Empowerment Series: Puerto Rican-Dominican Actress, Writer, Comedian & Author, “Legitimate Kid,“ Aida Rodriguez Shares her Truth with AW
We’ve all heard stories about the Latino upbringing. Generally, our parents tend to have overprotective practices. Abiding by their commandments is the best way to stay in good graces and out of trouble. I was raised in a relatively strict home but as we got older, our mom and dad loosened up the reigns. Despite the easing up on house rules, some things never changed.
One of my mother’s favorite sayings was “Lo que pasa en la casa, se queda en casa.” Meaning, that whatever happens at home, stays at home. She valued the truth and expected honesty from everyone, even if sharing it, hurt. However, that didn’t mean we had permission to talk about our business outside the home.
Aida Rodriguez has broken every one of my mom’s rules! “No tiene pelo en la lengua,” (No mincing of words), as mom would say. I fell in love with her content because she tells it like it is while remaining true to who she is every step of the way. I first interviewed the fearless Latina in 2021 for her comedy special “Fighting Words.” I remember walking out of her dressing room feeling, truly seen. Anyone who knows her will tell you that she is one of the real ones.
She has a new memoir “Legitimate Kid,” that promises to give you all the feels. It is a collection of essays about the ups and downs of her life. She shares the journey from personal setbacks to success and everything in between! Her book has been described as “endearing, shocking and ultimately, life-affirming.”
AW sat down with Aida for a heartfelt, genuine, unfiltered conversation. Things got real, as we spoke about each other’s upbringing, generational trauma, our mothers, colorism, and more. I am humbled and proud to share this interview with you. We hope that it empowers you to break the emotional shackles that hold you back from living a life of immeasurable greatness.
You tell your truth unapologetically, which is difficult for most people. You share it on social media, in interviews, and in your comedic skits. I have never seen you shy away from an honest answer. Has that ever gotten you in trouble? No, although with this book, I think about how it will affect my mother. I adore her, she is everything to me but I’m also entitled to my own story. I think a lot of times when we are told “Lo que pasa en la casa, queda en casa,” it was to protect other people but we were impacted by the mistakes made.
I was always a private person until “Fighting Words” when I shared the journey of meeting my father and wrote this book. I kept thinking about the younger me, they used to call me “Little Aidita.” This is me showing up for her and others, whether they are boys, girls, or nonbinary. There are many of them out there experiencing the same things, I did. I want to release them and also, a little Aidita. I’m sure my dad is not excited about the story of him getting beat up but I wanted to share the story of colorism that runs deep and I experienced growing up.
I was very gentle in this book because there was so much more that could have been shared about being sexually abused and raped. I did not include any of it in the book. There were plenty of stories spared, the focus is legitimacy. I wanted the story to be fluid and stay in line with my thesis.
You have written this memoir, “Legitimate Kid.” Can you tell us what it’s about and why you gave it this title? The journey of my book began at 8 years old when I was in 3rd grade. A girl called me a bastard because I didn’t have my father’s last name. Immediately, I could feel the shame around it because the other kids were laughing at me. This set me on a mission to explore and find out why the name-calling. Learning at the age of 12 years old about what happened broke me. I’ve been trying to put myself back together ever since.
I think many people are struggling with legitimacy and validation. It could be about your father’s last name, you being the darkest one in your family, being an immigrant, having an accent, or transitioning, whatever makes you question your validity. People are telling you that you are not legitimate – not enough. I wanted to explore this within myself, why did I feel less than or unworthy of great things? I needed to go back to that specific wound and understand where these feelings came from. It was important to tell this story and help others feel seen. Let them know, they are not alone and validation does not come from outside, it comes from within.
This book and your comedy tell so many of your truths. I wrote a memoir that was published in 2019. I understand how difficult it is to share our truth with the world. What was the toughest truth to share? If I’m honest, the hardest part of the book is sharing the stuff about my mother without demonizing her. My mother was a child when she had me. I was raised to respect and revere her. I had to find the balance between being able to say “This was wrong and not okay,” and at the same time, allowing her humanity and reality. I don’t want anyone attacking or negatively speaking of her. I will fight for her until the very end. She is the queen of my world.
My mother and grandmother were born into trauma. This was about understanding that she made mistakes but so did I. While I was pointing a finger at her, my kids were taking notes of my mistakes. So, writing about her was the toughest because I love her so much.
Latinos, particularly Dominicans, learn from a young age that anything that happens at home or within the family is not to be shared with outsiders. You went and wrote a book about your story! Have you received backlash or pushback from any family members? No, I told my truth. This is my version of the story told from my perception. I never set out to demonize anyone but there are people in this book that did horrible things to me, and there’s no way to spin it. There is no justification for pushing a woman out of a moving car or abusing someone. All of us make mistakes but we must be accountable for what we do. I’m not concerned about pushback at all.
I watched an interview where you shared that you lost two very important people in your life. Your uncle, who raised you and your grandmother, both within two months of each other. Around the same time you received a call from Last Comic Standing, a huge opportunity. You had to go out and make people laugh while grieving. It was one of the most difficult things that you’ve ever had to do but you believe that were with you to push you to get it done. This was the moment that everything changed for you. In that same interview, you said “The more we tell our stories, the more power, we have.” You are sharing your story with the world. What do you think your uncle and grandmother would say about this book? My grandmother was very regal. She was one of the classiest people I ever met, so classy and big on etiquette. She would say “You don’t speak on those things” but she was always the person who inspired and empowered me, anyway. So, she’d say “That’s not for me but if it’s how you’re going to do it then we gonna ride.”
My uncle never had anyone stand up for him. Writing about him was like giving him his place. Putting him back on his throne. Society told him he was not worthy. I think he would appreciate it. They both knew how much I loved them. Anything I do is to love and help others, which is what they did. I believe they would be ok with it.
What do you hope the takeaway will be from people who read your book? I want people to be released from shame. Shame is shackling, they are handcuffs that keep us in a place and silence us. It keeps people in a place that does not allow us to soar, where we belong. We are so weighed down by guilt and shame. It is relevant in our community of Latinos, Latiné, and Latinx who migrated from other countries. I would love people to find themselves in this story and release themselves. See how “I am all right. I did it. I’m on the other side, they can do it too.” It is my dream for people to realize they are legitimate and belong. No matter your last name, the color or texture of your skin and hair, where you came from, language spoken, or migration. You belong here, are deserving, and have been sent here to do your work. You are valuable.
We like to end AW interviews with a quote, mantra, or advice to inspire listeners. For anyone afraid to share their truth, can you offer words of encouragement? Those who do not dare or think to use their voice in their lives? First of all, you are worthy. Oftentimes, when you feel you can’t tell your story, it’s because you don’t feel anyone will listen or care. You matter.
There are a few mantras that I use. “The Universe agrees with a made-up mind.” Once you make a decision. God, the Universe, or whatever you believe in, conspires with you to make it happen.
“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.” – Hellen Keller. There is a fire in you that can lead to purpose. If you choose not to ignore and follow it, you never know what can happen. Do not allow yourself or anyone to make you feel small, including yourself when you feel the impulse to soar. I encourage you to fly, you deserve to be amongst the eagles.
AW is incredibly thankful to Aida for sharing her truths with us and the world. I knew going into our conversation, it was going to take all of me not to cry. I’m happy to report there were no breakdowns but moments of reflection and empowerment. Thank you, Aidita, for allowing yourself to shine and believing you could fly. We all have a scared little boy or girl inside of us. I hope that others will see themselves in our stories and build the confidence to create the life of their dreams.
In Aida’s words, “If your perception is always through the negative lens that is a miserable life.”
Let’s rise above our pain and live our truth.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.