Budding Montebello Actress ‘Graduates’ To Feature Film Role

By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou, EGP Staff Writer

“A Better Life,” a new movie opening this weekend gives a rare, Hollywood look at the hard luck side of Los Angeles, one that feels close to home for one of its stars, Montebello-native Chelsea Rendon.

“I grew up in the East L.A. area,” where the story is set, and just as in the movie, “I have had family who were in gangs, and who were in jail,” she said. The movie is a departure for director Chris Weitz, who also recently directed the popular teen hit New Moon, one of the Twilight films, and has so far been well-received by critics.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Actriz en Ciernes de Montebello se ‘Gradúa’ a un Papel Importante en el Cine Estadounidense

In the movie, Rendon plays bad girl Ruthie Valdez who tries to get her on-screen boyfriend, one of the movie’s main characters, to join a gang. “Everyone has a good side and a bad side, and I guess I would be the little devil on his shoulder,” she said.

The angel in the story is the boyfriend’s father, who works as a gardener to “make ends meet,” she says.

It is this portrayal of the boy’s father that she wishes more people would know about. “A lot of people say there are too many Mexicans here, and they need to go back to where they came from, but they don’t know how hard some people really do work… They need to understand that better, and not be so quick to say, ‘get out of here,’” Rendon said.

Montebello-native Chelsea Rendon plays "Ruthie Valdez" in the movie "A Better Life," which opened this weekend.

 

This is the biggest movie the 18-year-old Rendon has been in, but she has been acting since she was six years old – soon after catching the acting bug during a trip to Las Vegas.

With a crowd of passersby as her audience, Rendon began “pretend fainting” by suddenly falling to the floor, causing those around her to inquire if she was okay. When she got back up, she asked her mother, “where am I, what happened?”

Her mother got the message. They began calling around to local television stations about acting jobs, eventually finding an agent. Rendon got her picture taken, began taking acting classes, and started booking commercials.

By the time she was in middle school her schedule was packed with auditions, she recalls. “I would do my homework in the car, eat in the car, and fall asleep on the way home. It was really crazy. Now I get to drive myself.”

Rendon scored numerous acting jobs on television shows including The Shield, Judging Amy, and FlashForward, and has taken on leading roles in smaller movies.

One of her favorite jobs was while working on the set of ER, where she played a girl injured in a sweatshop fire. “I loved the show ER, even as a kid, I loved watching the show. To me it was very interesting, to work with people I see and look up to,” she said.

Rendon says she aspires to be like Natalie Portman and Jennifer Lopez, and says her goal is to one-day win an Academy Award. She says she may not be famous now, but if she becomes better known, she wants people look back and find positive things, such as “she’s Mexican, but she’s going to college,” she says.

This past week she graduated from Montebello High School. She is the youngest in her family, and two of her older siblings dropped out of high school.

“I was so nervous. When you walk on to the football field, you see all these people, and it’s really happening… I am the first one of my mother’s kids to graduate high school… I come from a single parent home. I wanted to make [my mom] proud. I was proud of myself to be able to graduate,” she said.

In high school, the athletic and outgoing Rendon was involved in basketball, volleyball and the annual powder-puff football games. She was also voted “Biggest Gossip” for the yearbook, which she accepted with some reservations. “It was just because I’m loud,” and not because she liked to spread rumors, she said.

She credits her busy schedule and her family for helping her graduate. “I wanted to be able to be in school and act, and do it all. Partly it was that, and partly because of my mom and my family,” she said.
Now that she is older, Rendon says she can do more with her acting career, such as film movies out of state. She also wants to break out of the “bad girl” characters that she’s been given so far, and do different types of dramatic roles

But she also likes to hang out in Montebello and the nearby area doing normal things, such as visiting her favorite taco stand El Atacor in Montebello, and taking boxing lessons at Solid Rock Gym, an East L.A. gym where local legend Xaviar Montelongo, Jr. trains.

“They like make fun of my uppercut [at the gym],” she says.

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June 24, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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