Aida Rodriguez On Strong Latina Role Models and Her Comedy Show Truth Serum

Aida Rodriguez embodies the work ethic that her maternal grandmother exemplified during Rodriguez’s childhood. Her grandmother was the matriarch of Rodriguez’s childhood home and the woman her 16-year-old mother named her for. This grandmother Aida was illiterate and never mastered English, but she was able to secure a job as a door-to-door saleswoman, and managed to move her six children and one grandchild from Boston to Miami. Rodriguez said, “She was a hustler. She did everything she could do to take care of her family.” Rodriguez was raised on welfare and food stamps. The bills, however, always got paid on time and Rodriguez grew with everything that she needed. Despite these challenges, however, Rodriguez’s grandmother upheld a ‘no-victims’ approach to life. Rodriguez said, “It was impactful, because it equipped me for a life of not making excuses for the things that happened to me and to rise to the occasion.”

The women in her life shaped Rodriguez’s entertainment career. Rodriguez learned that strong women were not a rarity but rather the trademark of a typical Latina. “The thing about being a strong Latina woman is it’s such a seamless thing. We are so strong. When we are so accustomed to seeing our women being strong, that for us is not something out of the ordinary.” Rodriguez noted how the media’s portrayal of women differed from her own life experiences. She observed how a strong woman was identified as a rare case. She wanted to change that stereotype through her work. She wanted to show that women, especially Latinas, were strong all the time.

Comedian Antoine Young, a friend and fellow guest on Truth Serum, said that Rodriguez fights against stereotypes of women in the industry continuously. He said, “A lot of shows don’t book women. They’ll book one woman and 10 guys. We don’t see them as often as we should.” Rodriguez never tolerated certain gender discriminatory aspects of the industry, such as gender-coded introductions to performances. Young said that her approach is unorthodox. He said, “She’s a very strong speaker. She’ll get people to listen. A lot of women use sex and try to use their beauty in order to get people to listen. She doesn’t use that at all. She’s very intellectual. She uses her intelligence to reach out.” Rodriguez also should be credited with working around the clock to foster engaging material. When inspiration strikes, Rodriguez takes advantage of the moment—even if it means waking up at 3 a.m. to write down new material.

Rodriguez started hosting her video podcasts soon after Last Comic Standing. The show kicks off every Tuesday with the song “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar and Rodriguez singing along to the bridge. She hosts a range of guests from Salli Richardson to Dondre Whitfield. In addition, Rodriguez posts new updates and videos on Twitter and Facebook. At times, records in-studio and in other occasions she’ll host in front of an audience at the Flapper’s Comedy Club and Restaurant in Burbank.

“Truth Serum” did come with its’ challenges. Rodriguez’s son, Omar Ellison, Jr., witnessed his mother’s journey. Ellison, Jr. broke into the industry with a few film directing roles. He worked with his mother on “Truth Serum” when the program first started as an assistant. He said, “I wanted to make it the best show for her. That’s our normal setting anyway: She’s the boss and I just listen.” He noted that the show was not instantly popular. Rodriguez avoided discussing dating advice or relationships. She wanted to shift the attention of comedy and reach into untapped topics, from race relations to gender discrimination in the industry. Ellison, Jr. said, “She wants to talk about what we believe to be real problems.” Although Rodriguez explored the topics that were of utmost interest to her, she did not garner a mass following in the first few months. She refused, however, to change her content to meet industry expectations. Jessica Singleton, a routine “Truth Serum” panelist, said that the show appealed to listeners that were open-minded and enjoyed debating point of views other than their own.

The growth of “Truth Serum” led to a platform to foster support amongst budding and successful entertainers in Los Angeles. Singleton said that Rodriguez helped her stay grounded. “It’s not like an official, ‘come here my young Padawan,’” Singleton continued, “[but] just having me as a guest on her show, that allows me to be in a position where I could see her work first hand.” She said, “Just her reminding me to be honest and be who I am has been huge.” Rodriguez advised her to stay true to herself. Singleton since then explored deeper issues for her acts, including abandonment and depression.

Rodriguez completed post-production for her latest film Ladies Book Club and continues to tour. As her career prospers, Ellison, Jr. said that he is certain that “Truth Serum” will garner a larger following. It already has. He said, “When she first started out, it was just about getting to a better place in our life. As she’s grown and gotten more popular it becomes bigger than us. The bigger she gets, the more our family gets bigger people to talk to. Whether they agree with us or not, we just want people to be challenged and think.”




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