The beautiful, funny, passionate actress welcomes change and everyday happiness … and she wants you to follow her lead.

- Interview by Cathy Areu; Photos by Timo Nuñez

Meet this issue’s cover model, Actress Alex Meneses, and find out how she sums up “happiness” these days! For her cover look, visit Natalie Baroni, Internatio­nal Jewelry and Couture Designer, at NatalieBar­, or stop by their flagship store: Ocean Ave, Carmel By-TheSea, California 93921. To order Alex’s cover-up, or for more informatio­n, call (805) 451-0195. Mention “CATALINA” for your gift, from all of us to you! Hey, you deserve it! (Cover photo by Vince Trupsin; hair by Amaran Asylum; makeup by Adam Christophe­r.)

If I had to point out a flaw about Alex Meneses, it would be this: she’s too darn likable! Yes, it’s true. I thought I was going to conduct a pleasant, run-of-the-mill interview about success and happiness in our “new normal” with this issue’s inspiratio­nal and happy cover model. But, instead (to my delight), I ended up acting like a giddy middle-schooler who had just met her bestest friend ever. The type of friend who makes you buy those heart-shaped “best friend charm” necklaces, break the hearts in half, and then share a piece with your BFF (best friend forever!). Yes, she’s that contagious­ly happy … and awesome.

But, how could a person I’ve only seen on television (as Stefania Fogognolo on the hit comedy EverybodyL­oves

Raymond, Isabela Santamaria on Telenovela, and so many more … ), and starred in movies (making her name in Hollywood in the unforgetta­ble blockbuste­r Selena) be just like you and me? Why isn’t she a diva who sips champagne, nibbles on caviar, and treats the rest of us like “the little people”? She could, you know, and I almost wouldn’t blame her.

She’s got the acting resume, the glamour girl looks, and the smarts to be as conceited as she wants to be. But she’s somehow grounded. She’s like the real deal. “It’s about having a life besides ‘the business’,” she told me in our one-hour interview/conversati­on. “It’s about knowing what’s important ... and holding on to it.”

That’s it. I was sold. This is no average, amazing actress. This is someone I, we, could all learn from. The Chicago native (who enjoys splitting time between Los Angeles and her hometown of Chicago) explained that she learned her relentless work ethic from her grandfathe­r, who was an orphan from Mexico. “I always worked hard,” she explained. And she still does. But this still didn’t explain why she was, and is, my new best friend (at least, that’s how she made me feel). I had to know her story, and secrets of success.

“It’s always been a struggle, but you toughen up,” Alex said. She was raised in a middle-class family, with no connection­s in the acting world, except for a father who she says was “a handsome dude: he looked like Dean Martin.” But what really inspired her to pursue a life on the small and big screens was seeing Puerto Rican groundbrea­king actress Rita Moreno in the musical WestSideSt­ory. Having a Latina actually play a main character in a movie meant that this dream was a reality.

Alex, of Mexican decent, enrolled in Chicago’s famed Second City Improv to learn the art of being funny, thinking quick, and acting in front of an audience. It wasn’t an easy feat, but it was one of the best ways to learn the craft she loved (just ask Second City’s alum like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Amy Poehler, and Cecily Strong, to name a few). Then came her big break after high school: “I got a contract to model in Italy,” and she moved to Milan, where she stayed for a few years, working.

By this point, the model with a solid background in improv acting, and self-confidence came back to the United States to pursue her dream: to follow in the footsteps of Latina icon Rita Moreno and become an actress. As many actors have told me in the past, this is not an easy career choice. There are rehearsals, long hours, and the rejection. For the average lightweigh­t (um, maybe like me), this combo would be a struggle. But this was not the case for Alex. Never has been. Even those who worked with her, behind the scenes, will tell you she is one-of-a kind.

“I worked with Alex,” fellow Los Angeles-based actor, Oscar Torre (of Cane, HangoverII­I, and TheHaveand­HaveNots fame) told me. “She’s a fantastic actress who has been very good for a very long time. When I had the pleasure of working with her in Weddings, Inc., I got to see an actress who has impeccable comedic timing and has the ability to carry a show.”

Yep, those early years of studying improv in Chicago’s Second City are still shining bright in Alex. What’s the saying? “You can take the girl out of Chicago, but you can’t take the Chicago out of the girl?” Well, it’s a saying now. Oh, and did I mention she’s studied acting at the prestigiou­s Lee Strasberg Theatre? “It was a big part of my life. It was like therapy.”

So, this is not my imaginatio­n. Alex is just likable. And admirable. And unstoppabl­e! I had to get some life tips out of this working mom who has a new, “controvers­ial” movie coming out in October: TheWallof Mexico. Yes, she tackles a topic President Donald Trump has been discussing for years: a wall along the United States’ southern border to keep immigrants out. But, this movie is a comedy about a rich Mexican family keeping others off of their property and away from their valuable well’s water. Of course Alex would take one of the most controvers­ial topics of our day a comedy for everyone to enjoy. It’s all about keeping us entertaine­d and keeping things light. And she’s able to so do because, as Alex will tell you: “I’ve done everything.”

This is why she is able to choose her roles wisely, be an amazing mom during the coronaviru­s (yes, she even juggled a play-date during our talk), and can even produce new projects for Lifetime and Netflix with long-time friend, and fellow star, Eva Longoria.

So, how does she keep it together when the world seems so upside down? “I never say ‘no’ … I always say ‘yes’ … and, even if I fall on my face, I just keep going.”

I’m not sure if she’s my best friend, but I will live by Alex Meneses’ words of wisdom during our “new normal,” my work life, my home life … heck, I’m going to live by her wisdom in everything I do. And if you start feeling anxious, or confused, or frustrated, just remember what my new best friend taught me: “You have to embrace change! Change is exciting!”

It’s about knowing what’s important, and holding on to it.

Watch Now! Catch Alex starring as Monica Arista in the trailer for the drama/comedy The Wall of Mexico now!

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