Mishel Prada: Life Has Taught Me That Rest Isn’t Lazy – It’s Part of the Work

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Mishel Prada is a Puerto Rican and Dominican-American actress who is best known for her role as Emma Hernandez on the Starz drama series “Vida,” which ran for three seasons between 2018 and 2020. She played Hermosa Lodge in the CW series “Riverdale” from 2019 to 2022, Carolyn in the 2022 film “Gigi & Nate,” and plays KD in the new prequel “The Continental: From the World of John Wick.”

For Latine Heritage Month, we asked women we admire how they are prioritizing descansar and restoration amid today’s prevailing grind culture. Read Prada reflect, in her own words, below.

There’s this feeling that so many of us have around basing our worth on the amount of effort we put into something. Part of that comes from survival – when you can’t afford to rest. I have spent time in Puerto Rico with a lot of women who were helping after the hurricanes, and I also do a lot of work around gender-based violence, and there, you see what survival really looks like. When you come from a lineage and a culture where people have no choice but to keep going – to survive – there’s a part of you that feels like rest is lazy. I think a lot of what grind culture really leans into is this feeling that your worth is just tied to being able to work, work, work, and that’s not what we should be basing our worth on.

There’s this feeling that so many of us have around basing our worth on the amount of effort we put into something.

Because this grind culture was so ingrained in me, the only times I’ve made time to rest are when it’s been forced upon me. The first time was when the pandemic first hit in the States, and we were forced to quarantine. That year, right before the lockdown, I had been in, like, seven different cities from January to March. So, when the lockdown happened, it was initially hard to go from working to just being home – but I also learned to appreciate the time to rest. I had moved into this house that I own in July of 2018, but I didn’t get to actually enjoy it until the pandemic.

The second time I was forced to be still was when my mom passed away in April of 2021. It was difficult because I saw in real time someone that I love passing away, because she didn’t feel comfortable taking time to rest and rejuvenate, and she also didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to her community when she needed help. My mother not reaching out to let us know she was suffering is part of the reason why she’s not here with us today. She wound up quarantining alone in her home in Hollywood Beach, FL, during the lockdown because we weren’t able to physically be with her.

Mental health is just as important as anything else.

It was a very sobering revelation to realize that my mom came from a world and a culture where she didn’t feel safe admitting that she needed help. She was always on the go, and that started to take a toll on her body. It made me realize that if your mental health is not in a good place, it will manifest physically in your body. Mental health is just as important as anything else. Our nervous systems affect our physical bodies, and yet we still treat mental health like it’s just our imagination, especially if you come from a family or a culture filled with trauma. Our nervous system needs special care the same way our physical bodies do. If you’d go to a doctor for cancer, why wouldn’t you go see a doctor if your mental health is dysregulated?

One of the hardest things about my mother’s passing is that we still don’t know exactly what she passed away from. She had really bad arthritis, but people don’t typically die from that. I honestly believe that her quarantining alone caused her mental health to decline, and as a result, her physical health later began to decline. It got really bad to the point where we later learned that she wasn’t even leaving her bed and she wasn’t eating. She wasn’t taking care of herself or reaching out for support. None of us really realized what was happening until it was too late. I believe my mom had fallen into a depression that eventually manifested in her body.

Losing my mom was heartbreaking, but the way that she died really added to my grief. I felt a lot of anger, and it took me really going through it to understand what I was feeling because it was just so heavy and I felt so broken. But I learned a lot during that time because it forced me to take time off to be still and to really grieve the loss.

It was a really hard time in my life. There was a lot of crying. When I went back to work and was shooting in Budapest, I took a lot of walks alone where I would just allow myself to cry. I was so afraid I was going to freak out my cast members, but I was refreshingly surprised at how people really leaned in to me and shared their stories. It proved to me how powerful community is – it really is our superpower. This made me finally feel a lot more comfortable opening up and asking for support when I’m struggling.

In life, you grieve the things you thought were going to happen. That’s just part of life. And in many ways, all of these moments prepared me for the SAG-AFTRA strike. As hard as this has been for many of us in the industry, there’s also something really exciting happening right now. All we’ve been asking for is a negotiation – not a war. Being able to come together this way and ask for what’s fair, there’s something exciting about being a part of the change that could come. There have been difficult sacrifices we’ve had to make, and sacrifices aren’t fun, but it does feel like we’re forging towards something better for us.

Before the strike, people in the industry were struggling to really make a living off this – struggling to pay their basic bills and qualify for health care. We’ve seen the way the studios have moved on and not brought us with them. It’s not easy to stand up for what you believe in and for yourself, but while this has been hard, it’s also been worthy. It’s an important time to be able to really take the reins back and create something that’s fair and equitable.

bell hooks talks about the power of accountability and it being one of the major steps in dismantling systems. It’s not about canceling each other; it’s about holding one another accountable.

I have been using this time to rest, reflect, and also connect with loved ones. I have family in Las Vegas and in Florida, and I was able to spend some time with my nephews leading up to their first day of school. My sister just moved into her new place, and I got to help her set it up. My brother had a baby shower I was able to attend. It’s been nice to just have time off to do those very normal activities, because I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

This time of rest has brought me a lot of perspective. I think that if the last three years have taught me anything, it’s that nothing is ever really in our control. We need to be able to take things as they come, feel the feelings, and move through whatever the obstacle is. I think because these past few years have been so hard for me and there was so much grief with my mom’s passing, this year I’ve finally allowed myself to reconnect with joy. I didn’t realize how hard that had been. I saw something recently about how we have triggers, but we also have glimmers. So I’m just really leaning into the glimmers and letting that be a part of life’s rituals, because the tough times are going to come regardless. So we might as well allow ourselves to feel that joy and that lightness when we can.

I have learned that rest is part of the work.

I have learned that rest is part of the work. Grieving has made me have such an immense amount of compassion for our journeys. I have a little altar where I have a picture of my mom and my abuela, and I recently added a picture of little me on it. Little me is kind of my ancestor in a way, too, because there are versions of you, and you also grieve the person you once were. You have to have compassion and love for yourself, and realizing that has allowed me to look at rest and not feel guilty about it. Rest is part of the journey. It’s part of the work.

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