One of my favorite moments last week, and one of the highlights of my career, was a conversation 24 other bloggers and I had with the amazingly talented Victoria Alonso, an Argentinian born supermom, who has created waves for over a decade in and out of the Marvel Universe.
Victoria is Marvel Studios’ Executive Vice President of Physical Production and Executive Producer of Avengers: Infinity War, which together, put simply, refer to the person in charge of every single detail of the Marvel movies, from the hiring of writers and directors, to the costume design, to special effects and more.
So you might forgive me for feeling just a little nervous when I walked into that small auditorium on the Walt Disney Studios Campus, where Marvel Studios is located, to talk to her. But I needn't have worried, she made us feel as if we were chatting in her living room.
She opened the conversation by saying “you are my people, working moms, and dad,” (we had one dad blogger in the group). She asked us how many kids we had, a loud response from 25 bloggers led to an explosion of laughter.
If you were to ask me to describe her, I would say, Victoria is a change-maker, a visionary, a superhero, a hard-working Latina mom, but I would also add she's warm, kind, humble, and direct. We spoke for over an hour and I feel we could have gone much longer.
She sees herself as a working mother, she said “I'm a working mother, that is my title. I try to create a balance between home, life, marriage, friends and career.” During our conversation she shared many words of wisdom. We talked, we laughed and we even cried. At times, our conversation was very intimate, the energy in the room was beautiful.
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Here is our interview, enjoy the ride (As there were more than 25 of us involved, this interview has been edited for clarity and continuity. Questions were asked by various different bloggers):
Motherhood and Career
What does your daughter think about your job?
Victoria: “I have only one little girl. I feel like a complete un-achiever when it comes down to you. My little girl is so proud… she hasn’t seen many Marvel movies… because she’s been quite little.
And it’s just now — she’s about to turn eight–and she hasn’t seen Black Panther, but she has heard me talk about it and what it has meant to me (I don’t talk about what the movies are, but what it has meant to me as a career). And she hears me talk about it. And she said to me yesterday, ‘I know I didn’t do it, but since you made Black Panther, I’m like a really popular kid‘.
I said, ‘well, I think you’re popular because of you not because of the movie.' She goes, ‘no, …they all knew what you did and everything, but now I’m like, I’m like the daughter.‘ And I said, oh, that’s — I guess that’s great.”
Having a daughter, how has that changed or influenced what you bring to your movies now?
Victoria: “Well, I think I’m always — as you know having children changes who you are as a person and how you see the world– I think that I thought I would've died for someone. I know I would die for her. Hands down. That kind of feeling… is like — is that stab necessary? Do we need to see that blood? … can we just stop the punchy punch? Because I’m numb. I don’t need — I mean like I get it that they’re superheroes and they fight– but I'm bored.
…I’m not a comic book fan. I mean I’ve gone on record saying this plenty. I love our movies… because I think they have a heart and they have a message. And they have more than one message, and it’s really up to you to see it. You know, you can peel our movies like an onion, … and eventually, you might cry.
I think it’s a constant question as a parent. And I say it and I say it aloud in every room, how am I going to explain this in the playground, which I go to every morning to drop her off. And that creates a conversation. And usually it’s me and a bunch of dads, … and a lot of them are dads of girls. So, that’s created a new conversation as well in the last almost 13 years.
And so, it’s very present for me, and it’s — is it influential enough? I don’t know, but all I can do is every day I give it all I got. And what you see is the combined efforts of hopefully the best storytelling that we could tell. And then sometimes it’s a little bit geared towards the inner child of some of the comic book fans.
As a mom at the executive level, how have you seen things change for working moms in the work place?
Victoria: “I work with a very nice group of men. I said to them I’m going to adopt a child. And one day I will come to you and say I’m going, and I did. And we were getting ready. I was packed to go to San Diego for the first biggest Comi-Con of our careers, first Avengers, 2010. And we get a call from her birth mom in Chicago, and we left. And I called the boys and I said I gotta go. I’m gonna go get my girl. And I did. And I came back a week later with Olivia. And I brought her to work for 18 months, three days a week.
She was bottle fed and everyone had her. And she never cried. … And she knew more Marvel secrets than anybody. But she couldn't talk. She was the perfect vault. And she was with me. I mean I brought my baby, and I encourage moms and dads to bring their babies.
And I encourage moms …if they wanna go have babies, all they have to do is say it. I’ll figure out how it will work, and then they can return. They can return and have the same job. Not three steps below because they went away for whatever time. They were capable before, they’re more capable now.
And if they have to leave at five, which is not a production time to leave, they go. … moms work incredibly hard. After we put our kids to bed, we’re still working. So, I know I’m getting the devotion and the dedication from those moms. So, I love it.”
What would your advice be to women, working moms, who are trying to ease in and be part of the big boy table?
Victoria: “…be yourself. Don’t try to be a boy. I have never wanted to be a man. I’ve never wanted to be like them. I never wanted to do it like them. The strength is being who you are. Hands-down. That’s what makes you different. That’s what you bring to the table.
But when you go to that table, you sit at that table, not on the side, not behind. You sit at the table. And own it. That’s it. I own it every time I wanna sit at that table. I don’t make an apology for being there. If I’m at the table, that means somebody decided I should be here. So, I am here. That’s what they do. Yes?”
More Parenting Words of Wisdom
We shared a lot about our kids and Victoria shared more words of wisdom:
…Expose them to stories that you in your true-self believe will inspire you, and it will go in and it will inspire them. Show them all kinds of art. Show them all kinds of music. Show them the differences of this world, because I look at the room and I see you’re all very different women. And you’re all moms.
In your own right, you’re doing something for these children. Just show them. And the one thing that unites us really is the love. For our family, for our partners, for our children, for our country, for whatever. Whatever is the love that you feel. It doesn’t divide us. I mean that’s really Black Panther. It's the love of country, the love of people, the love of kingdom.
For a kid who wants to do what you do as a career, what are the steps that they need to take?
Victoria: “…It’s really more about where is her heart. Is her heart in the technology of it? Is her heart in the creative aspect of it? Is her heart in the production part of it? Is her heart in the marketing part of it? There’s room in all of it. And even if they go to college — and maybe she will and maybe she won't, but if she does then she can try and find out what it is that her heart is. Because it really doesn’t matter what I do. It’s what she wants to do. It’s where her heart is.
… there’s art in every single department that we do. So, whether you’re creating a prop, you’re creating a sound bite, you’re creating the music, you’re creating the visuals, you’re creating the script, you’re doing the casting, you’re doing the costumes, you’re doing color, you’re doing sound design, I mean like visual effects, of course, right.
But there’s so much, …maybe what should be is when she graduates from high school you should come back and chat with me with her here, so I can talk to her. And then I’ll tell her. All right?”
About Victoria, Her Hero and Argentina
Q: How do you recharge when you have nothing else to give?
Victoria: “You know, people are a recharge for me. I’m a strange beast of being, an extrovert, and this to me is very soothing. I like it actually…I play tennis. When I hit that ball, like there’s no moment in time. I mean, every ball has a name. Every ball has a moment…I just love people and tennis. Tennis is a beautiful thing.
Q: If you were an actual superhero, what would your superpower be?
Victoria: I think I would like to be invisible. … there're certain conversations I’d like to hear. It’s kinda simple. I mean like I think I would like to hear Olivia on the playground when I’m not there. You know what I mean? I think that would be really cool. I think it would interesting to just be a fly on the wall in the restaurant and hear people chat.
You know what I mean? Because some of us just need to have that moment of like unplug and listen to somebody else’s life.”
Q. Who is your hero and why?
Victoria: “…I think it would have to be my mother… I grew up in Argentina in a military dictatorship where things were not easy, or there was a lot of activity. People were getting taken away and killed. And my mother — my father died when I was six and my mother never remarried–She was a high official in the ministry of education, and she kept us safe. She kept us strong. She kept us open-minded. She — and there’s two of us, my sister and I–And my mom had it going on. She’s a strong, strong girl. And she never took anything from anybody, not the military, not no one.
My mom’s the woman that was left on the road bleeding with me on her hands for not saying something some — during that time, there were different groups, political groups, that will come and force you to say, you know, “Viva Perón, viva Evita” …my mom wouldn't get involved. And these thugs came and beat her and left her for dead on the street — I’ve never told this story before– with me in her arms. I was a baby. And she would — she’s a strong, strong girl– And just whenever she regained consciousness she got up and took us and off we went.
…now that I have a child, I have so much more respect for my mother. Because I had no idea what it took. I had no idea what it took to be a parent. I had no idea what it took to parent alone. I still don’t know what it means to parent alone, 'cause I have the greatest partner of all time. And I don’t know how I would do it without Imelda parenting together.”
About Marvel Movies and Avengers: Infinity War
How much of an influence have you had in having strong female leads in the Marvel universe?
Victoria: “…The Geena Davis Foundation has a tagline that says ‘if you can see it, you can be it.' So, for seeing me or her other mother or any other woman out there doing it, it's what inspires her to be. There was a time when she came home and she said I wanna be a boy. And I said, oh. And I thought, well, maybe we have to have this conversation. And then I thought why. ‘Why would you wanna be a boy?' they just have all the fun.'
…Then she came back and she goes ‘but you’re like a change-maker … well, then, I guess I could be a girl.' … I said, ‘you can be whatever you wanna be.' …you know what I mean? It’s like sometimes there’s that feeling that is like you want to be like them, because they have something that you don’t and perhaps you can’t achieve.
And so, the idea of getting out there and showing that you can is I think, by far, the most important thing… She goes to a school that is very mixed and really there’s every color of the rainbow in her school. And I think part of her feeling popular is because every kid there is super excited about Black Panther because they couldn't see themselves before. And now they do.”
Q: I’m sure you heard a lot of reaction to the film last night. Were those reactions something that you were expecting?
Victoria: “…You know, none of the actors had seen the film. So, it was interesting talking to them at the second party that I went to that we had a chance to actually sit down and talk. And how they were like ‘wow.' And that’s really one of the things that they kept saying. Because they didn’t read the script. They don’t know what’s coming. They know a little bit of what happens or what doesn’t…
I think the reactions are different for everybody. And I was nervous last night for the first time in my career. And I told everyone about it. I was so out of it … I think I was nervous because I could feel the weight of what you saw. And it’s also because for us it’s — not the culmination but part one of the culmination of my entire past 13 years.
…Imelda, who’s super wise, … said to me, ‘wow this is humbling… and you had a hand in every single one of these things.' And I thought, yeah.
…I have no idea how people feel. I mean, … I guess we could talk about how you felt. Hopefully, you felt something, … you laugh a little, you cry a little… and let your poor heart break a little.
Before saying goodbye Victoria recommended watching Avengers: Infinity War in an IMAX, if you can, because the blacks are really black and you gain image both on top and bottom of the frame (contrary to the standard screen where the movie needs to be cropped to fit).
Finally, she thanked us for being there and shared something else that I would like to pass on to you:
“I just wanna say, listen, I thank you. As a mother to mothers, I work every day to make sure that our kids have better perspective. I can’t do the better life thing. That’s on you. … And if our stuff — because it’s global and it gets kids all over the world, and if we can create that kinda thing for kids everywhere I think that’s a win. But whatever you’re doing I’m sure is making my kid’s life better too. So, I thank you for that.
Thank you so much for your time Victoria, fue un placer conocerte.
Have you seen the movie? What are you waiting for?