Ligiah Villalobos: Open up yourself to the possibilities of what your life can be


Credit: Courtesy of Ligiah Villalobos

Ligiah Villalobos is a Latina writer and producer, and she is pictured above next to famous actor Eugenio Derbez who starred in her film “Under the Same Moon.” “I started writing because I was so frustrated by the job that I had,” Villalobos said. “I really was sick of seeing people of color, specifically African-Americans in television, really showing us only the common denominator of a race versus really trying to elevate the programming that African-Americans deserved.”

Meredith Prince and Allie Nunn

From a young age, famous Latina producer and writer Ligiah Villalobos knew that the arts and entertainment industry failed to tell the true stories of the Latino community. After studying dance and cultural geography in college, Villalobos dreamed of sharing the stories of her native community. Since then, she has had many successes in the film industry, as she is best known for her work as head writer for the Nick Jr. show “Go, Diego! Go!” as well as producing and writing the Sundance film “Under the Same Moon”. Villalobos visited WHS in early March to discuss her experiences and struggles of being a producer and writer in Hollywood trying to represent a minority group.

“I started writing because I was so frustrated by the job that I had,” Villalobos said. “I really was sick of seeing people of color, specifically African-Americans,  showing us only the common denominator of a race versus really trying to elevate the programming that African-Americans deserved. I really didn’t want to be part of putting those images out into the world and I decided the best way for me to control those images was for me to start writing myself.”

Currently, Villalobos spends hours each day crafting her writing, pitching her stories to networks and studios and trying to sell her ideas to have them produced into a film. She is looking forward to a children’s show in progress that she is collaborating with Sesame Workshop to create.

“What I do day to day in terms of my writing is pitching to networks, pitching to studios, constantly trying to sell my new ideas to try to get them on the air,” Villalobos said. “So what I’m doing right now is I am working on a children’s show for Sesame Street, or Sesame Workshop which is a production company for Sesame Street which is an animated preschool show. It is wonderful to work with them because they really do have a mandate to not only entertain children but to also educate them and make them better human beings. I’m really excited about [it], I just can’t say what [the project] is yet.”

As a famous writer, Villalobos works on several projects at a time, and is also currently working on a pilot drama film for HBO Max.

“I’m also doing a one-hour pilot drama right now for HBO max, which is a new streaming service that is about to be launched,” Villalobos said. “And that one is based on a wonderful young adult book called ‘Gabi, a Girl in Pieces’ by Isabel Quintero. So I’m turning her book into a one hour drama.”

Credit: Courtesy of Ligiah Villalobos
Ligiah Villalobos smiles for her headshot.

Villalobos has worked very hard on producing quality work that represents the latino community, but it has been difficult to engage an audience. Over the years, African American films makers have seen a great increase in production of their work, unlike latino writers who are still trying to gain the recognition they deserve.

“The biggest struggle is that nobody seems to really want our stories,” Villalobos said “So, while African-Americans have made great improvements in terms of film in particular, where they get 14-16 movies that are specifically targeting African-Americans, the Latino community in this country, we are still lucky if we get one film every 1-3 years. Even though we represent a larger population in this country than African-Americans, we are the largest minority in this country.”

Even though Villalobos has had experience writing many pilots, it has been difficult for her work to move on to the next step. Production companies have had a hard time creating the right images to display Latino story lines.

“Hollywood has still not been able to figure out how to tell our stories,” Villalobos said. “So, as a writer, even though I do get hired all the time, a lot of the time the projects that I deal with don’t move to production. So I get paid, and I do a lot of pilots, but it’s really hard to move them forward into production and then into a series.”

Villalobos’s success in the writing industry had led her to meet many great actors and actresses. Over the years, she has met all different kinds of celebrities as well as worked with many.

“[Celebrities are] all different just like regular people are different,” Villalobos said. “There are some that are fantastic, I’ve done two projects for Will Smith, he was really fun. I’ve [also] developed for people like Julianne Moore and many lovely people. There are some who are like everybody else where they can be [rude], and they can be arrogant and are narcissists and all of that. I’ve been lucky in my career where I’ve worked with some really great people.”

In college, Villalobos found herself open to many different opportunities. Having a passion in dance helped nurture her creative side in the arts, but her injuries in dance led to a new career path. Despite these injuries, Villalobos pursued her passion in writing and did not let her surgeries set her back.

“I ended up having horrible injuries as a dancer.” Villalobos said. “I have now had a hip replacement, a shoulder surgery, and a ton of arthritis. But I would say that I did not let any of those things stop me.”

Villalobos believes life holds many great opportunities and can drive a person through twists and turns, but it is always important for a person to stay true to themselves while not letting anyone get in their way.

“I would say, open up yourself to the possibilities of what your life can be,” Villalobos said. “Because if you do so, your life can actually be extraordinary. So first, work on your craft, whatever that may be, acting, writing, directing, but then don’t let the voices in your head get in the way.”