Cierra Ramirez talks her ALMA win for “Girl in Progress”

Cierra Ramirez as Ansiedad in Girl in Progress

In the Eva Mendes film, Girl in Progress, is an obvious up-and-coming actress who has her sights set on making a name for herself as yet another strong Hispanic woman in the entertainment industry. Cierra Ramirez, a native of Houston, Texas, was recognized for her role as Ansiedad in the film when she won the National Council of La Raza (NCLR)’s ALMA award for “Favorite Movie Actress in a Supporting Role” on Sunday night.

The 17-year-old Mexican-American actress also recently visited the White House for the Mexican Ambassador Dinner, landed a role on ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and was signed to Dusky Records to record an album. Despite her busy schedule, she spoke to us in Houston about her whirlwind year.

Cierra Ramirez (R) with her on-screen mother, Eva Mendes (R), in Girl in Progress

AG: Hi, Cierra! How are you today?
CR: Hi! I’m good. How are you?
AG: I’m good, thank you. Congratulations on your ALMA win last night!
CR: Oh, thank you so much!
AG: How does it feel?
CR: I feel so honored. I’m so honored. It was so exciting to go up there. It was my first ALMA award, so I was just really excited to be there and be a part of it.

AG: How did you learn that you had been nominated?
CR: My dad told me, because my agent had told him. I was just freaking out. It was one of my first nominations, too, so I was super excited.

AG: Did you see anyone there at the ALMA awards that you were kind of star-struck about?
CR: Well, Flo Rida performed, and he stood right next to me when he was starting. In one of his performances, he started out in the crowd. He was standing right next to me, and I was just kind of fan-girling (laughs).

AG: When you first read the script for Girl in Progress, what did you think about Ansiedad?
CR: I really loved Ansiedad for her wit. She’s such an old soul, and I really loved that. That and the fact that over everything she did, it was out of love for her mother, the love that she had for her mother. No matter how mean she was, it was just all to prove that and feel loved back.

AG: So what does it mean to you to get all of this recognition for the way you carried out that role?
CR: It’s amazing, because it was my first feature. It was kind of my baby in a way.  I’m so happy to be getting this recognition for all of the hard work I did. I learned so much throughout the experience, so this just adds to all of the memories.

AG: Speaking of memories, you visited the White House recently for the Mexican Ambassador Dinner.
CR: I did! That was so fun.
AG: Can you tell me a little bit about it?
CR: I won one of the Horizon awards for the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. It was a great experience, and I had to go up there and give a speech. There were lots of influential people, so many great people that I met. It was overall just an amazing experience.

AG: What does it feel like to be a part of something like that?
CR: I’m so honored, and I’m so happy they even considered me for this honorary award. It makes my life actually (laughs).

AG: I understand you also landed a role on The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Can you tell us a little bit about your character?
CR: I play Kathy, an incoming freshman at Grant High School. Amy, who everyone knows, she kind of takes me under her wing. She’s a senior, and since she’s been kind of through the exact same experience as me. I’m actually six months pregnant.

AG: What’s it like playing a character like that?
CR: It’s actually so fun. I filmed one of my last episodes with my fake baby bump recently, and I’m already going through withdrawals. Honestly, it was the best experience ever. I would use it as a pillow, as a desk, lots of things. It was really fun getting into this character, because it’s so different from any of the other roles I’ve portrayed. It was a lot of fun.

AG: You are just busy, busy, busy, because I heard you’ve also been signed to Dusky Records. You have a single out right now called “You Don’t Know,” so when can we expect the album out?
CR: I am in the process of making my album right now. It should be out sometime during the first quarter of the year.
AG: What can we expect from the album?
CR: You can definitely expect a throwback feel. I really love classic, timeless music, and I really wanted to add that to my album along with a radio-friendly vibe. It’s a nice blend of the two.

AG: Is there any musician in particular that inspires you or whose sound love and would like to emanate in some way?
CR: Well, I grew up on Etta James. I just love anything with soul, so Etta James is definitely an inspiration to me. Probably more recently, it’s been Lana del Rey. I just love everything about her.

AG: Being that we’re here in Houston, and you’re from Houston, what do you love most about the city, and what do you miss most about it?
CR: I miss my family, friends, and the food. The 3 Fs! (laughs) Being in LA, I just miss all that homey stuff. Those feel-good meals, Pappasito’s, all of that. Whataburger! It’s kind of bad. I always give in to that every time I visit.
AG: I feel like when you’re in Texas, though, you have to eat at Whataburger.
CR: Oh yeah, no, that’s a must. That’s the first stop.

AG: So what advice do you have for other young girls like you here in Houston that want to do what you’re doing?
CR: This is kind of cliché, but I would definitely say, “Never give up.” This business is all about “No’s.” I’ve had my fair share of “No’s,” but I feel that every time I’ve gotten that response, it’s made me stronger. As an actress and as a human being, I would let them know that if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. It’ll happen one way or another, so just never give up.

AG: You’re also a Hispanic in this industry, so what has that been like for you?
CR: It’s actually been really hard, because of stereotypes. I try to stay away from that as much as I can, but every time I go into the auditioning rooms, I get feedback saying I’m not Hispanic enough or that I’m too Hispanic. It’s really hard to find that good role, but every time I do, it’s just amazing. I love taking on strong characters, anyone with a message. I try to find those.

AG: What can we expect from you next?
CR: You can expect more episodes from The Secret Life of the American Teenager. We just came back from hiatus, and I was missing it dearly. I’m back, and it’s been really fun.

AG: Do you have any last words for the girls here in Houston about yourself or about anything you’ve done?
CR: I would like to say, “Go out and represent Houston, girls!” Do anything you can to better the community, to better everyone. I think you should just make a good impact and represent Houston well.

AG: Well, you’re definitely doing a good job of that yourself, so thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I know you’re very busy!
CR: Thank you! No, thank you so much for your time. 

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