Using Her Personal Story for Political Change | Alejandra Campoverdi
Growing up in an immigrant household, Alejandra Campoverdi was exposed to what she sees as the beauty of living a multicultural lifestyle. Helping her family through the struggle of making a life for themselves in America attributed to an inner need that Alejandra feels to aid others and advocate for positive change. As a result, Alejandra has entered the world of politics to become a much-needed voice for those who are underrepresented and often silenced. She has dedicated her career to fighting against some of the today's most pressing issues, especially in dealing with race and immigration. From working in the White House to running for Congress, Alejandra's fearlessness and determination are something that we can all appreciate and look up to. We got to chat with Alejandra about what it's like working in politics what drove her to become the passionate woman that she is today. Check it out below!
Have you always had an interest in politics? When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in the political field?
I never set out to pursue a career in politics, in fact it wasn't really conceivable where I come from. I was raised by a single mom and by my grandmother, in a three-bedroom apartment along with eight other family members. We had plenty of love but not enough resources so programs like Medi-Cal and WIC were critical to our capacity to make ends meet. I've had to take out massive student loans, receive Cal Grants, work side jobs, and live completely off credit cards in order to pursue higher education and access professional opportunities. Struggling to succeed against all odds taught me many things - how to be resourceful, the value of community, but most of all, what it truly means to fight. For me, the most important goal has always been to take every opportunity to lift the voices of those who have been underrepresented - so that’s what led me to join then-Senator Obama’s campaign in ’08, to work in the White House for four years; that’s also why I stepped up to run for Congress. I know what it takes to fight for your right to the American Dream and I want to put that experience to work for my community.
Your focus is primarily on immigration issues and shining more light on stories about multicultural America. Can you give us some more detail on your personal story and why this issue specifically is so important to you?
Immigration is an issue that is deeply rooted in my family's experience, so I understand the implications of policy and of media representations on the ground. My family immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico and my childhood was filled with the beautiful bicultural balancing act of many immigrant households. My grandmother used to roll tortillas on the kitchen table, my aunts would pray novenas in the living room, and I remember sweeping the front sidewalk with my grandmother, my abuelita. While I was in high school, the fight over Proposition 187 ignited the city of Los Angeles with hateful, discriminatory rhetoric - prohibiting undocumented immigrants from accessing social services. Hearing immigrants, and Latinos in general, referred to in such a negative, one-dimensional light made me feel indignant and protective. Proposition 187 catalyzed my interest in activism, advocacy, and storytelling, as well as in making sure that our community's perspectives are never ignored.
You’ve worked in the White House as an aide to President Obama and as Deputy Director of Hispanic Media, what was that like?
Working for President Obama has been one of the greatest privileges of my life, especially during the passage of the Affordable Care Act. When I was a child, I never dreamt that I would have the opportunity to work in the White House, let alone feet from the Oval Office, fighting for the issues that continue to impact the lives of my family and of our community. Back then, like many families, we were just trying to survive.
When I was a teenager, I lost my grandmother to breast cancer and after college, I dropped everything to move home and take care of my mother during her own cancer battle. Dealing with an unfair and unbalanced healthcare system just added insult to injury. That's why I went to work for The California Endowment health foundation, and why I joined Barack Obama's campaign in '08. Families in Los Angeles and all across the country were depending on the President to pass the Affordable Care Act and I’m proud have been a part of it.
“I know what it takes to fight for your right to the American Dream and I want to put that experience to work for my community."
Is it difficult at times as a woman in politics considering that it’s a male-dominated field? How do you deal with any gender inequalities and make your voice heard?
You must make a point to share your individual perspective. Especially in fields or professions that tend to be more homogeneous, our diversity and unique experiences are not only necessary but critical. It was a process for me to get to a place where I wasn't trying to fit the mold, but actually embracing and celebrating the parts of myself that were unique. I've dimmed myself in the past in order to fit the stereotype of what a woman in politics or a professional woman should sound/look like. But ultimately, I've come to a place of realizing that owning your femininity and your authentic multidimensional voice, is an obligation to not only yourself, but to all women. When that clicks in your mind, you stop allowing yourself to be boxed in and take pride in owning all of who you are boldly.
Any advice for other young women looking to get more politically involved?
Take some time and do the inner work to flesh out your root passion before you decide on a "job". Getting clear on what is important to you will help guide your decision-making of where you best fit and can contribute the most. It's not about finding a winning candidate or a popular issue or running a high-profile campaign. It's about working for people and issues you believe in. That's what will guide you to take the risks and leaps of faith that are inherent to a career in public service. Many people questioned my decision when I walked away from a scholarship to business school to work unpaid in then Senator-Obama's campaign in '08. I gladly lived off my credit cards and took on the uncertainty because I believed in Barack Obama and the change he stood for. There are no guarantees but when you make your professional choices based on your core passion or purpose, then win or lose, you grow exponentially from the journey.
Another project of yours has been working with the LA Times on #EmergingUS, modern editorial about race and immigration issues in America. How do you think the digital media space has changed versus 10, or even 5 years ago? What direction do you think it’s going in for the future?
Media has traditionally been dominated by viewpoints that are not necessarily representative of diverse voices and perspectives. With the dominance of social media and more multicultural and representative digital media platforms emerging every day, I am excited to usher in the rebalancing of our comprehensive narrative as Americans. It has already begun. Traditional media gatekeepers can no longer unilaterally decide whose story or perspective is worth sharing. We have all the tools now - it’s up to us to decide how we use them.
What are three hidden gems in the White House? (That you can tell us about of course!)
There is an old grandfather clock in the Oval Office that has an audible tick-tock. I'll never forget the excitement of listening to that sound while waiting to brief President Obama for the first time.
Second, the waffle fries from the White House Mess are the best I’ve ever had!
Lastly, I was working at the White House during the "Snowpocalypse" in 2010 and there is nothing more magical than walking out of the West Wing into the snow at night.
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
MISSBISH is a multidimensional woman who owns all of herself boldly and unapologetically. She's someone who leads by example and makes a point to mark the trees for women to come.
Who’s your MISSBISH? Tell us who she is and why she’s an inspiration to you.
My MISSBISH was and is my grandmother. She raised me, along with my mother, and instilled in me the value of service. She drove me to elementary school daily and we'd stop every morning to feed the same homeless man who stood in front of our church. She believed in faith and family and responsibility to one's community. She raised six children in poverty, in two countries, and still found the time to be everyone's rock.
Photos by: Christina Choi