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Interview With Promote Founder, Photographer, Artist Denise Vasquez

PROMOTE Magazine Founder: Denise Vasquez Photographed by: Roberto Lee Cortes

Featured Interview in PROMOTE Magazine issue 4 June 2024

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in New York City. I left home when I was 17 years old, and have been traveling since living in Scotland, London, US Virgin Islands, California & now Nevada.

Did your environment influence your creativity?

Absolutely! Not only was growing up in New York City like living in the melting pot of creativity, but I am blessed to have been raised by a mother who was an artist. My mom loved to sketch, paint, play piano, had a love for the theater, music, history, and anthroplogy. She introduced me to museums, parks, galleries, theaters, live music, comedy, Broadway, great food, and so much more! Leaving home at the age of 17 to travel, experience life, work abroad and live in different parts of the world, introduced me to a bigger world than I could ever imagine, new landscapes, different cultures, more diversity of art, architecture, music, people, places, style and food.

How old were you when you started creating art?

I’ve been creating art for as long as I can remember! I started singing before I could talk, dancing before I could walk, writing stories, songs and poems as soon as I could hold a crayon, and taking photos from the time I got my hands on a disposable film camera.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in the performing arts?

My first performance on a real stage was doing tap dancing with Mrs Dorothy’s Dance Studio when I was 4 years old. I knew the moment I stepped out on stage I wanted to be a professional artist. If home is where the heART is, when I’m on stage, I am home!

Did you have any training? Where did you study?

As a photographer, mixed media artist and guitarist, I am self taught, but my training as a performer is pretty extensive!

In New York City: as a child I studied tap dance with Mrs Dorothy Dance Studio, and Ballet, modern dance and jazz at Carnegie Hall. I also studied the violin, voice, and dance in Elementary school, JHS, and High School. As a teenager through my early twenties, I studied at The Lee Strasberg Theater Institute with Kirk Taylor, Jan Tarrant, Janet Ward, Jeffrey Horne, David Gideon, and at Miriam Colon’s “Puerto Rican Traveling Theater Training Unit” with Manuel Martin (Master Class for Actors), Dr. Angelo Cruz (Voice), Improv & Audition Techniques (Wendy Dillon). I had a lot of training in improv when I joined Joy Newman’s “The Grown Ups Playground” at the New York Comedy Club, and I had private instruction for auditioning techniques and cold readings with Pat McCorkle, Richard Lukin, Miller Lide and Neil Corcoran. I also studied Communications, Media Marketing, Philosophy, Sociology, French, Calculus, Conducting To Classical Music…At Hunter College.

In St John, USVI: At The St John School Of The Arts on St John USVI, I studied playwriting with C. R. Cuthbertson.

In Los Angeles: I studied stand up comedy with David Arnold (RIP) and Jerry Corley, and hosting with Richy Leis at Flappers Comedy Club. I studied Improv and Sketch Comedy Writing at UCB with Lee Rubenstein and David Barton Harris. I also studied advanced scene study at Ivana Chubbuck Studio with Deryl Carroll, and more Improv at LA Connection Comedy Theater with Deven Green and Lita Lopez.

You’ve been working in the entertainment business for over 50 years, since before the internet, how did you find opportunities back in the day?

I’m a survivor of the no internet, no google, no iPhone age! Nowadays it is easier to find opportunities, castings and open calls on the internet on sites like Casting Networks, Actors Access and even on social media sites like Instagram. Back in the day, I used to read the trade papers like “The Ross Reports”,“Backstage”, and HOLA (Hispanic Organization Of Latin Actors) “La Nueva Ola” newsletters to find out about casting calls. I’d also look at bulletin boards at like “Samuel French” or where I trained. Once I found a casting call for something I wanted to do, I would go to a paper supply store, purchase black manilla envelopes and silver calligraphy paint pens, and create art on the envelopes to help my submissions stand out. I would write a personal letter to casting directors inviting them to my live shows, and either mail or hand deliver the pretty envelopes with my photo and resume to their office. I always followed up with a thank you postcard or card every time I got booked because saying thank you showed my appreciation for the opportunity, and usually got me called back for more! Sometimes I was referred for opportunities by someone I was studying with, or by someone I’ve worked with.

You’ve worked professional as a creator, actress, writer, author, model, dancer, singer, songwriter, guitarist, comedian, host, promoter, producer, photographer, editor…how do you do it all and do you have a preference?

I am an artist who creates because it is a part of my being. I see life as my canvas, the different mediums I can create with as the colors on my palette and the tools that I have access to as being the tools I use to create with. I don’t have a preference as everything I create is a part of who I am, the life the I’ve lived and all of the experiences I’ve had. I listen to my muse and learned a long time ago to step out of the way & let my creative juices flow however it wants to flow whether through my photography, my art, my comedy, my music, my writing, or acting.

What projects have you worked on?

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working on sooooo many incredible projects with soooo many amazing people, all over the world. From Feature Films, TV, Music Videos, Theater Shows, Improv Shows, Stand Up Comedy Shows, Music Shows, Improv and Sketch Comedy Shows, Runway Shows, Hair Shows, writing a book for IMPACT/F&W Media/Penguin Randomhouse, articles for Lonely Planet, and so much more! Check out my About page on my official website, my IMDb, or my credits on my resume on Casting Networks.

When did you begin producing your own events?

I started producing and performing in my own shows in the early 90’s when I realized there wasn’t many opportunities for a strong, intellegent, independent, Puerto Rican girl like me aside from the stereotypical prostitute, junkie acting roles. Don’t get me wrong, I booked those type of roles, but I wanted to do more and show people I was so much more than a stereotype!

I’m not the type of person to sit around and wait for opportunities to come to me, so I created opportunities for not only myself, but for others like me. The first show I produced was a musical show called "Observations" at The Duplex Cabraret Theatre in NYC.

When I moved to St John, in the US Virgin Islands, I produced, hosted and performed in 6 Music Festivals. In Los Angeles, I Produced Social Butterfly Night, WO+MEN 4 A Cause and WO+MEN 4 APPLAUSE comedy and music variety shows at: The Crooked Bar, El Guapo Cantina, TCL Chinese Theaters and Flappers Comedy Club.

Does being an artist require you to go where the work is?

Absolutely! Having the flexibility to move and go where the work is, has helped me find new opportunities, grow as an artist and as a person!

When did you start traveling and why?

I started traveling as a child when my mom would send me to Puerto Rico to visit my grandparents for the summer. The moment I stepped on an airplane, the travel bug bit me, and I’ve been in love with traveling since! I graduated high school when I was 15 turning 16, went to Hunter college and decided to do a work exchange in Edinburgh Scotland through Bunac when I was 17 years old. I loved living and working in Edinburgh and found a great job working at “The Rutland” which is still there. It was the best experience of my life and I encourage everyone to travel overseas, and if you can live and work abroad, even better! I went back years later with my partner and showed him where I worked, where I lived and more! Edinburgh Scotland will forever hold a special place in my heart!

When did you get into photography & how long have you been a professional photographer?

I’ve always loved photography, and have been taking photographs my entire life whether with a disposable film camera, Polaroid camera, iPhone 15 Pro, or my Digital Cameras (Canon R5 & 6D Mark ii). I really got into photography as a professional when I lived on St. John in the US Virgin Islands. I worked for casting & film companies, traveling with them as a translator (I speak fluent Spanish), and as a production, casting assistant, key set PA… learning many things on the job including how to scout and photograph talent. I've held many positions in my life working in promotions, hosting, sales, retail, hotels, restaurants, bars…including working as a wedding coordinator. As a wedding coordinator, I did everything from consulting with my clients, to creating packages, booking the minister, accommodations, transportation, music, florist, photographer, scouted locations, acquired permits & more! As I mentioned earlier, I’ve also promoted, hosted, and produced my own shows, booked singer, songwriters, musicians and bands. During my shows, I wore many hats, but I felt it was imperative for talent to have good promotional photos, that represented them at their best, so I began photographing every artist as they performed on stage. When the performers shared the moments I captured, others began approaching me about wanting to be photographed, and that's when I knew I was on to something with my photography and promoting. Over the years, I received even more hands on experience photographing candid portraits, while working for photography companies at Universal Studios Hollywood & at The San Diego Zoo. 

What made you start your own photography business?

After being worked to death in my last corporate photography job, or should I say worked to injury that ended me up in a wheelchair for 3 years… I made a promise to myself that when I got back on my feet, I would work for myself, on my own terms, and never allow myself to be abused the way I was ever again! I started my own photography business and magazine so I can continue doing what I love, while promoting my photography and amazing talent. Having my own businesses takes a lot of investment of time, money, and work, but I’ve found that when I do what I love, and I love what I do, my passion shines in all that I create…and again, I’d much rather invest in myself, work hard for myself, on my own terms.

How do you apply all of your skills to your photography?

When it comes to my photography, I utilize all of my skills. My life experiences working as a professional photographer, artist, creator, performer, host, producer, booker, PA, wedding coordinator, sales person… come into play for every photo experience. From scheduling, scouting, and organizing, to consulting, travel arrangements, props, and storytelling… I especially love using my improv and comedy chops to get my clients to relax, get comfortable, and laugh..that’s when it really becomes a fun experience for all of us.

What made you create Promote Magazine & how do you find talent to feature?

I created PROMOTE Magazine to have another platform to promote my photography while featuring amazing talent I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I approach finding the talent to feature in each issue, in the same way I would book talent in one of my comedy, music or variety shows. When I scout, I look for talent, even I if it’s new RAW talent, I’ve discovered, referred and featured a LOT of talent over the years…I know talent when I see it. Once I spot talent, I check out what they’re doing, their work ethic, their professionalism and their energy. Positive energy is just as important to me as talent and work ethic. I don’t allow negative energy in my life in any way, whether it’s on a project, or for the magazine.

Any advice for aspiring artists & photographers?

Do what you love and love what you do. Work hard on not just mastering your craft, but on mastering yourself! Be true to you in everything you do. Never change who you are to fit in, be who you are to stand out. Stay focused, be kind, appreciate the opportunities when you receive them and say thank you. Never make assumptions based on what people tell you! Learn, grow and discover things for yourself. Travel, study, never stop learning! Remember, everyone is watching: not just stalkers, your family, your friends…but potential clients, brands, casting directors, managers, studios, agents…photographers, and bookers like me! Promote your best self, your best work, and stay positive, especially online! Believe to achieve. Dare to dream and live it.

Where are you based & where can people find you online?

I’m currently based in Henderson Nevada. People can find me online:

Portrait Booking site

Click the link to purchase your copy of PROMOTE Magazine issue 4 June 2024!

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