What I've Learned: Actress Marabina Jaimes Says "Never Stop Dancing"

Image: Marabina Jaimes
Marabina Jaimes arrives at the 2015 Performers Peer Group Celebration on Aug. 24 in Beverly Hills, Calif.Rich Fury / Rich Fury/Invision/AP

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By Esther J. Cepeda

NAME: Marabina Jaimes

HERITAGE: Puerto Rican and Mexican

HOMETOWN: Glendale, California now in the Valley


Marabina Jaimes is best known for her Emmy win as host of the PBS series “Storytime!”Currently, Jaimes is highlighted on national TV as the narrator and featured actress in the documentary, “Now En Español” airing on PBS’ “VOCES”. Marabina has completed a guest-starring role on the Emmy nominated, 2015 season of Hulu network’s original TV series “East Los High.”

How did you get into acting?

I didn’t really have a chance to decide. My mom was a very active person – a single mom with seven kids and there was a lot of comedy and drama going on in our house. But a lot of times, what was coming out of the TV looked like it was much more fun. My mom got me into Plaza de la Raza, a local arts center that had been established by Margo Albert, the Mexican film actress and dancer, who was married to Eddie Albert from Green Acres. It was a cultural center, a place for kids to learn ballet folklorico and other aspects of their culture. It’s now a very established place – many wonderful entertainers have walked through there.

Who inspired you?

I really wanted to go to Mister Rogers Neighborhood! I would get home from school, get changed and I watched Mr. Rogers. That was me, straddling two cultural worlds! I also grew up on Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Marlo Thomas – those were my examples of the women I’d become. And then there’s powerhouse Celia Cruz who was a role model because she was such a knockout individual! She was the only female Fania Records all-star, the first Latino record company coming out of New York. She was amazing and fun but her lyrics really spoke about important things like speaking out against domestic violence and being able to say what’s on your mind – she toured the world with all the big time salseros like Ray Barretto and Willie Colon. Her story is so outrageous and so amazing, she was definitely one of my absolute inspirations.

In “Now En Español” you said, “I never really realized there could be any stereotyping or racism until I started doing TV,” and mentioned that you’ve been told “it’s too bad that you look the way you do” or asked to straighten your hair or change your name to something less ethnic-sounding. How do you overcome these limits?

Mario Martinez, the author of “The Mind-Body Code” says your culture, meaning your society, will kill you before your genetics or age or disease does. The society you live in puts limits on you – racial limits, age limits, but they are just bull. You are only limited by your own thoughts, your thoughts are absolutely important for your well-being, so I’m here to change those limiting beliefs.

What advice do you have for content creators of color who also want to overcome the limitations that society, and Hollywood, puts on them?

Just do it, do your thing. If you have an inkling to create, dance, sing, write, build or design please do it – do it everyday. Lots of times what happens is that we get stopped in our tracks because of these illusions of limitations. But if you do the work and meet enough people and never give up you cannot lose. If you never give up you will never fail.

How do you keep your energy high so you can keep going and not feel like you want to give up?

I have three things I live by: 1) Never stop wearing heels – that’s important. 2) Make time every day, be it five minutes or half an hour, to mediate. And meditate not only on what you want to create but on why you want to create it and how you’re going to leave you your mark. 3) Never stop dancing! I have always I called salsa the Latin tai chi – it’s fantastic because it keeps you toned, makes you happy in every single sense and when you do it you’re marinating in the creative force that was present when the artists put the music together.

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Esther J. Cepeda is a Chicago-based journalist and a nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group. Follow her on Twitter, @estherjcepeda

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