbandry and veterinary medicine. Although I enjoyed most of what I studied (Organic Chemistry? Physics?! Ew), I felt like I was losing time – time to train, time to network, time to climb the ladder in the entertainment industry and make my way. I struggled to finish school because I almost resented having to have a back up plan in case I didn’t make it as a performer. When I finally graduated, I hit the floor running to make up for lost time.
As I booked more shows, met more incredible artists and heard their stories, I realized that everyone has multiple talents that aren’t all necessarily creative and every persons journey is unique to their needs and desires. I finally saw that I had struggled during college because I was comparing my pace in life to others. I felt I had to choose between two passions and tried to race the clock to do it all at once. I would have done better and enjoyed my time learning had I trusted my journey and stopped putting so much pressure on myself to accomplish everything in my 20’s. Hindsight, am I right?
Now I’m hustling because I’m excited to do what I love in both the performing arts and veterinary field and WANT to do more. I’ve shifted my focus on finding what keeps me fulfilled, happy and healthy and I hope to inspire others to do the same. Be kind to yourself, take your time, do what feels right for you because only you can decide what’s right for your life.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Southern California has so many great little places to visit and explore! But for a first timer, I think Disneyland is a no brainer! Who would pass up some dole whip, nostalgic rides, and parades?! And if you’re my best friend, you’d love Disney just as much as I do! For something a little more low key, the Sherman Gardens in Newport Beach and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles are two incredible spots to surround yourself with nature and fine arts. For some historic and leisurely shopping you’ve got to visit Olvera street to experience a bit of Mexican culture and at the Orange circle (in Orange, of course) you’ll find a bit of the old and the new with antique shops, boutiques and plenty of eateries and cafes like the amazing Felix Continental Café and their delicious Cuban food. But no trip to SoCal is complete until you take a relaxing trip to the beach! Huntington Beach may be Surf City U.S.A but, my bestie and I are more art lovers than surfers so we’d absolutely be visiting Laguna Beach and stop by the Sawdust festival for some inspiring art by local artists.
When it comes to food, I hope my best friends is as adventurous as I am! Zankou Chicken has bomb shawarmas and Lebanese plates — whatever that garlic paste is, it’s SO GOOD. Burntzilla is one my favorite places in Irvine to grab a small bite of innovative slider and mini hot dogs and they’ve always got something new to try. For a fancy Italian dinner made with love, we’d for sure visit Angelo and Vinci’s Ristorante in Fullerton if not for their food, then for the zany atmosphere even Salvador Dali would adore! And lastly, no trip is complete until you get some divine desserts from the historic Porto’s Bakery! There are so many more incredible places but, I’ll stop there!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people to shoutout some love to for helping me throughout my journey, but I’ll try and keep it short! I wouldn’t have gotten bit by the theater bug if it wasn’t for my mother; thank you for inspiring me. My singing wouldn’t have been molded and my ear wouldn’t have been trained if it weren’t for my godmother and choir teachers; thank you for encouraging me. I wouldn’t have gotten such incredible training and opportunities to grow as a performer if it weren’t for Chance Theater in Anaheim; thank you for believing in me. The mentorship and friendship of Kari Hayter has given me the confidence in my abilities that I severely lacked as a new artist to the industry; thank you for putting such trust and faith in me. And last but not least, my fiancé, Aaron; thank you for always loving me, lifting me up and being my sunshine on rainy days!
Adam Trent, True Image Studio