Meet Ivana de Maria. You may recognize her from the telenovela, “La bella y las bestias” or her other projects. She is also currently producing the Netflix Monarca with Salma Hayek. Her newest endeavor Storyplace, a storytelling platform, aims to give a voice to ORDINARY PEOPLE with EXTRAORDINARY STORIES (launching this Winter). Her latest project adds the title of tech entrepreneur to her resume. Storyplace was born from her epiphany that the common link to everything in life truly is sharing stories.
1 | Tell me about your background as an actor/producer/storyteller. How did you decide to create Storyplace?
I always knew I wanted to work in the entertainment industry, specifically as an actress. However, I also had many intellectual curiosities, which I wanted to explore before focusing on my long-term career. I studied high school in Switzerland and after graduating moved to Boston for College.
I attended Boston University where I completed a bachelor’s degree in Business and Law. Over the course of those four years, during summers while all my classmates would look for finance internships, I would attend acting school in NY and LA. I always knew the day I graduated I would focus full time on acting but I was interested in having the theoretical knowledge of business and law. (Of course this also gave my family peace of mind as a Plan B since acting is every parent’s worst nightmare… haha)
Upon graduating I immediately moved to LA to pursue acting full time. Very quickly after entering the casting/rejection/waiting system, I got frustrated by the system. I hated the idea that my results would depend on so many factors that were not in my hands. I started writing my own characters, which then turned into my own stories, then my own projects and finally my own productions. I wrote, produced and acted in two short films, which to my surprise had great success in the festival circuit.
I had no idea what I was doing exactly, but by creating my own content I learned everything about the process of telling a story. From writing, to producing, acting, editing, the business… and I fell in love with it. ALL OF IT. I quickly realized that my generation had an opportunity, that the industry was changing and that the barriers of entry had dropped as the power was in the hands of the creative. People were looking for STORIES, good ones. And whoever had these stories, had the opportunity to tell them. It did not matter if you had won an Oscar or never done anything in your life, if you had a good story and knew how to tell it, you had an opportunity.
I am a true believer that artists, whether you are an actor, a writer, a producer, a musician… it all starts with creating your own content, and therefore you own opportunities.
A couple of years ago I started being especially intrigued by real life stories. By taking these stories and bringing them to life, giving them the voice they needed to be heard.
It’s a dream come true for anyone when you find a way to use your passion in a way that causes a positive impact in the world, and I decided I would do this by creating content based on true stories. Messages, stories and voices that needed to be heard today.
As I began producing a few projects, I was also on a mission to find real stories. As I spoke to different people and travelled meeting people from all around I found myself learning something from everyone I met. Everyone’s story had a lesson for me in some way. There was a thought that kept keeping me up at night: “How many stories go unheard in the world?” I decided I would do something about it and create a platform that would inspire people to connect through storysharing, to realize the importance of sharing and listening to stories, to promote empathy through an ego-less driven social platform… and that’s how StoryPlace was born.
2 | What is your mission/goal with Storyplace and when does it launch?
My mission with StoryPlace is to create an ego-less driven social platform that promotes empathy by connecting people through real life stories. I want people to REALIZE that every human being has a story to tell. It will launch end of November on the iOS App Store!
3 | Your latest role has been as a boss! What have been some of the biggest challenges working as a woman in tech?
My biggest challenge working in tech was the fact that I had no background or knowledge in the industry. I had overall business knowledge but the tech world, especially APPS, is a completely different world. I work based on instinct a lot… and this can be incredibly scary. From day 1 Men have surrounded me in this process, but it never really bothered me. I think that my whole life, whether it is because I am “too young” or “just an actress” or “a woman”, I have felt the pressure of proving people wrong. When I first had meetings with developers I could tell that they would think I was just an actress wanting to create an app, with no idea of how to do so. And yes, maybe I had no idea, but believe me I never let them see that. Before each meeting I would research everything, make sure I knew what I was talking about, and stood by my vision no matter what. Many times, the men around me would disagree with my vision because it was “too girly” or say things like “it’s how it works here”, and I hated that. I believe in rules and the importance of them being there, but I also believe that once you know and understand the rules, you can create your own path. That is the essence of innovation.
Funny enough, today I have 2 girls on my team and we are an all female team behind StoryPlace!
4 | How much has social media impacted your career? Both as an actor and in your decision to start Storyplace?
Social media is an incredibly powerful tool. The same way it can be an incredible opportunity it is also incredibly dangerous. It is a big part of my work, especially when it comes to acting. Suddenly you are able to have your own personal PR outlet. The reason why I think it’s so dangerous is because sometimes people don’t realize that by having a big social following you have an extra loud voice, and this entails a big opportunity but more importantly a BIG responsibility. If you’re voice is heard a little louder than others, or a lot, you need to be careful with every word you put out there. I don’t mean only because of your image, that’s a personal choice, but because of the repercussions it has on people that are following you.
For example, a lot of my followers are teen girls. They talk to me, message me, ask me for advice, tell me their stories… and I can tell that what I say has a BIG impact on them. Social media is a tool that was initially created to connect people, to create solidarity, empathy, communication… but instead it has led to things like discrimination, insecurity, bullying, mental health issues like body dysmorphia… in my opinion, this is a result of these platforms becoming ego driven.
That is one the main reasons that led me to the creation of StoryPlace. I believe in social communication, in social platforms, in story sharing, but I think it has to be Ego-less driven so that the stories are not corrupted or filtered by ego. In StoryPlace, we don’t care about your selfie, we care about your story!
5 | How will you leverage other social platforms to promote your app? How do you differ from other social media apps on the market?
There are a lot of social platforms out there, but again, they are very much ego driven, and therefore the true stories are not out there. I want to mute the noise in all these posts and preserve the story behind each person, what makes everyone HUMAN. We promote anonymity by using PEN NAMES in efforts of achieving this ego-less story sharing.
There are some other platforms that offer story sharing, such as Medium or Stellar, and I think they are great! However, they are very much designed for writers. StoryPlace is intended to NOT intimidate the non-writer. You don’t need to be a writer, or have a formal structure for your story in order to share with us.
6 | What makes you unique to other professionals in your field?
What makes each person unique is precisely their stories. We all have lived different experiences, seen different things, and come from different cultures… all of these things is what shapes who we are today and the way we see the world.
I try to implement a social awareness to everything I do. If I have a loud voice, I intend to use it wisely and to lend it to those who need it the most. If I make a movie, I intend for that film to be a story that needs to be told.
My entire life I have created my own path, never disregarding the set steps and rules in place, but definitely letting my intuition take me to some off-roads a long the way.
7 | What advice can you give to millennial entrepreneurs?
Believe in your vision. Create your own content. Trust your intuition. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to fail. If you do, which you probably will a million times in your life, it’s ok! You simply learned another way not to do something.
Many times when something would go the right way I would think “I’m so lucky”, but then my brother once told me something that I will never forget: Luck is where preparation and opportunity meet”.
Another important lesson I got from my mother: You only have 100% of yourself. When you commit to giving 100% to multiple things in your life, you are setting yourself up for failure, because 200% or 300% does not exist. You are one person and you have 100% of you, so be honest to yourself and others about how you plan to distribute that percentage… also that percentage distribution will change with time, so go back and re-evaluate it whenever necessary.
8 | Who is your biggest influence or inspiration?
My family. My mother is a powerhouse, businesswoman, and mother of 5 and mentor of a million. She always taught me to follow my dreams, to believe in myself, to be realistic about things and to not be afraid of failing. She has always taught me by example and I will be forever grateful to her.
9 | What do you hope to achieve that you haven’t yet- personally or professionally?
A looooot! I hope that I constantly learn new things. I’m a firm believer in constant learning. Professionally I hope to keep growing and exploring different facets of Storytelling. Personally, I look forward to the day when I will have a family of my own who I will tell my stories to.
10 | Anything else you want our readers to know about you?
I love hearing your stories, getting to know people and getting/sharing advice so please don’t hesitate to contact me! You can follow me/ message me on instagram @ivanamaria or email me.