SAMURAI SIT DOWN: ACTRESS, MODEL & SINGER – GENESIS VAL LEON
Multitasking is a term that people toss around a lot. It’s true that today we find ourselves doing various things at the same time. Well, today I want to present to you a woman that truly embodies the definition of multitasking. A triple threat in everyone sense of the term, meet Genesis Val Leon today’s Samurai Sit Down feature.
Please introduce yourself, where you’re from and what you do?
My name is Genesis Val Leon and I am a curly-haired actress, singer, and model from the Bronx, New York
What was your earliest Inspiration for acting and modeling
I’ve been performing as early as 8 years old. I was that kid that would dance to TV commercials and even the car alarms that would go off on my street. My first classical music/ voice classes started when I entered second grade. I vividly remember my dad playing music from an old record player. We literally would go around the world through music. I remember him playing Tommy Boy, Queen, Whitney, Michael, Prince, Ana Gabriel, Selena and so many other. He gave me one of my greatest traits which my broad music palette. It was something we shared and still till this day do. My dad is an engineer but has an immense love for music (singing)
As for acting, my mom. My mom has the most electric and contagious personality I have ever encountered. Think Rosie Perez meets Sofia Vergara with the most beautiful accent. I remember attempting to imitate her while she would try to reprimand me and getting in so much trouble. I also remember writing apology songs and performing them whenever I got in trouble. My mom is also a huge Novela ( Hispanic Soap Operas) fan. And boy, that’s where the fun really started. You have not really laughed until you’ve watched a novela episode.
As for modeling, it just came with my personality. My first “pageant” was when I was 5 years old. I wish you all can see this video. I always had big hair and I guess my mom had put my hair in two ponytails. Well, I decided I wanted my hair out. Next thing you know, I walked out with my hair out in this gorgeous fro and strutted my way across the runway, made a detour and walked through the crowd- absolutely messed up the entire order and the organizer had to go and get me.
Was this always what you desired to do.
Not so long ago, my parents found a box of video cassettes and one night we all sat down and watched them. It was there that I realized that I have always been a performer. I remember science fairs became a performance for me. While kids would just show up with a board and tell the judges about their experiment, I would get to the auditorium in a lab coat, goggles, and gloves. I would put on a show. I would put together a script and rehearse in front of my family. I won every year. During recess, my friends would beg me to tell them a story. Ha! My stories were so dramatic and boy, we would laugh so hard.As I look back, I thought it was something I wanted to pursue when I was about 16. I actually went to college for Pre- Medicine Biology. I have always been a great student and received multiple college scholarships. Studying music after school provided the discipline that allowed me to be an honor roll student. I did not go to college for performing arts and thought I thought wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to change the world. I wanted to help people and change lives- I thought that being a doctor was the only way to do so. My parents have always organized community development events and giving back is something that our family
As I look back, I thought it was something I wanted to pursue when I was about 16. I actually went to college for Pre- Medicine Biology. I have always been a great student and received multiple college scholarships. Studying music after school provided the discipline that allowed me to be an honor roll student. I did not go to college for performing arts and thought I thought wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to change the world. I wanted to help people and change lives- I thought that being a doctor was the only way to do so. My parents have always organized community development events and giving back is something that our family does together. However, my personality was too big for the lab and I ended up switching to Psychology and Public Relations. Once I graduated, I was offered a job and put my performing dream to the side. Boy, I was miserable. 4 miserable years. It took one audition to make a return and I haven’t looked back since. Music and theater changed my life. Performing arts has allowed me to perform in venues and shows that I’ve never imagined I would, travel and teach music in orphanages and meet amazing people. Knowing that I am able to make people leave their problems behind for about an hour or so, watch me perform and bring smiles to their face is very humbling.
Who has been vital to the growth of your brand/business?
People tend to underestimate the power of support. Support is the fuel to growth. I’m not only talking about attending an event and telling me I did amazing. Support is attending, letting me know what I did great on, what can be improved, spreading the word- you get the idea and offering help to help me build. My dream and business have become bigger than Genesis- this now involves my family, friends, and community. It literally takes you inspiring one person and dream that only belonged to you becomes part of someone else. My family, friends, and community have been a huge part of my growth. You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child? Well, the same concept for a business. Without a strong support system, you just have a person with a dream.
What have been some obstacles you’ve faced in getting to where you are now?
When I was 8, I had auditioned and was accepted into a music academy that taught music history and literature, Music theory, provided private voice lessons and was also a choir. We performed everywhere! We performed on the today show, Saturday Night Live, sang for Bill Clinton, performed with N’ Sync & Celine Dion, Sang with choirs from all over the world at Walt Disney in Florida- and so many more places. I was used to just showing up to performances up to the age of 18. Now at 26, I a free agent and do not have a manager. I book my own gigs. Thankfully, my background in Public Relations has helped me but it’s hard work finding gigs and doing things on your own. At times, I am not even seen at auditions because I was not sent by an agency which can upset anyone after waiting about 6 hours. Yes, it’s difficult but it’s motivational because no one will believe in my dream as much as I do. At times I get really tired because I always need to be a step ahead since I am “on my own” The amount of gigs I get depends on how much work I put in. I am proud of where I am now but it is not where I want to be. I am my biggest critic. I do not want to only be seen as an actress, singer, and model but also as a business woman.
You’re coming up in the heart of the Digital Era. Everyone is a photographer now and there are platforms pumping out steady content daily. What do you look for in a photographer and what inspires you to create photographic art? What have been your favorite shoots? (published or unpublished)
Honestly, it’s all about quality and not quantity at this point. It still breaks my heart when I have to decline photographers for several reasons involving lack of creativity or skill. This isn’t a hobby for me it’s my career and that is what I look for in a photographer. Someone that respects their art and value. My favorite type of photographer to work with is someone with a goal. It’s not about just taking photos it’s about what is the purpose of this shoot and what are we going to accomplish with these images. How are we going to affectively promote them? How are these images going to inspire? Because of the power of social media, we have the ability to spread positivity, confidence, and motivation within seconds and I want to create work with photographers who want to utilize their craft to create change.
– My favorite shoot was back when I was in high school. I was booked by Seventeen Magazine to model prom dresses. It was my first commercial/editorial shoot and I remember thinking that I was going to blow up and become famous when the magazine was released. HA!
Recently I shot with Nicole Mondestin- beautiful photographer who I have worked with in the past. She had just had a baby and wanted to promote positive body image through a series of boudoir shoots. She reached out to me and it was impossible to say no. We all go through body issues and I have always been afraid of being “sexy” I had recently found my own definition of sexy and had to jump on the project. I remember getting on set bloated and out of it. I did not feel sexy AT ALL. Nicole quickly made me comfortable and guided me. The responses to those photos have been so humbling. I’ve received private messages from women thanking me for my honesty and congratulating my efforts.
You’re pretty young. How is this career affecting your personal life?
My career definitely affects my personal life. It’s beautiful but at the same time exhausting. We expect everyone to understand our goals and our schedules but that is not going to happen. I’ve had friends that called me a flake because I constantly cancel last-minute because something career wise pops up. With my career, you do not know when is your shot and missing out on a chance is scary. However, it has allowed me to surround myself with what my best friend calls ” cheerleaders” Having a group of strong and inspirational friends has made missing out on things worth it.
Dating is hard. Putting my career first is a huge sacrifice on finding “love” I am still finding the balance between my career being number one, balancing my relationship with family and friends and love. However, you have to trust the process and know that you’re amazing and that you will not end up alone in life. I know I’m not!
I see you’re also a traveler. Where have you been most recently and what did you take away from these places? What places do you plan on visiting next?
My most recent trips that sticks out to me the most are Kenya and Milan. I have been other countries in between but those two were “life changing”- especially Kenya. Kenya was the first place that I have ever heard someone say to me ” Welcome Home, Sister” Kenya was a dream. I was able to teach music in Kibera Slums, work with the most amazing children, live with a family in which we became really close, meet life long friends and feel the most beautiful I’ve ever felt. Kenya taught me to love myself, love my sensitivity, love my skin, love my hair just LOVE.
As for Milan, it was special because my mom and I had went to Milan for leisure back in 2011 when I lived in Barcelona, Spain. We returned back this year and it was for work. I had gotten booked for gigs and to bring my mom was such an amazing feeling. Watching her smile and being able to spoil her reminded me of why this dream is bigger than Genesis. There were times where people recognized me from a small billboard and would stop me for a questions or even a photo. My mom’s face would light up. I’m just a curly-haired girl from the Bronx that wanted to learn how to sing, dance, act and model and to be 26 and on the road to fulfilling my dreams is the most amazing feeling.
Outside of your career what things make you happy? How do you like to spend your free time?
I love volunteering (working with kids), EATING, working out, traveling, spending time with family and friends. I am very close to my family and little things like spending Sundays “family day” together makes me so happy because it rarely happens now due to my schedule.
How do you define love?
Oh love! Love is one of my favorite things in life. Love is compassionate, supportive, understanding, never-ending. Love gives you the strength to want to achieve anything in life. To love is one of my favorite things to do. It makes me feel whole, makes me feel so good and makes everything worth it. Gives me purpose. Love is to be compassionate with one another. Love is to support your brothers and sisters indefinitely support also comes with being truthful. Love is to understand that everything is not about you. Love is to be filled with rage when you experience or see your neighbor experiencing injustice. Once you fill your everyday actions with love, it’s a never-ending gift. Love gives you the strength to want to achieve anything in life.
Women in so many different genres are putting it down right now. Sports, business, creative media, you name it. What does being a woman mean to you?
Being a woman is an honor for me. It involves everything that I am proud of- proud of being a daughter, sister, girlfriend, actress, model, performer. Being a woman has provided me with the platform and responsibility to become a difference, to inspire and to share love. Being a woman is powerful- it is a power that I am still learning and to be able to speak to young girls and provide them with words of encouragement is a power that I am so grateful to have.
If you could go back 5 years what advice would you give to yourself?
Do it. Fuck fear and uncertainties just do it. I was so afraid and insecure. I literally made a leap while freaking out which made me unsure of the steps that I was making. If I could go back into time, I would focus on the importance of gaining confidence and just going for what I really wanted. 5 years ago, I graduated college and went straight into a corporate job and lost myself. However, I am thankful because now I do not take any of this for granted.
The final question is a little word association. For each word give whatever word, thought or statement comes to mind.
Music- Universal Language
What last words would you like to leave us with Ms. De Leon? Chase your dreams. If not now, when?
Feel free to check out past interviews as well. Enjoy, we’ll be back soon with another edition of Samurai Sit Down.