Cielo Valenzuela

Young woman with curly hair and orange shirt smiles at the camera

PCM: What are you studying in college and why did you choose that?
CV: Currently, I am a Theater major. However, I am participating in the Whittier Scholars Program (WSP), where I can build my own curriculum. Participating in WSP allows me to continue exploring my passions in theater, music, film, Latine studies and spoken word poetry. I call myself an integrated artivist, where I use my artistry in various mediums as forms of activism.

One day, I’d like to have my own production company that functions as a space for artists of color to produce, create, teach and sharpen their artistic skills. I believe that being well versed in various artistic forms/skills can help you obtain more financial opportunities but it can also fulfill you as a person.

PCM: How was your first year at Whittier College? Any notable experiences that you would like to share?
CV: My first year at Whittier College was incredible. In the beginning, I was nervous about going to college, but the friendly people and nurturing environment made it easy to feel comfortable there. As a student, artist, and person of color, I feel validated and seen. It was important to me to be a part of a community where I felt represented and supported. There were some hobbies and interests I did not have the opportunity to try or continue while I was in high school, so being at Whittier allowed me to pursue them.

Some notable experiences include, joining the College Choir and Soprano/Alto ensemble Bella Voce in a tour to San Diego to perform with SDSU students, taking private voice lessons, participating in two theatrical productions; one where I played my first lead role in She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen, and maintaining a 4.0 GPA both semesters during a busy first year.

PCM: How did attending an arts high school in CSArts help shape your artistic and personal development?
CV: At California School of the Arts (CSArts) I spent 4 years gaining various artistic skills in the Integrated Arts Conservatory. The minute I began the audition process, I knew that Integrated Arts would be my home and it was the only conservatory I applied to. I took classes in production and design, creative writing, voice, dance, visual art, film, and more. My Conservatory Director taught me to embrace the integrated label and showed me that it is possible to make a career out of having multiple interests.

As a kid, I immersed myself in various passions. I’d build sets for my toys and make movies on my grandfather’s video camera, I’d adapt my own screenplays, and more. I have often been described as “indecisive”, but CSArts helped me realize I know exactly who I am and what I want to do with my art. I now understand that there is nothing wrong with being multifaceted and there is power in my artistry. I will forever be grateful to the space, time, resources and people from CSArts who made a positive impact on who I am today.

PCM: Do you have any artists or performers who you look up to as role models?
CV: Steven Spielberg’s films were constantly being played in my household and his work has inspired me my whole life. He has not only influenced me through his style of filmmaking but also through his production company, his writing, his upbringing and his long-term, professional relationships over the years.

Another important role model for me is Lin Manuel-Miranda because he’s a well-known Latino who has created multiple hit shows and soundtracks. He has been able to cross over multiple industries such as theater, film, music, and even freestyle rap. His goal towards serving the greater Latino and POC communities is truly inspiring and I’d like to do the same with my career.

I also really admire Angela Kang, a producer, writer and showrunner of my favorite show The Walking Dead. She is an inspiration because I feel that her work is close to my heart. She took charge of the last few seasons and brought a powerful female of color perspective to the show and I’d like to follow her example someday.

PCM: What drew you to apply to be PCM’s Education Programs Intern? Is there anything you’re hoping to gain from this experience?
CV: I was drawn to apply to be PCM’s Education Programs Intern because I wanted to gain professional work experience in an artistic setting. I am mostly used to performing or creative writing for work, so I hope to gain more skills coming into an office setting every day. Most importantly, I wanted to experience firsthand the ins and outs of providing artistic educational programming for students and a greater community.

I am hoping to learn more about what it takes to keep a place operational and functioning well in order to provide the best programming possible. In order to create my own production company, I am certain I will need the skills and tools that I have so far encountered at PCM. I believe working with various colleagues in multiple ways here at PCM will allow me to gain invaluable experiences and knowledge for my future. I am ready to help PCM in any capacity and excited to learn and grow during my internship.

PCM: Can you tell us about your published chapbook Inside Looking Out?
CV: My chapbook Inside Looking Out was created and self-published as part of the Emerging Writers Fellowship through the non-profit organization called Get Lit Words Ignite. My chapbook is a collection of 10-15 original pieces of spoken word poetry, all curated in a cohesive narrative about impactful experiences in my life. I designed my own cover, created the poem order, collaborated with friends and family to have visual art accompany some of the poems, and participated in virtual promotional performances. I wrote Inside Looking Out throughout the course of several months and ended up finishing it around the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The point of the chapbook was to validate and acknowledge introverted people and how we too have stories to tell.

I’ve had various people tell me that my work has resonated with them and I appreciate that sharing my personal stories has helped others. I have made some edits to it recently, and doing so, has shown me how much I’ve grown in my writing. Inside Looking Out serves as a way for me to see the progress I’ve made over the years and allows me to see my own personal growth as well. This was one of my first experiences in publishing and sharing my work on a larger scale. Although it was a little scary, it was a valuable experience and I look forward to doing it again in the near future.

PCM: What are your goals for the upcoming year and beyond?
CV: My goals for this coming year are to continue expanding and building upon my WSP curriculum at Whittier and begin fleshing out and working on a senior project idea. For that project, I’d like to write a play and eventually put it on at Whittier in our performing arts center and have it be student run and performed. Beyond that, I’d like to continue gaining work experience to then later build my production company.

PCM: Are there any more interesting things about you that you would like to share? Hobbies, anecdotes, learning experiences?
CV: I love music and I hold it very close to my heart. A few interesting things about me relating to music is that I have been singing for about 7 years and I have participated in the College Choir, Bella Voce, and Chamber Singers ensembles at Whittier College. I also take private voice lessons there where I regularly perform in musicals. I am a beginning piano student and I am partially self-taught. I used to study violin as a child and hope to someday pick it up again. I also work in the Whittier College Music Department as part of the Center for Latinx/Latin American Arts and Culture as an archival intern. There, I am helping build an archive of oral histories featuring Latinx Jazz Artists who have made a significant impact in the jazz musical genre. I also enjoy listening to background music as I study or work but typically in order to focus, I gravitate towards movie scores. Some of my favorite composers are John Williams, Ludwig Göransson, Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, James Horner, Alexandre Desplat, and Michael Giacchino.