Barbara Gonzalez is like buttah.
I mean, when you talk to the darling 22-year old, you can’t help but melt at her bubbly personality and her amazingly positive outlook on life.
‘When you’re from the city,’ she tells me, ‘from whatever background…. There’s a lot of issues about sex, drugs, alcoholism, racism. It matters…but it doesn’t have to take control of your life. If you grow up in a city, in the midst of a lot of bad things, and if you decide within yourself that you want to be someone and you want to do something, you can make it. But you’ve got to be willing to work for it, no matter what happens around you. And it doesn’t mean you have to hate everybody else because they’re not trying to change. That’s who they are. Accept yourself for who you are.’
Barbara grew up as a self-proclaimed ‘Miss Latina’ in a Jewish Orthodox neighborhood in New York City. After a childhood of singing, dancing, and acting, and a stint at NYC’s High School for the Performing Arts, Barbara rather suddenly became a hot property. She has since earned places on TV movies, appearances on As the World Turns and Law and Order, not to mention commercials and music videos.
Barbara made her feature debut last year, stealing the show in the feel-good indie film, Lotto Land, which is only now making the art-house rounds. On the festival circuit, Lotto Land was critically acclaimed but virtually ignored by the public. The big distributors looked at the film, and according to Barbara, they weren’t impressed. The distributors felt ‘there’s not enough sex; there’s not enough drugs. But we think it’s great without that.’
One only has to look at the success of gritty films like Kids and Seven to figure out what the public perception of life in the Big Apple is like. Barbara hopes Lotto Land, an uplifting story of people overcoming their surroundings to find true happiness, will change the way people think. ‘A lot of people hear ‘Lotto Land‘ and say, ‘Oh, that sounds corny.” But she rightfully points out that ‘the Lotto’ is an American institution, reflecting ‘the desperation of the situation’ that so many Americans find themselves in.
On the set, Barbara, used to being pampered under SAG regulations, found herself in the Brave New World of low-budget filmmaking. Tales of drunks and crazies on the Brooklyn set abound. Shot in November, mostly outdoors in New York City, Lotto Land is supposed to take place in the early summer. ‘So half the time I was walking around in hardly any clothes…and I was freezing! My teeth would start chattering all the time, so we had to cut a lot. And whatever scenes were outside, I actually had them put heaters all around me because I was just so cold, I couldn’t get through a scene without my teeth chattering.’ But everyone made concessions, ‘because we all believed in the movie.’
I asked Barbara what it was the film meant to her. ‘Look beyond what you see,’ she said. ‘Think about what you would like to see. And believe in your heart that it will become your reality, if you work for it.’
These words ring true for her. Juggling college, acting, and parenting (as a single mother), Barbara makes no concessions for anything out of line with her future goals. ‘I have an idea about what I want to be like, and how I want to live. I don’t want to have to be killing myself all my life…to have the things I’m dreaming about. So, I saw school as my way of getting there. I love school, I’m a big fanatic. And I could probably be there the rest of my life if I didn’t need to make money.’
She’s just now finishing up her degree in Florida, doing volunteer work and giving classes to underprivileged children. She’s done a little theater and some episodic TV, too. ‘Even if Lotto Land [makes it big], and I make a lot of money, that’s not the point.’ In Barbara’s eyes, it’s all about the future, integrity, happiness, and doing what you want.
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