I hope your holidays are going well and for those of us in Los Angeles, you are staying dry. As a content creator, I always love to tell the story of incredible women doing amazing things. I had the unique opportunity to sit down with Ivana de Maria. You may recognize her from the cast of Univision’s hit telenovela, “La bella y las bestias” and she is currently a producer on the upcoming Netflix show “Monarca” starring Salma Hayek. In addition, she is executive producing a series (set up at a major cable network, soon to be announced!) based on the life and of famous war journalist Oriana Fallaci. Her producing partner on this project is a well-known American journalist, Giselle Fernandez.
Not only is she a prominent person in the entertainment industry, she founded a really cool app called Story Place, a storytelling platform that aims to give a voice to ordinary people with extraordinary stories. StoryPlace’s goal is to connect people through life anecdotes, using storytelling as the medium to create SOLIDARITY, PHILANTHROPY, CULTURE and CONNECTION. This is her story...
StilettoGal: What motivated you to start your business/career path?
Ivana De Maria: I always knew I wanted to work in the entertainment industry, but when I began my acting career, I realized I wanted to create my own content, and therefore my own opportunities. As I began creating my own content I learned everything about the process of telling a story: writing, producing, acting, editing, and the business side of things. This was the beginning of my love story with storytelling. Furthermore, I realized that my generation had an opportunity: the industry was changing and the power was now in the hands of the creative. The new currency was STORIES. If you had a good story and knew how to tell it, you had a big opportunity, and something far more valuable than an award. As I found myself analyzing the culture of storytelling around the world, I realized that this demand for stories was not exclusive to the entertainment industry. Every industry, product or brand had a story to tell.
Without necessarily planning it, I found myself developing projects based on real life stories and became obsessed with the idea of finding these stories and bringing them to life, giving them a voice. I have always looked to integrate elements of social responsibility in what I do, so I decided I would create entertainment content based on true stories, specifically those with messages, stories and voices that needed to be heard today. As I embarked on this journey to find extraordinary stories, travelling and speaking to people of all backgrounds, I found that everyone’s story had something to teach me. This led to recurring dream that would make me wake up every morning with the same question: “How many stories go unheard in the world?” I could not stop thinking of all the lost learning opportunities and decided I would do something about it. I wanted to create a place for these stories. Taking into account technology and generation trends, I decided to create a platform that would inspire people to connect through story sharing, to realize the importance of sharing and listening to stories. That is why I created StoryPlace, an egoless social platform that promotes empathy by connecting people through sharing and reading real life stories.
SG: What are three tips you can give to women who is deciding to start a business/career path?
- Believe in your vision. Trust your intuition and create your own content. Don’t wait for people to hand you an opportunity and don’t be afraid to fail. If you do, which you probably will a million times in your life, you simply learned another way not to do something. It’s not failure until you stop trying new ways of doing it. So don’t give up on something you believe in just because its hard!
- The biggest life lesson for me is the difficulty and importance of defining success. Success is personal for each person and therefore something impossible to define. Many times we sacrifice things in life that matter, justifying it with the typical “it will be worth it”. What we fail to define is WHEN will it be worth it? Find your own way of defining what success means to you, in the short term and long term… but make sure that your definition of success is not something intangible at the end of the road, because so long as you are alive that road will never end.
- You only have 100% of yourself. Many times, especially as a woman, you end up committing to giving 100% to multiple things in your life. You want to give 100% of you to your kids and family, and 100% of you to your business. By setting this goal you are automatically setting yourself up for failure, because 200% of you does not exist. You are one person and you have 100% of you, so be honest to yourself and others about how you plan to distribute that percentage, it will help you achieve results and be more efficient in every aspect of your life. Also, whatever percentage distribution you choose is OK, don’t feel guilty for knowing what you want.
SG: What challenges have you had and how did you overcome them?
IDM: Maaaany challenges. Life is full of challenges and I know for a fact that there are still many ahead of me, both in terms of personal and professional life. It’s easy to look at someone’s Instagram account and think how perfect their life is, but we don’t know that every picture has a million stories behind it.
One of the biggest challenges for me professionally has been believing in myself. I am great at giving advice but not so great at taking my own… Since I was a little girl I always had a lot of ideas of things that I wanted to create. I would begin the process, get all excited, talk about it to people, and then would stop the moment I would face an unknown factor. If I knew how to do something I would do it, but the problem was when I would run into a step that I did not know how to do. It would create a sense of fear and insecurity that would result in the death of my idea. The fear of the unknown would mean a possibility of failure that I could not accept.
StoryPlace was the first project I genuinely followed through. I was terrified at first and especially when I had to write a first check for it. Every other day I would question why I was embarking on this journey into the unknown, but in the bottom of my heart I knew I had to, I wanted to. I took courses and read books specifically about apps and startups, and every time I faced that unknown step I would call a friend or Google “HOW TO…”
Every time I had a doubt I would remember something that my mom said to me: If you don’t continue, its fine. Nothing will happen… NOTHING will happen… BUT if you do continue on this journey, maybe something WILL happen. Whenever I find myself in a difficult decision making point I always think of my worst-case scenario, and I prepare myself for that possibility. Then, I do everything in my hands to avoid that possibility, but knowing that if it comes to that, it will be ok.
SG: What are some unique things you have done to promote your business/yourself?
IDM: Having worked in the entertainment industry has opened up the possibility for a lot of organic marketing. I have intertwined my business side and my acting side into one entity and, against many people’s advice, refused to stick to one profession. Everyone kept telling me to choose a word for my business cards. Is it actress? Producer? Activist? Entrepreneur? I spent months trying to pick one, but it did not seem right, until I realized they all had one common denominator, STORIES. Today my business card reads “STORYTELLER”, and that’s what I want people to remember me by.
SG: How do you define success?
IDM: There is a quote from Oscar Wilde which is the essence of one of the first short films I wrote, produced and acted in: “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it”. This question is something I have always had on my mind. The difficulty and importance of defining success. I think that success is personal for each person and therefore something impossible to define but rather than defining it I try to find measures of success that can guide me in the right direction of where I want to go. In my mind, success goes hand in hand with loving what you do, loving who you are and loving the people that surround you. In order for me to achieve that level of bliss I know that it involves finding a combination of doing what I love and helping the world become a better place at the same time. I have a bit of a morbid way of evaluating my life choices: I constantly ask myself how I want to be remembered after I die. How I want my grand kids to talk about me to their kids, and by describing myself how I want them to describe me, I have come somewhat close to defining success. Overall I can say that I want to be someone who is difficult to define.
SG: What legacy would you like to leave?
IDM: In a personal aspect, I want to have a very big family. I want many kids and grand kids and the whole soccer team. One of the things that excites me the most in this world is the idea of creating a legacy in terms of a family.
In a professional aspect, I try to implement a socially responsible aspect to everything I do. I want to know that I helped make this world a better place for future generations. I would like to know that I helped reinstate empathy in human beings.
SG: What kind of shoe are you and why?
IDM: Sparkly sneakers. I have always been a combination of childish and adult, elegant and comfortable. In that sense I am very much like a chameleon. I love being in black tie formal wear as much as I like being in a comfortable onesie. I have almost a double personality where I can be very professional and adult, yet I can also be very playful and silly. It really depends on the situation and who I am with but if you know both sides of me that means you are someone I feel very comfortable with.
To learn more about Ivana and the Story Place App, follow her on social media.
How StoryPlace Works:
Users post stories on the platform by creating an account under an anonymous pen name. Stories are filtered and sorted by topics (eg. love, food, health, etc.) and are then sorted by more specific subtopics (eg. heartbreak, veganism, body positivity, etc). As the user, you can choose to see stories related to a specific topic or you can choose to simply explore all genres.
Users can communicate textually through a private inbox. This platform isn’t about followers so that number will not be shown! This allows people to further connect with each other — whether it is to show solidarity, to offer help in some way, or perhaps, even to turn a story into something bigger!