Interview: Vanessa Dos Santos

Vanessa Dos SantosName: Vanessa dos Santos

Location: Potomac, Maryland

I identify as a Mozambican.

MM: Tell us about yourself:

Vanessa: I am from Mozambique, but I have lived in five different countries my whole life, and have been educated in all of those countries. I am a writer and based in Washington D.C. working on projects with collaborators in London and New York. As a storyteller I am interested in sharing stories that are usually untold both fictional and non- fictional.

MM: What do you do?

Vanessa: I am a freelance writer, screenwriter and actor. Over the summer I acted with The Wheel Theatre Company in Washington D.C.

MM: what inspired you to start doing this?

Vanessa: I have been passionate about films and theatre since I was a child. Being exposed to Broadway and going to the cinema at a young age, I was interested in creating stories. In high school I started a drama club with a friend and was a part of the Speech and Debate club. It was around this period when I became more serious about acting and wanted to pursue a career.

MM: What was your biggest obstacle? How did you overcome it?

Vanessa: My biggest obstacle was when I did not get into the drama schools I auditioned for after high school, and I was left trying to figure out what to do next. I was determined to only study drama. I decided to go to Paris to study film and it was there when I went back to writing, but this time for film. Once I realized how much I enjoyed it I decided to transfer to a screenwriting and producing degree in London.

MM: what is your greatest accomplishment? What made it so great?

Vanessa: My biggest accomplishments to date have been both academic and personal. I never thought I would embark on a Master’s degree, but finishing with a Merit in a discipline outside of the arts was a huge accomplishment for me. Another accomplishment has been to be able to write pieces for different people and asked to write articles. I do not have a degree in journalism but have managed to prove to people I am capable of reporting and creating features on topics that I am interested in. Thirdly, my involvement with the collective Girls in Film: GIF in London. Working on social media and assisting in events have been rewarding, as I got to see the collective and outreach grow. Now the collective has hosted two events in Prague and New York City, with the third at the end of this year in Johannesburg.

MM: What is something that would surprise our readers to learn about you?

Vanessa: Despite my shyness, I dance hip hop and took classes for almost 4 years when I was in high school.

MM: What was your favorite class in secondary school?

Vanessa: In secondary school my favorite class was Visual Art. We did not have drama or film like other schools so I took art because it was still in the realm of the creative arts. Even though I wasn’t the most gifted visual artist I really enjoyed learning about different artists and mediums of art. I was able to travel to Paris and London with my class before I lived in both cities and went to the best art museums. I feel that being exposed to it has broadened my idea of what cinema and theatre can be, allowing me to incorporate performance art and instillation to the traditional theatre practice. I also miss being active with my hands and being in a studio with other young artists. It felt like we were in a hub of creativity, slightly removed from our other academic responsibilities.

MM: What advice would you give to young girls interested in pursuing your path?

Vanessa: I would say to young girls that talent is the starting point, but it’s the hard work and dedication that get you to where you want to be. Opportunities will come and go but it is the consistency of your hard work that pays off. I would also say that do not pay attention to the glamour of the arts, focus on what you are trying to say with your voice and stick to it.

MM: Lastly, any reflections on your time as an intern at Memunatu Magazine?

Vanessa: I really enjoyed my experience at Memunatu. Working with the magazine for the past three months has shaped the way I think about the audiences I am writing for. It helped me get into a pattern of turning in work consistently as opposed to when I wrote things as a freelancer and had a bit more time on my own writing. It also gave me the opportunity to be more hands on with developing the Memunatu issues, which I hadn’t really done before.

One of the things I really like about Memunatu is that is one of the few media outlets that is targeted to girls in Africa. When it comes to magazines a lot of the time they are targeted to girls and women of a privileged background, but Memunatu aims to target girls who are often spoken for but are not expected to speak for themselves. It has also shaped the way I write about issues affecting girls in developing countries, with a sense of dignity and respect.