By Nimer “Neem” Basha
So I’m sitting at a coffee shop in New York City, getting ready to interview the multi-talented Desi Sanchez. As my Macbook is
loading, a couple of fingers pop up from behind the monitor. And then those fingers start “talking” to one another. It occurs to me that Desi is putting on a puppet theater behind my laptop. I quickly come to the realization that this isn’t going to be like any other interview.
I’ve known Desi for a few years now, having worked with her on my last film, but I didn’t know quite how quirky and interesting she really is. I found out that this media personality – who was named “The Face of MTV2” and who has interviewed superstars such as Katy Perry, Fall Out Boy, Flo Rida, and former New York Yankee Mariano Rivera – is actually a self-professed geek. She likes comic books and video games, and she hates getting dolled up. But even though she calls herself a geek, all you have to do is take one look at the winsome star to know that Desi Sanchez is not quite a female version of Sheldon Cooper (although she is a big fan of his).
Merriam Webster defines “Geek” as an intelligent person, or an enthusiast or expert in a particular field, who does not fit in with other people.
If you go further down under the letter G, you’ll find the word “Goddess,” which Webster defines as a woman whose great charm or beauty arouses adoration.
Put those two together, and you get Desi Sanchez: the quintessential “Geek Goddess.” She is an intelligent enthusiast who may not fit in with the norm, but her against-the-grain approach to her career hasn’t prevented this appealing and charismatic superstar from gaining a great deal of supporters in the mainstream market. In fact, Desi’s style is what endeared her to fans and has made her a success, leading up to her current web series, where she is watched by millions of people every week.
This is Desi Sanchez’s story.
No problem. Too bad you didn’t have a PC. It takes longer to boot up, so I would’ve broke out the sock puppets.
Man, if I’d known that, I would have stalled!
(Laughs) Next time!
Your résumé in television is quite impressive. Was this always the plan for you?
Not at all. I never thought I would do this. That was never my intention.
Were your goals a little more ‘traditional’? You know, a doctor or a lawyer —
Oh no! There was nothing traditional about my goals. I’ve wanted to be a painter since I was three years old. I actually articulated that to my parents at that age – much to their chagrin. My mother was a doctor, and my father was a political science PhD. They didn’t want me to be a painter. But since I was so young, they were pretty confident I’d change my mind by the time I got older.
Tell us about how things were for you growing up.
I was a nerd! (Laughs) I got straight As. I was introverted, but not shy. In other words, I wasn’t afraid to talk to people. But, sometimes, I would blurt out inappropriate things and annoy the other kids – but it wasn’t my intention! I was just being me. I guess I was like a mini Sheldon Cooper! My third grade teacher called me anti-social, but I don’t think I was. I was definitely ‘something else’ (laughs) … but anti-social wasn’t it!
So you were introverted for the most part. But it wasn’t an inability to talk to people; it was a choice.
For sure. I was in my own world. It was me and my imagination. I would rather put on a puppet show than go to the mall. I wrote a fiction novel when I was 10. And the thing is, I didn’t know that what I was doing was weird. It’s just what came naturally to me. I wrote narratives, I painted. In the fourth grade, I started this thing called “The Cat Club” and some friends of mine actually thought it was fun and joined me. Basically, I gave everyone an ID card with a picture that I drew of how they would look on “Cat Planet,” as well as what their occupation was there, and other basic information. I even invented a cat language. And then we’d put on shows.
Yeah, that’s not weird at all!
(Laughs) Umm, did you just curse me out in cat language?
No, there are no curse words in my cat language. I just cast a cat spell on you, that’s all.
That’s good to know. So continue walking us through the youth of Desi.
Well, my favorite movie at age 9 was Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It’s still my favorite. But, how many kids that age like that film? And that’s just demonstrative of how different I was.
Did you get bullied a lot? Some kids don’t appreciate “differences” in other kids.
Yeah my quirks got me bullied a lot, but they weren’t the only reason. I also got bullied because I was brown, yet I – quote, unquote – “talked like a white girl.” Whatever that means. But growing up in The Bronx, it was an issue. I never backed down, but not because I was trying to be tough; I just didn’t know any better than to keep being myself. So a girl that’s bigger than I am wants to fight me, and there I am being all sarcastic and – in my mind, at least – pretty witty! But, yeah, that didn’t go over too well!
Eventually, your smarts paid off, though.
Yes, I received a partial scholarship to anart school of my choice. But my parents were still against my dream of being an artist.
You know, most kids don’t know what they want to be “when they grow up” until they’re well into their teens, or even their 20s. You knew at age 3.
(Laughs) Yes, and my parents couldn’t believe that I didn’t get over it! They wanted me to go to Yale. This was a real problem for them at first. But, I did what I wanted to do. I always did what I wanted to do! Once they realized this is what I was truly passionate about, they were very supportive.
What school did you wind up attending?
I went to Pratt Institute right out of high school. Then I left to work for a couple of years and raise some cash for tuition. When I went back to school, I transferred to the School of Visual Arts. But here’s the thing: I knew I wanted to be a painter, but I didn’t have any guidance. I needed a mentor of some sort to help me. The School of Visual Arts didn’t quite support my style of painting, which was realistic and figurative art. They were more into abstract art. So I followed some bad advice and switched to a graphic design major. I worked as a graphic designer for a while, and I hated it. But that’s what led me to entertainment.
Well, since I had to put off being a painter for a while and I was doing something I didn’t really care for, I started searching for other options. I had lots of people telling me that I should be on TV. Many of those people were actually in the industry. When you hear that often enough, you eventually listen – especially, when you’re not at all contented with what you’re doing at the time.
So, if painting would have panned out for you back then, the world would have been deprived of Desi Sanchez, the media personality?
The world would have been spared Desi Sanchez, the media personality! (Laughs)
Self-deprecating humor will get you everywhere! Continue.
Yeah, so I listened to the advice that I should try out for television. I got headshots. I looked up casting calls. Within two months, I was hosting a nationally-syndicated show on CBS called LatiNation. I really liked it, actually, so I stuck with it. On LatiNation, I got to interview Mariano Rivera from the Yankees, Carlito from WWE … it was very cool. Mariano, especially, was the most amazingly humble man I’d ever met. To be as successful as he was, but be so humble – let’s just say he taught me a thing or two about staying grounded no matter how successful I get.