La Pageant Diva's Elika Crespo on Chongas, Black Swan, and Hialeah

La Pageant Diva, whether

you think it was warranted or not, received the loudest cheer at the Borscht Film Festival. The hilarious satire of glamor, beauty pageantry, and celebrity

obsession parodied such movies as Black Swan and The Birdcage. It stood out when juxtaposed against some of the more artsy,

complicated work of the evening.

Director and writer Franco Parente

more-than-capably captured the madness, while working with a

professional cast including Giovanni Profera, Mad Cat Theater Company

founding member Joe Kimble, and perhaps the star of the night Elika

Crespo. On the way out the door, people were talking about the

Miami-native Crespo, the facial expressions she made, the presence she

commanded. We caught up with Crespo on location in Washington


New Times:

First off. Congratulations on

La Paegant Diva

. How were you brought into the project?

Elika Crespo: Thank you! The film was fun! The often heard term, "It's a small world" applies to how I met Franco. I was referred to him by Miami based casting director and friend Ed Arenas. When Ed mentioned my name to Franco, he already knew who I was because we had worked together in Miami, on a commercial several years ago.

Working with director Franco Parente and co-star Giovanni Profera must have been great.

Everyone on the set was very professional! Franco is very insightful as a director. His attention to detail is impeccable and he understands and RESPECTS actors! Gio is hilarious! Even when the camera's not rolling, he makes you laugh. What a beautiful gift to have!!! It's important to give credit and recognize the value of every single person that contributes to the film. The writer, casting director, DP, AD, director, crew, sound, stylist, makeup etc.

You're an extremely capable actress. Tell us about your training?

I've always been interested in the arts. I had the opportunity to go to New World for high school, but I preferred the "normal" high school experience instead. 

New World? Not normal?? No. That's funny. So you trained yourself then?

I started dancing classical ballet in Miami and then went on to teaching, while dancing for tuition exchange. At 14, I started modeling and then worked my way to commercials and then acting. I trained with several coaches in Miami, focusing more on commercial and TV hosting.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I studied with several different teachers.  I believe classes give you tools and techniques that one can apply to their craft, however the greatest training, in my opinion, is actually working. Being on the set, in costume, with your fellow actors, is the best experience one can obtain. That actual moment, can not be taught in an acting class.

How did you connect to lead character Valeria Consuelo Montenegro Martinez De La Paz? Great name, by the way..

Hahahahahha. Funny, huh? I think we all have our own "inner diva." For some it's dormant, others exploit it or embrace it.  It's fun bringing out your inner diva for a character. It's the best excuse to "play" without being pretentious in the real world!

So you had to channel your Black Swan?

Yes! I did have to dig deep to find the Black Swan! My nature is completely opposite of the character I portrayed. I wanted to be funny, crack jokes and be goofy, but it's acting! You have to play the role!

How do you feel about beauty pageants?

Beauty pageants are tough.  I don't care for them too much, but they have provided numerous opportunities for many women with their careers.

Talk to us about Miami. You're from Hialeah, no? Were you ever like a Chonga?

Chonga? NO!  I lived in Hialeah until i was 10, then moved to Miami Lakes, then Coral Gables. There's a preconceived notion that everyone that lives or lived in Hialeah is Chonga or low class. I went to a private Catholic school there and both my parents are educated with college degrees. I was taught to speak proper Spanish. Good manners, morals and ethics were values instilled in me by my parents.

I wasn't born in Cuba. I was born in Miami, of Cuban parents. If you do some research on Hialeah, you will find that in the '30s it was a playground for the elite to gamble and ride horses at the racetrack, which at the time, was the most beautiful race track in the world. There is nothing wrong with Chongas, or other classes of people, but when I lived there, it did not have the reputation it now has. I'm proud of where I came from and where I'm going.

Way to represent. Didn't mean anything about the Chonga question. Hialeah gets a bum rap, you're right. And it's kinda cliche. Hialeah's awesome.

Miami is a melting pot of many cultures. I've always said Cubans are to Miami, like Mexicans are to L.A.  What I miss most about Miami are my friends and family. When I think of Miami, I think of passion, music, good food, sexy beaches, and celebration. It's hard to focus on work, but it could be done! Miami is always in my heart!

Do you think Miami can really lure its refugees back from NY and LA??

I wish it could! But for now, all the major studios are in Los Angeles. The state of California is very conducive for filming. You have mountains, ocean, dessert and amazing weather.

What does the next six months hold in store for you?

The next six months are unpredictable. All I can do is work hard and and be prepared.  It's a tough business, because you never know where your next project can take you. For now I will focus on all the good things life has gifted me with. Health, good family, and friends.

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