Leandra Blei

Leandra Blei

Tell us about yourself. Include where you’re from, what you do, how you’re thriving and anything else everyone should know about you.

I was born and raised in Kerrville, Texas and I am a photographer in Austin, Texas. I am thriving by getting to know my community now, with more intent, rather than through happenstance and work environments. Since the election I have been finding more of my tribe.

How do you identify culturally?

Growing up in small-town, Texas with all white friends and being noticeably brown, I identified as “Mexican” even though I am 3rd generation. Now I identify as Latina.

How does your cultural background inform your thinking and sense of being in the world? How has it informed past decisions, successes, failures?

We never heard too many stories about how the second generation grew up but I held on to the memories of my grandmother and the few stories she told me of injustices she saw others face. I knew I was different because everyone in my town felt the need to remind me. But as a kid, I didn’t think about it too much. Just that I always felt like I was on the outside looking in. I became an exchange student my junior year and went off to Belgium for four weeks. There, was just an American. It was amazing. The year after I went to France for a year. All the weirdness I had felt throughout my young life revolving around my brown skin, almost disappeared. If I was weird, people just shrugged it off as me being American. There were times I was mistaken for Middle Eastern.  I was young so I was defensive about this because I didn’t want to be brown and discriminated against all over again. But this color doesn’t wash off. Now that I’m closer to 40, I finally feel like I belong and am just me as long as I am doing the best I can to be a strong Latinx woman. It’s all I can do. I remember being poor and how hard my parents worked so I know being poor doesn’t mean people are lazy. The stories from my grandmother and my own personal experiences remind me that racism is alive and well and although I have assimilated well into uh-errr, white American culture, it is important for me to speak out for those who are still finding their footing and place in this country while facing the renewed bravado of racists.

What inspires you and who do you look up to?

My mom’s mom is who I keep in my heart daily. And of course my mother. Strong and almost stoic at times. Seemingly hard but full of love for strangers in need as if they were family. Never stopping. Always doing for others.

Leandra Blei

What is your best piece of advice to anyone who may be struggling?

Politically, make calls and try to find realistic things you can do to ease your stress level. In friendships and marriage: avoid being passive aggressive, try to get through conversations without starting phrases out with, “I”. Listen more. Take screen vakays. Read more. Sleep more. And most important of all, find your tribe. I have lived in Austin for 18 years. It has only been these past 2 years that I am finding my people. I don’t mean just other Latinas. I mean dependable, honest, sincere, people. People with faults, people who lose it from time to time, people who send me funny screenshots randomly throughout the day to make me laugh. People just like me, doing the best they can.

What are your future goals and aspirations?

For humanity: Fighting the good fight. For love and marriage: Keep on keeping on. Being married to a total babe that supports me in pretty much every way makes it easy. For work: Focus more on the service of clients rather than on getting more clients. For life in general: Remembering that I am only human and there are only 24 hours in a day.

Share one thing people should know about the Latinx community.

We are EVERYWHERE! Just kidding. They should know that from a cultural standpoint, we support each other. We are growing in numbers and we are finding that we have more power than our representatives would have us believe.

What is your favorite Latinx driven project and why is it your favorite?

I’m very involved with Jolt. The founders are so inspiring and I am getting quite the education. It is empowering.

Where can people find you on the internet?