In an exclusive interview with People Chica, the model and advocate talks about the intersection of food and culture as well as promoting a healthy message on social media.
Alessandra Garcia-Lorido
Credit: @chloerosey

Growing up in the Latino culture, Latinos grow up hearing certain "truths." For men, it's that they need to appear strong, provide, and act a certain way. For women, they need to be demure, servicial, and thin (despite the copious amount of food they have pushed in their faces by abuelas and tías).

Messaging, for better or worse, sticks with you so it is important that you carve out a path and mindset that is conducive to your own health. With this mindset, you'll be able to tackle any obstacle life throws at you and equip yourself with the necessary tools you will need to excel as a model, actress, and all-around Chica Boss within your career.

Alessandra Garcia-Lorido has made it her life's work to change the way things are done within the modeling industry by becoming a beacon of healthy body positivity and showing folks everywhere that you can, in fact, cook up delicious meals inspired by your culture in a myriad of healthy ways.

Garcia-Lorido tells People Chica, "So I think part of the Cuban culture that I love so much is the spirit and the energy and just the warmth of a Cuban family. And so [at] the center of that is the food—sharing the food, cooking the food, is a Nochebuena celebration, a birthday party, a family dinner—it's [...] a medium for the spirit to live through, you know?"

In an exclusive interview with People Chica, Garcia-Lorido chats about what she loves about her Cuban heritage and what she is excited about at this year's Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival (which runs from February 23 to 26).

Alessandra Garcia-Lorido
Credit: @chloerosey

As a proud Latina with strong Cuban roots, why do you think it's important to showcase your culture through its food?

Well, I think that like any culture, food is such—it's a cornerstone to and like their traditions and their celebrations and their rituals and stuff. I think Cuban culture is no different [from] that, like, it's what we kind of live for in a way. You know, there's food and there's music and there's family. And all of the best things are when all of that stuff comes together, you know.

So I think part of the Cuban culture that I love so much is the spirit and the energy and just the warmth of a Cuban family. And so [at] the center of that is the food—sharing the food, cooking the food, is a Nochebuena celebration, a birthday party, a family dinner—it's [...] a medium for the spirit to live through, you know?

The South Beach Wine and Food Festival, like its New York counterpart, is a major event for folks within the hospitality and food industry. What are you most looking forward to at this year's event?

I'm really looking forward to meeting all the chefs and getting to know them a little bit and seeing what they bring to the table in terms of their food and the cocktails and everything. And [also] just sort of meeting the community there in Miami that's around the South Beach Food and Wine Festival. At the end of the day, it's a nighttime event. It seems like it's going to be a fun party. I think it's just going to be a good time and I'm excited.

Do you have anybody you're looking to meet while you're over there?

Oh, my God. I mean, I grew up with a lot of these Food Network stars. So I think just like meeting anybody who I grew up on like Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay—just seeing them in person if they're there like it'd be cool to just interact. And I think that it's nostalgic for me because that's where I learned to cook, was watching all these shows. So it's just cool to see them in person and see that they're still around.

You've shared a lot of recipe videos on social media cooking dishes inspired by all types of cuisine, but there is something special about the Cuban dishes you make. What's your go-to dish when you want some comfort food?

That's a good question. I mean, I think that there are a few Cuban dishes that I will always go to. And it's funny, my family and I always talk about this because picadillo is one of them where like when we were younger, my mom made it like once, at least once a week, if not twice a week, just because it's like the easiest family meal to make and it's filling and comforting and stuff.

And when we were younger, like, "Ugh," and roll our eyes, like, "Not picadillo again this is the second time." Now I'm like—when I have it, it triggers this memory in me of after school sitting down for dinner with my family. [So] you appreciate it for this new comfort that you didn't have as a kid. It was more like, "Oh God," but now I'm like, "No, I want to eat that. Like I miss it."

SOBEWFF is an event that celebrates the connectivity of food and brings people together. Why do you feel events like this are so pivotal to our community, not only just the Latino community but to the culture and the community within the United States as a whole?

Well, the U.S. is such a melting pot of traditions and cultures and there's so many cuisines to be celebrated. But even within the Latin community, there's—you and I come, like our families come from islands that are really not that far away from each other, but they're so different and there's so much to explore and learn about. And I think that it's important for us to uplift and use these opportunities like the festival to bring our culture and to uplift it and to show people our side of the story, you know, or what [it is that] we love about our cultures.

It's an easy way to explore a culture and you want to taste something delicious and our cultures have something to offer. And that's an easy way to just peel back the curtain on our culture and understand it. We're all just trying to pass those traditions on, at least I am.

You have carved out a platform that promotes body positivity in a way that feels organic and veers away from what has become known as "toxic body positivity." Why do you feel you as a woman that's such an important message to convey with the platform that you have?

Well, I think that I grew up with the messaging—and as you said we're around the same age and probably you're in a similar boat—is that we were told to restrict, to control, and to make ourselves small and to fit some sort of beauty standard and health standard that is completely made up.

When I was first getting into modeling and I carved out my independence and my self-worth, I really just decided to lean the other way because I just felt like we have to break down these systems that were built to—it's so hard for us to succeed and just be ourselves within any of these industries, and it's because these kind of systems have in place to keep us down.

One of them is [the] diet culture and these beauty standards, and I just thought like, "You know what? I want to be a part of the community of people that are trying to break that down." I think women and men are everybody should be thinking about way more important things than what their body looks like, and health with that balance is very important. That should be the focus and not what is my jean size kind of thing.

I think that there is an important balance to adhere to, but I'm not going to sit here and tell people that this is what they should be eating and this is what they should not be eating because I'm not their doctor and that's between them. I have no business—that's their business. And so for me, that's something I am passionate about, is inspiring women to just be who they are and just take care of themselves. That's very personal to them and I don't believe in industries telling people what to do, you know?

What is something that you'd tell a young Alessandra about the adventures she would go on? What is something you'd tell a more mature Alessandra about the choices she's made?

Wow—I think that I would say to a younger Alessandra just go for it and just do it and don't look back and don't live in fear. It's going to be a wild ride and just go do, do, do.

And then I think [to] a more mature Alessandra, I would say the choices that I've made; that I'm proud of myself for putting myself out there and for taking risks. Continue to take care of yourself and ask for what you need and for what you want, and make sure you're advocating for all the things that you are passion about it and feel are important for people to hear about.