We caught up with the artist to learn more about her for the Latinx Heritage Month. We also turned a few pieces of her work into virtual 3D objects for you to play with — you will find a link to them in the Q&A below.
Would you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a Latina toy designer. My family is from Puerto Rico and Panama, but I grew up in Maryland on the East Coast. I’m very proud of my culture. Whenever I can, I try to celebrate it in my art work. For me, I’m very excited there are a lot of opportunities in art and animation for Latinx designers.
Why did you decide to become a toy designer?
I’ve always loved art, Disney and toys. I was actually the only child. My toys meant a lot to me. A lot of toy designers have such great memories of their toys. We try to make those same experiences for kids now. Originally, I wanted to be a teacher. I got lucky enough and went to the Fashion Institute of Technology, and this just combines everything I love to do: kids, design and art.
What are some of the characters you’ve worked on?
Oh my God, there are so many! I’ve worked on Minnie Mouse, which is one of my favorite. I feel very lucky to work on her. She’s an icon, and she’s so fun to work on. But I’ve also worked on Sofia the First, Vampirina, Fancy Nancy, T.O.T.S., and now Mira. That has been in the last five years. Previously, I had worked on a lot of Disney princesses.
What types of work are involved in creating a toy?
It sounds like it wouldn’t be so hard. But it’s a long and collaborative process. It takes about a year to make new toys, and you work with tons of talented people, from designers and engineers (to people in) production, packaging. We all start with brainstorming, concepts, designs, ideation, research. We look at trends. From there, we will flesh it out. And hopefully, when you get to the end, you will have a great, fun and safe toy for kids to play with.
What do you love about your job?
What I love is there’s so much variety. There’s the artistic side, there’s the business side of it, and the collaboration side of it. It’s from big, high-level, strategic things — all these different shows and toys we are working on — to tiny, tiny things like I’m fixing the graphics, I’m fixing faces, artwork, revising things. It’s a very detailed process.
The best part is seeing a kid playing with it and enjoy it, and seeing it at the stores, to bring alive the show for the kids.
What are the challenges?
The challenges would definitely be the business — things have to be commercial. In a show, they have so many colors to work with and such a huge budget. When we go make a toy, we have to make it affordable. That part is challenging but a good challenge.
Does your Latinx heritage influence in your approach to design?
I try to fuse it wherever I can. It comes up sometimes when there are projects where it’s part of it. I use my voice. It might be part of a story. Another time it’s similar, like Mira the royal detective focuses on the Indian culture. It’s been a joy to work on. It reminds me a lot of the Latino community. They love music and food and dancing, and it’s very colorful.
What inspires you?
I have a huge list for you! We draw inspiration from everything and everywhere. I would say, first, kids, and then also my family and my friends. They are in this industry, or they work in industries that are similar.
The toy industry is filled with women in all (different) roles, with very talented executives. I’ve seen directors that have 10, 15 and 20 years of experience. And then, personally there are so many Latina stories that I love, like Selena [Quintanilla] and Frida [Kahlo], so I try to paint those things and they inspire me. Lastly, I have a friend who is Latina and works at Disney — her name is Gabby Zapata — I’m a very shy person and she’s been a great mentor to me and shown me how important it is to share your stories and highlight these things. It means a lot so people and to our community.
What’s your advice for aspiring Latinx toy designers?
It is possible. I feel this is bigger than the dreams I even had for myself. It will take time, and also it takes a lot of hard work. I work a lot and study a lot. As long as you have a great attitude and just keep trying, and know that it comes with a lot of work, then you will do great things.
What do you l like to do outside of work?
I love painting. Traditionally it gives me a really good break from all the digital and all of the screens. It’s almost kind of meditating, so I recommend it to everybody. For me that’s about finding inspiration, too.
I love painting my friends and family. I’ve done a lot of paintings of my friends when they get married, as gifts. I love giving paintings as gifts. I use gouache. A lot of Disney artists love gouache, it’s a thicker, richer paint. The colors are super, super vibrant. Sometimes I watercolor paint, too. It’s very therapeutic to listen to all the water splash.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.