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Entrepreneur and Actress Naya Rivera Is Empowering Hispanics to Embrace Their Culture in Their Careers and Families

Photo: Courtesy of Solmaz Saberi

Naya Rivera is known for her role as Santana on “Glee.” But it was her new role as mother to three-year-old son Josey that inspired her next career movie–founder of the kids clothing line JOJO&IZZY.

“I wanted to take on a project that I could really dive into and learn from,” says Rivera. “I started JOJO&IZZY from the ground up by myself and along the way learned so much about small business.”

Her Los Angeles-based unisex apparel and accessory brand, featuring hand crafted designs–like lightning bolts and confetti–by an in-house artist, pairs the innocence of youth with fashion edginess.

Rivera, who loves fashion and designing clothes for all ages, is focused on quality customer service and putting her customers first. She’s also committed to supporting the next generation and encouraging them to be themselves.

“We’re all about inclusion and not about gender labels or labels in general,” she says. “Kids are so innocent and should be kept that way; so, we say, ‘however you rock it, just be you!’ Because that’s the best label of all.”

Working hard

A former child model and actress, Rivera was just four when she was cast in the CBS sitcom “The Royal Family.”

“Since I’ve been working in the entertainment industry from such a young age, working hard and taking pride in my work and professionalism is second nature,” says the actress, who’s currently portraying Collette on the YouTube Red series, “Step Up: High Water.”

Her Puerto Rican heritage and upbringing have had a significant influence on her work ethic and career. She also credits her family for making her feel most connected to her culture.

“Learning about my heritage and hearing stories of my immigrant relatives is incredibly inspiring to me,” says Rivera, who keeps that culture alive at home by speaking Spanish and cooking traditional family recipes.

Diversity and equality

“I would love to believe that we live in a world where race doesn’t exist. But it does,” says Rivera. “I’ve come to terms with that in my adulthood and embrace all that I am and then some.”

She advises others to persevere, despite challenges.

“I would encourage anyone who is currently facing adversity to look at the bigger picture and realize that everyone everywhere at some point is going to feel discriminated against; but that doesn’t mean that you have to take that on,” she says. “Keep pursuing your dreams and be confident that you are always enough.” While Rivera is busy fusing family and fashion, she’s thinking ahead too. “My next career goal? Hmm. To take over the world,” she says laughing. “You never know.”

Kristen Castillo, [email protected]

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