Your People | Rachel Leyco
Rachel Leyco is like OG Pretty Thing gang status. She was one of the very first models we worked with and probably the one that we’ve shot with most consistently. You may recognize her face plastered all over our website. If it isn’t obvi, we adore her and all of her endless creative talents. Read on and try not to feel the same. I dare you.
Pretty Thing: Rachel! Tell the people who you are and why we love you sm.
Rachel Leyco: I'm a storyteller. To be specific – a filmmaker, an actress, and the co-founder of Empowerhouse. Pursuing a career in the film industry is the worst thing you can do to yourself... until it's the best thing. When I experienced a lack of nuanced multi-dimensional roles as an Asian-American actress, I realized there was only thing I could do to change this seemingly never-ending cycle – create. Create the change I wanted to see. Create the change I wanted to be. And help others do the same. So I enrolled in film school and started writing, directing, and producing my own stories. My short films have won awards and have gone on to play at numerous film festivals around the world. My passion to see more diverse inclusive stories led me to build Empowerhouse, a digital media company that creates empowering stories that matter and fosters an inclusive community of storytellers.
Flex, sis! Whew. What specific goals are you working at the moment?
What am I NOT working on?! I'm sort of a "create-a-holic" as I like to say. Because it isn't work for me. Currently at Empowerhouse, we are creating CRAZY, a mental health web series. We are also hosting a private female Asian-American creatives group and soon will be launching more local groups in LA. Overall, Empowerhouse is prepping to officially launch in a few months! And personally, I'm writing a feature film that I plan to shoot independently at the end of the year; I'm incredibly excited about this one! My ultimate hope is to reach the place when I can run Empowerhouse full-time, become a badass showrunner, and empower storytellers everywhere.
“PERFECTION IS COAL WRAPPED IN GOLD. IT HINDERS A LOT OF US FROM ACTUALLY GETTING THINGS DONE AND PUTTING IT OUT INTO THE WORLD.”
— RACHEL LEYCO
As a creative, what would you say is your specialty?
Well, if you must know... in my first year of film school, I created my first webisode pilot ever and won a student Emmy! What validation, right? My other short films, 'Maple's Tree,' and 'Bicultural,' have been official selections at many film festivals around the globe. I made it to the finalist round of interviews in the 2018 NBC Writers on the Verge. In my acting career, you can catch me on 'Chicago Fire' and the upcoming BET series, 'Games People Play,' set to premiere in April 2019. In every field, whether it's writing, directing, producing, or acting, I am always using my voice to empower and educate on issues that impact our generation and the next, such as mental health stigma, queer identities, and the Asian-American experience. So I guess my specialty is... being a passionate multi-hyphenate pretty thing!
Lol I love a lowkey plug. Thanks bb. Any challenges and advice you might have for other women on a similar path?
Stop striving for perfection. Instead, strive for joy and peace. Perfection is coal wrapped in gold. It hinders a lot of us from actually getting things done and putting it out into the world. Your art will never be perfect. And that's the beauty of it. The sooner you can accept that you can't control it all will save you so much time in your artistic journey. I've spent too much time allowing my ego and perfectionism prevent me from moving forward. The moment you trust in yourself is the moment you step into your purpose. It's going to be hard. It's going to take time. It's going to probably (most likely) take some therapy sessions to get there. It's going to make you doubt yourself. It's going to push you into the depths of your being. But it's going to be worth it. Let go of perfection. Unwrap the gold and crush the coal. Embrace who you are. Because who you are is more than capable.
What’s your opinion on the overall situation of women in entertainment.
It's very simple. Women have been ignored and overlooked in every industry. Especially women of color. And even more so, queer women of color. The entertainment industry is unique in that it's been a visible monster lurking around us. Women have been 'the object' for years in front of the camera. Queer women have been misunderstood. Women of color have been suffocating in boxes dragged by white hands. Our stories have been told by others than ourselves. That is the problem. Opportunities have been scarce for female filmmakers. And for actresses, exploitation has long been at large. But things are changing with the rise of the TIMES UP movement and various diversity initiatives. It takes one person to speak for others to have a voice. We need women who are willing to stand firm (especially white cis women) and help create opportunities, jobs, roles, and stories that push our authentic true brave female narrative forward.
Okay, last question. What female-identifying artist are you totally obsessed with right now?
SO MANY. I loooove me some Issa Rae! I want to work with that woman someday. Mindy Kaling, Rachel Bloom, and Greta Gerwig. Amazing female filmmakers that have paved their own paths and stayed true to their voices.