March 2020 - ciaooo!

Before we get started, a few things you should know which will hopefully ease any anxiety you or your neighbors/friends/family may have. Please follow us on Instagram and sign up for our newsletter for the most up to date information. Oh, and we love you! We’ll get through this together!

First, Good Things to Know

New York state officials have issued a temporary ban on all eviction proceedings and eviction orders. Some of the city’s biggest multi-family landlords pledged on Friday to voluntarily halt evictions for the next 90 days. Even if you can’t pay your rent for the next few weeks/possibly months from losing your job – you won’t be evicted. The courts won’t even be open.

  • Con Edison suspended service shutoffs to its entire service area of New York City and Westchester County. Reach out to your landlord to ask for an extension for the next few months.
  • Reach out to your landlord to ask for an extension for the next few months. 
  • Federal Student Loan interest has been waived for the time being (meaning you will still have to pay your bills but the interest has been delayed for the next two months)
  • The deadline for filing (and paying) taxes has been extended from April 15 to July 15.
  • The New York State of Health and the New York State Department of Financial Services have announced a special open enrollment period for uninsured New Yorkers. Visit the site to apply (more details below).
  • Low-income families without the internet can have access to FREE service for 60 days for K-12 or college students via Charter Communications AT&T and Verizon.
  • All public schools will have FREE “grab and go” meals for children from 7:30AM – 1:30PM, every weekday, regardless if that child attends the school or not.
  • Beginning Thursday, March 19th, all Stop & Shop locations will open early between 6:00am-7:30am only to customers 60 and older.
  • The Trump Administration and Congress are looking to assemble a massive stimulus package that could potentially pay $2000 per adult and $1000 per child until the crisis ends. Could help be on the way?

Help NYC Hospitals and Medical Professionals on the Front Line.

Several NYC hospitals are running out of masks and PPE (personal protective equipment) as soon as next week. We have to do our part in supporting the thousands of doctors, nurses, and medical professionals in NY. In Italy, 1 in 10 deaths were medical professionals after running out of protective gear. We need to help our medical staff as much as possible.

  • Donate to A Million Masks (Gofundme) to fund N95 masks to hospitals in NYC
  • If you have extra supplies (unopened masks, gloves, eyewear etc) you can find a place to donate via PPELINK, MAIL to Pyer Moss at 247 w 27th st, 7th floor, NY, NY 10001 or email ben@amillionmasks.org to facilitate a dropoff.
  • Businesses interested in selling PPE to New York state can contact the governor’s office directly through its website
  • Governor Cuomo is also asking if any production facilities can begin making masks and PPE, NYS will fund.
  • If you work for an ER/ICU and are need of masks – fill out this form (A Million Masks), email wantohelp@yourfriendsin.nyc or fill out this form (PPELink).
  • Volunteer to reach out to labs and other organizations to donate masks via PPELINK

Looking to do something hands-on within your community?

Volunteer to pick up groceries, get medicine, and do other tasks for elderly and high-risk neighbors via Invisiblehandsdeliver.com , through NYC UNITED AGAINST CORONA VIRUS or simply asking your neighbors.

Donate or volunteer to food shelters

NO KID HUNGRY

Food Bank for NYC

Do you want to donate $$$ to the cause?

Support Restaurants /small businesses by ordering takeout and delivery if they are open. You can also purchase a gift card from them to use at a future time, if they do not have a gift card option, you can set up a gift card option for them via HelpMainStreet for free. 100% of proceeds go to the business owners.

Just do this…Foster a Pet!!!

Animal Care Centers of NYC is looking for 118 volunteers to foster their pets during this time!! There are so many adorable animals that need a home right now – consider fostering since it’s lonely out there. Apply by visiting the site HERE

Here are a few funds & resources for Freelancers/Restaurant Workers etc.

*RESOURCE* Covid-19 and Freelance Resource Center – This is an aggregated list of FREE resources, opportunities, and financial relief options available to artists of all disciplines.

*DONATE* NYC Low Income Freelancer and Artist Relief Fund

*DONATE* Restaurant Workers Community Foundation – The RCWF Board of Directors has approved directing funds raised during this crisis to be allocated in the following ways:

  • 50% FOR DIRECT RELIEF TO INDIVIDUAL RESTAURANT WORKERS
  • 25% FOR NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS SERVING RESTAURANT WORKERS IN CRISIS
  • 25% FOR ZERO-INTEREST LOANS FOR RESTAURANTS TO GET BACK UP AND RUNNING
A full list of the restaurants in Chinatown that are still open for delivery!

*DONATE OR APPLY * USBG Bartender Emergency Assistance Program – This fund is for bartenders or any bar staff affected by strenuous circumstances, anyone in the 50 states can apply and you do NOT need to be a member to apply for funds. Share this with any of your bar friends!

*APPLY* The Nighlife Department of NYC – The of Nightlife is gathering information on lost income from COVID-19-related business closures and event cancellations in bars, live music venues, nightclubs, lounges, restaurants, and other social and cultural spaces. If you are a worker, performer, contractor, or business owner in New York City nightlife, please provide details for your canceled shifts, gigs, events, and other lost business income, revenue, or work opportunities so that we can share details with city-wide policy makers about the impacts of these closures.

*APPLY* NYC HRA ASSISTANCE – Apply for an ACCESS HRA account where you can qualify for food stamps, health insurance, MTA fare reduction, and possibly emergency cash

For those filing for unemployment, the site is BACKED UP right now. Expect that it will take hours. Those with last names starting with the letters A through F can file on Mondays. Tuesdays are for letters G through N, and Wednesdays for the rest of the alphabet. On Thursdays and Fridays, anyone can apply. The one week waiting period has been waived.

HEALTH

The New York State of Health and the New York State Department of Financial Services have announced a special open enrollment period for uninsured New Yorkers. Visit the site to apply.

  • Between March 16th and April 15th, 2020, you can register and receive insurance coverage beginning April 1st, 2020.
  • ALL New Yorkers (including undocumented residents) can get FREE testing for the Coronavirus if they are exhibiting severe symptoms. Testing is only available for extreme cases (difficulty breathing, high fever, chest pains).

Before going out, most hospitals have their own telehealth department where you can see a doctor for a virtual appointment. Co-payments for telehealth visits will be waived for all insurances. You will have to check with your insurance if it is waived automatically or reimbursed.

  • MOUNTSINAI.ORG  ($25)
  • NY PRESBYTERIAN ($49)
  • NYU LANGONE VIRTUAL URGENT CARE ($126)
  • SAMIAID ($59)

PRESCRIPTIONS

Most insurances including Medicaid now covers a 90-day supply for most prescription medications and will allow early refills due to quarantine or outbreak. Check with your health insurance company.

Stay tuned by following us on Instagram or signing up for our newsletter. We’ll continue to update this article. Hope you are staying safe!

Chau Mui

Chau is the original New York City stoop kid who cut her teeth hanging out in Union Square, ate soup dumplings in Chinatown and explored this great city by train, foot and everything in between.

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Today, there are over 60,000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in New York City. Experts suggest that the number will only go higher as we reach our peak in the next 2-3 weeks.

While several reports from the CDC have told us to wash our hands and practice social distancing, …surely, there must be MORE that we could be doing at home to #flattenthecurve.

I read multiple articles from the CDC site to Vox to random blogs. I searched on Reddit. I scoured Youtube. I asked friends. There were so many opinions and before I knew it, I had fallen into a 3 AM spiral watching a terrible Youtube video with hundreds of thousands of views saying that if you inhaled hot air from a blow dryer, it would kill the coronavirus.

Screenshot from the Youtube video in mention.

The truth is no one knows anything. Especially, the fake news coming from your mom’s Facebook post about breathing hot air from a blow dryer to kill the virus, and the guy who “read a report” somewhere about how to prevent the coronavirus.

We decided to find out for ourselves. We interviewed food safety expert Jhack Sepúlveda of the Eat Good Community to learn how we could protect ourselves at home for our ASK AN EXPERT series on Instagram Live (tune in Tuesdays at 8PM).

Jhack Sepúlveda is a Food and Nutrition Consultant with 12 years
of specialized experience in the food industries Food Safety and
Quality Assurance sector. In the last 6 years, Jhack has focused on providing food service and hospitality industries with customized quality assurance (QA) services and providing Food Protection Certificate Trainings for CUNY and SUNY colleges. You can DM him on his account @eatgoodcommunity.

We threw a poll on Instagram and had a few questions. Here are some useful tips from Jhack on what you can do to stay safe at home.

Is Ordering Takeout + Delivery Safe?

If the restaurant and you take the right precautions, yes.

  • Assure you receive food either cold (40 degrees F or less) and hot food (at least 140 degrees F). Use a clean and sanitized food grade thermometer (range of 0-220 degrees F) to take temperatures
  • It won’t hurt to handle the delivery bag and your money exchange with the delivery carrier with gloves. Immediately discard bags and gloves followed by properly washing your hands (wash hands with soapy warm water for at least 20 seconds)
  • Foods held out of temperature control or at temperatures greater than 70 degrees F for more than 2 hours should be discarded.
  • If in doubt that your food was not at the proper temperature reheat food to (165 F) and chill food to less than (40 F)

How can people protect themselves when living with some sick?

  • It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. (WHO.INT 2020)
  • People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth (WHO.INT 2020)
  • Avoid sharing personal items like food and drinks. Provide your sick household member with clean disposable face masks to wear at home, if available, to help prevent spreading COVID-19 to others. Clean and sanitize the sick room and bathroom, as needed, to avoid unnecessary contact with the sick person. (WHO.INT 2020)
  • Avoid eating family-style at home-serve individual plates
  • Boost your immune system. Now is the time to take those multivitamins or immune-boosting complementary alternative medicine and supplements, sleep more, get your exercise at home and meditate

How can we sanitize our plate-ware and cookware?

  • For high heat sanitizing, submerge dining ware in hot water (at least 170 degrees F) for 30 seconds
  • For chemical sanitizing, use a chlorine-based sanitizer with a concentration of at least 50 parts per million (ppm), and the dishes must be immersed in the sanitizing solution for at least 60 seconds. To make 50 ppm sanitizing solution, take 1⁄2-ounce (or one tablespoon) of household bleach and mix it with one gallon of water. (NYC Food Protection Manual)

If Using a dishwasher

  1. Final rinse temperature of mechanical high-temperature dishwasher must be at least 180° F or higher.

What type of homemade solutions can we make at home that can sanitize?

To make an at-home sanitizing solution, take 1⁄2-ounce (or one tablespoon) of household bleach and mix it with one gallon of water.

For Food:

  • To sanitize fruits and vegetables, make a Vinegar-Based Disinfectant. Make a basic vinegar-based spray. In a standard-sized glass spray bottle, add 1-part water, 1-part vinegar. Add 10-15 drops of essential oils (peppermint, lavender) for fragrance.

For Food Contact Surfaces:

  • Use a chlorine-based sanitizer with a concentration of at least 50 parts per million (ppm), and the dishes must be immersed in the sanitizing solution for at least 60 seconds. To make 50 ppm sanitizing solution, take 1⁄2-ounce (or one tablespoon) of household bleach and mix it with one gallon of water. (NYC Food Protection Manual)

Is rinsing with water enough to clean your produce and meats?

  • Cleaning food with just water alone will not get rid of microorganisms typically found in food. You will need to cook foods to proper temperatures to assure you kill off most pathogenic microorganisms typically found in food.  
  • If you ever noticed a family member cleaning their meats with vinegar or acid, they are lowering the pH level. When you lower the pH level to less than 4.5 bacteria typically found in food will start to die off
  • Cleaning and sanitizing your produce before cooking will also assure you are lowering the bacterial count in the food
  • Cooking food to proper temperatures (Poultry to 165 degrees F and Beef to 158 degrees F) will kill off most microorganisms found in food

How often should we be sanitizing our kitchens?

Common standard is to clean in place. Always clean and sanitize before and after cooking.

  • If you are cooking three meals a day- that’s six times a day
  • Wipe down food contact surfaces with the Vinegar/Chlorine sanitizers or commercial antibacterial spray such as Lysol.
  • Food contact surfaces include counter-tops, sink handles, gas knobs, fridge handles, cabinets, spice bottles and more.
  • Always wash, rinse, and sanitize food equipment when going from raw food to cook food to avoid cross-contamination
  • Always store raw food below cooked or ready to eat food (RTE)

What are some tips to cook food properly?

Temperatures between 140 degrees F and 40 degrees F are considered within, the “Temperature Danger Zone.” microorganisms typically found in food grow the fastest within these temperatures.

  • Store food at the proper temperatures (cold food between 35-40 degrees F, and frozen food at 0 degrees F)
  • Avoid thawing frozen meats in the sink for hours. Either thaw in the fridge, or in cold running water. If you thaw out in the microwave, continuous cooking in an oven or stove is required immediately.
  • Food instead to stay hot or in hot holding should maintain a temperature of at least 140 degrees F

Here are minimum internal cooking temperatures for meats:

Poultry (165 F)

Ground Beef (158 F)

Pork and Pork Products (150 F)

Eggs and Eggs Dishes (145 F)

Fish and Lamb (140 F)

Read more on how you can support NYC here and be sure to follow us on Instagram @ciaooomag and sign up for our newsletter above. Feel free to share with any friends or family.

Chau Mui

Chau is the original New York City stoop kid who cut her teeth hanging out in Union Square, ate soup dumplings in Chinatown and explored this great city by train, foot and everything in between.

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The Chinatown I grew up with was Hollywood. 

Synonymous with the film noirs of the 1920s, the streets were painted black, coated in grease. Sidewalks were peppered with a constant stream of extras hawking vegetables. When the lights turned on in our third-floor, 250 square foot walk-up, fit for our family of five on Canal Street, the roaches scattered into a million directions. 

When my mom landed in NYC for the first time, a 28-year-old fresh-off-the-plane from China, she said…”This is it?”. Chinatown was the jumping-off point for immigrants, you came here to make your money, and get out as soon as possible. 

We left when I was 6. The three of us kids needed more space to spread our wings. We made our way across the bridge to bigger, better, balmier lands. Brooklyn.

My older sister, Mei (L), older brother, Kenny (R) and myself in the middle in our apartment in Chinatown.

My relationship with Chinatown was never more than a train ride away. Every Sunday, we visited our grandaunt, who had been living in the same tenement style apartment on Orchard Street since the 1950s. It even had a bathtub in the kitchen, a relic from the times when hot water had to be boiled for baths. Every Chinese New Year, my father, a chef in one of the many Chinese restaurants, would parade the three of us through the kitchens of his friends’ establishments to collect lucky red envelopes.

With the onset of the Coronavirus, it’s hard to ignore the transition that Chinatown and all of NYC has been going through. Streets once packed with people are now empty. Shops remain bare, entire cities have “shelters in place”, and racist attacks mark the country. There’s tangible energy if and when you walk outside, like a weighted blanket of distrust, fear, and skepticism.  It feels like a Jack Ryan episode we can’t escape. 

Empty street in Brooklyn’s Chinatown in Sunset Park. Picture by Barney Hui

Chinese restaurants were the first to experience the plight of the Coronavirus, with several major establishments shutting down for weeks on end. According to a study done by Basil Labs, the number of reviews for Chinese restaurants in Flushing, NY dropped significantly when news first broke out about the Coronavirus in December 2019, and then again in March 2020 when it landed in NYS. 

Now, with the ban on seated meals, restaurants all across the city are begging for donations to pay their workers, many of which have no health insurance, paid leave and in some instances, citizenship.

Number of Chinese Restaurant Reviews in Comparison to Other Asian Restaurants in Flushing, Queens

A Study by Basil Labs done in March 2020.

Small businesses are going bankrupt, but, the Small Business Administration announced a $7 billion dollar fund featuring 0% interest loans for companies with less than 100 employees. There are also grants to cover up to 40% of missed wages for businesses with 5 or fewer employees. At press time, however, the funds have not been distributed, and only a survey has been put in place for businesses to apply for.

Please share the link HERE with any of the affected businesses you may know of. 

Check our GUIDE with a compilation of all the info you need to know.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken to a lot of local business owners about what has been going on and how we can support them. Is it driving people towards these fledgling shops for take-out orders despite orders from the government to practice “social distancing”? Is it reminding people simply to wash their hands more often? Is to just tell people to stay the eff home? I’ve been conflicted myself. 

“You know, having this is chopping off my legs. There will be some establishments that we will have to shut down for good if there is a citywide quarantine.” – Kyle, Restaurant Owner

“Uber has issued free appointments to visit the medical center, but I don’t get paid sick days. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid.” Rashid, Uber Driver

“If I take my kids out of daycare, who will watch them? I still have to go to work” Mei, Executive Director

While there’s no easy solution for any of this, I find comfort in knowing that New York City has gone through several epidemics before, and made it through, without the technology or resources we have today. The Bowery itself was once a hotspot for diseases. When thousands of residents were crammed together in the tenements without proper sanitation or plumbing, Yellow Fever was a pandemic that took over, killing thousands of residents across 1795, 1799, and 1803. 

“The most serious early epidemic of Yellow fever in the United States struck Philadelphia in 1793. Four thousand and forty-four victims perished in four months, or one in ten of the entire population. New York was greatly alarmed.  – Yellow Fever in New York City by Claude Eaton Heade 

New York fell into this epidemic soon after,  leading to the creation of the first Board of Health.  Extreme quarantine measures were taken across NYC, banning all Philadelphians from entering NYS.

“Since Yellow Fever in New York was an exotic disease it was successfully combated by quarantine measures long before its true nature was known. In these days of rapid transportation, Yellow fever is still a threat from which we in America are protected by the barriers of quarantine, vaccination, and medical vigilance.” Yellow Fever in New York City by Claude Eaton Heade 

An outbreak of Cholera struck soon after in 1832, tied to the lack of clean water. The Board of Health was developed but considered inaccurate and incapable of assisting when Cholera broke out. 

Cholera Notice via Public Domain

A lack of sanitary practices, licensed doctors, and protocol failed to sustain the outbreak. Four separate outbreaks took place over the course of the 1800s (1832, 1849, 1854, and 1866). Eventually, with additional funding raised by the wealthy (when they realized the disease saw no class) better infrastructures and boards were developed to create higher standards of living. 

“The Board of Health took many actions that limited the spread of the disease throughout the city: they trained a small army of first responders, established an emergency hospital at the Battery Army Barracks and created plans for the disinfection of the city once the Cholera outbreak subsided.” – ”Disasters: Cholera Outbreak of 1866,  Baruch College 

If history has taught us anything, it’s that the virus isn’t going to go away in a few weeks. It will reemerge in a few months or perhaps years again and again until a vaccine can be created. Even then, who knows what mutant strains will be created. There will be no return to the old Chinatown that I knew, but instead, a revolution in how we practice hygiene in our day to day.

Besides practicing cleanliness, we have to engage our government to invest more in our resources to build long term and proactive foundations specifically for pandemics. 

When Trump fired the U.S. pandemic response team in 2018 to cut costs, he left the entire country with no senior official solely focused on global health security. 

If you’re wondering why it feels like we’ve been so ill-prepared for this, we had absolutely no team to prepare for this. A Washington Post article from 2018 reads,

“The abrupt departure of Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer from the National Security Council means no senior administration official is now focused solely on global health security. Ziemer’s departure, along with the breakup of his team, comes at a time when many experts say the country is already underprepared for the increasing risks of a pandemic or bioterrorism attack.”

 — Top White House Official in Charge of Pandemic Response Exits Abruptly, Lena H Sun 

As of now,  it almost feels like we are too late. With nationwide shutdowns across Italy, Spain, and Norway, American citizens are wondering what’s next for us. How has it taken so long for the CDC to provide tests? What will we do when medical supplies run out? How long will people have to stay isolated at home? Will we be able to #flattenthecurve?

While it can be anxiety-inducing, and I won’t downplay the weight of what is going on, I do have to point out that there is beauty in seeing just how MUCH people are coming together.

From volunteers donating time to run errands and pick up food/medicine for older and high-risk neighbors (invisiblehandsdeliver), to good-hearted citizens building community lists to volunteer, to simply donating a few bucks to the thousands of chefs, servers, bartenders, comics, artists, freelancers who’ve seen their income wipe out overnight – you can be one of the good eggs.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, remember, a huge part of the anxiety comes from not knowing what will happen next. How you’ll pay your rent, if you’ll get sick, or what the world will look like in three months’ time, but what you can control, is what your role is in the world today.

I think that if you take a little time to give back, it’ll help you, and the world. As for me? I don’t know what the next few days, months, or even years will look like. I just know that the old Hollywood Chinatown I grew up with won’t be the same, for better or worse.

What I do know? We’ll get through this, together. 

To support or find more resources – visit our article – The Local’s Guide to Supporting NYC

Chau Mui

Chau is the original New York City stoop kid who cut her teeth hanging out in Union Square, ate soup dumplings in Chinatown and explored this great city by train, foot and everything in between.

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On June 22, 2019, 29-year-old Dominican American director Diana Peralta stood in front of a sold-out theater at BAM Rose Cinemas, in breathless awe, for the world premiere of her first feature film, De Lo Mio.  

From being featured in numerous film festivals to press features in the New York Times, Filmmaker, and The Atlantic, Diana Peralta is a name you’ll want to commit to memory.

For Diana, De Lo Mio’s premiere felt like both the start and end of an incredible journey. She had been working on De Lo Mio in some form since she was a kid, it was out of her hands and finally a real living breathing thing for people to consume themselves. 

I met Diana 5 years ago when we were both overworked project managers at a creative agency in Brooklyn. We connected instantly over our true passion, writing, and our struggle to balance that with our day jobs. We would gripe about that passion project that we were just itching to get off the ground, offering each other encouraging words to just fucking do it. Mine is still a work in progress, hers was De Lo Mio.  “The BAM premiere was THE moment for me,” she says as we catch up over beers and giant pretzels.

“I remember standing in front of this sold-out theater with people standing in the back, holding my sister’s hand and watching this experience unfold around me. It was incredible” 

She’d spent months applying to film festivals across the US and when she heard that her film was selected for the closing night of BAMCinemaFest – that her world premiere would take place in her own backyard with her family and friends in the audience – she couldn’t imagine a better debut. 

The movie itself focuses on three siblings. Two spirited sisters raised in New York, Rita and Carolina (played by real-life best friends Sasha Merci and Darci Demorzi), and their estranged brother Dante (played by the incredible Héctor Aníbal), raised in the Dominican Republic. They reunite after their grandmother’s death to clear out her home before it’s sold and demolished. What follows is a quiet, ferocious and achingly beautiful slice of life that explores what it means to be a family coming together through trauma, the insurmountable pain and the moments of joy in between.

A still from De Lo Mio featuring Sasha Merci (L) and Darci Demorzi (R).

I had the privilege of attending the premiere myself and I left the theater feeling like I had witnessed something immensely personal, like a voyeur, watching these characters as they stumbled and fell and grieved and loved.

As Diana describes it, De Lo Mio was a story she needed to tell. The idea had been brewing since she was a kid, sparked out of the many summers she spent with her siblings at her grandparent’s home in the Dominican Republic. They’d spend their summers cooped up at home, without cable or electricity, and only each other for company. 

“My grandpa would spend hours telling us stories about our family”, she remembers, “I’d roll my eyes but honestly looking back those were the memories that I cherished most”. 

As the years went on she wrote bits and pieces of the story but it was really a tragedy and the same grief that her characters grappled with that propelled her to the finish line. 

In 2013, her grandfather Andres was diagnosed with stage IV cancer and passed away a few weeks later. In 2017, her grandmother discovered that her ovarian cancer had returned. It was this dark time in her life that threw her into a sort of crisis. 

“My family was my tie to the island, once they were gone what did I have to go back to?”.

The house that they lived in, that she spent her summers in, became the focal point of her obsession. The sounds, the scents and the memories tied to it. It became a central character that she brought to life in her story. 

Young Diana in her grandparent’s bedroom in the Dominican Republic

She finished off the bulk of her script in 2017 while traveling back and forth to the Dominican Republic to visit her family.

“I just wrote so much faster when I was present in that space. It was bittersweet because my grandma had terminal cancer and I wanted to spend as much time with her as I could. At the same time, I knew that this is what my characters were going through. I’m in the mindset. I’m in this space. I’m with my grandmother, why not use that? It helped me pick it up and get there faster with the script even though it was a really painful time for my family,” she remembers.  

After months of going back and forth, Diana’s grandmother passed away. She returned to New York and took a break from writing, giving herself the time to grieve.

She soon learned that her grandparent’s home would be sold and knocked down, and she knew then that if she didn’t go all in now, she would regret it. She decided to quit her steady job as a Project Manager and dedicate herself to making her film.

Though the nerves were overwhelming, she worked tirelessly.

She didn’t have much success with grants or industry connections as a first-time filmmaker, in the end, all of her investors came from the Latino community.

“They weren’t connected to the film industry at all,” she explains, “ They were people who were passionate about the film and excited to support a Dominican filmmaker tell a genuine Latinx story”.

She found her female leads, Sasha and Darlene, by quite literally sliding into their DM’s. Though she had been following the two comedians for years, it suddenly clicked one day that they were her Rita and Carolina (her sisters in the film). She knew that the success of the film would be built on the chemistry and relationship between her leads. 

“Turns out they’re not blood-related but they grew up together and are best friends. It’s amazing seeing their years of friendship translate into my characters in the film. It was meant to be.”

In the fall of 2018, she led a small crew of brilliant actors and filmmakers to the Dominican Republic to realize her vision.  It was a true family affair with her father there every step of the way, and her younger sister on set as executive producer. Over the course of 2 weeks, they filmed constantly, visiting pieces of her past through the film lens. 

Behind the scenes in the Dominican Republic

She spent the next year balancing two lives while editing the film. She’d put in 8 hours at her day job as a Project Manager and spent her nights and weekends working with an editor to pull the film together. “I had no social life,” she says with a laugh, “All of my nights and weekends were dedicated to the film. I couldn’t make time to date or like to see my friends but it was so important to me, I knew I had to make those sacrifices.” 

She’d put in 8 hours at her day job as a Project Manager and spent her nights and weekends working with an editor to pull the film together.

And those sacrifices paid off. She’s been hitting up festivals from New Orleans to Tennessee this past year, even heading outside the US to show the film in the Dominican Republic as part of the Festival de Cine Global. In the next few months, she’ll continue to travel the festival circuit (with a screening or two in NYC!), all while looking to lock in a wider distribution.  

While she works on carrying the momentum of De Lo Mio, she’s already got her eyes towards the future.

“I’ve been watching people my whole life and I feel like I’ve seen so many bizarre, beautiful, fucked up, interesting things that I’ve mentally recorded and have taken notes on”, she says, “I just want to explore that – I’m sitting on the subway and people watching, I feel like I could write 20 stories about that person there. What’s happening in their lives? What are they feeling?”. 

I say this as a friend and a fan, I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Kiran Josen

Kiran's a project manager by day and an aspiring writer at heart. She currently calls Astoria home, where she lives with, arguably, the best dog in the entire world. She loves Italian reds (sauce and wine), soup dumplings (Flushing if you please) and Mike's Hot Honey on everything (seriously, everything).

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