A NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than a dozen published books, with more than 2 million in print in 11 languages around the world, Albuquerque native Alisa Valdes has also written and sold TV scripts to Nickelodeon, Lifetime TV and NBC. If you think that’s awesome, you should have been there the time she was impeached as president of the freshman class at Del Norte High School, for being – wait for it – too politically outspoken. That shit was badass.
A prize-winning former staff writer with both the Boston Globe and the LA Times, where she was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in features and named the top newspaper magazine essayist in the nation before the age of 30, Alisa is also an Emmy-winning broadcast journalist formerly with WHDH-TV in Boston. She’s written cover stories for Redbook and Glamour, and her work has been published in The London Guardian, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, and dozens of other newspapers and magazines where, clearly, the editors were too drunk to know better.
Named among Time magazine’s 25 Most Influential Hispanics, a Latina magazine Woman of the Year, and a recipient of the Literary Achievement Award from the United States Hispanic Congressional Caucus, Alisa is a popular public speaker who has given TEDx talks and who, according to her speaking agent, “charms and inspires audiences” on college campuses, as well as in corporations, government entities and nonprofit organizations. She also sometimes gets invited to go on CNN to yell at neo-Nazis while Anderson Cooper’s producers mutter “Gold, this chick is GOLD,” but tries not to make a habit of it.
Twice named among Hispanic Business magazine’s 100 Most influential Hispanics, named among CNN’s Most Influential Hispanics, and called a Breakout Literary Star by Entertainment Weekly, Alisa is as tireless and visionary as she is creative, compassionate, irreverent and, generally, underdressed – when she’s dressed at all.
Kirkus has called Alisa’s writing “Pride and Prejudice for the CNN age,” and she is proud of the fact that her commercial female friendship books are written with enough depth and nuance to be used to teach identity politics in sociology courses at Brown University, by professors who are clearly too high to know better.
“I purposely write everything on multiple levels, from the fun and shallow to the deep and ponderous,” she says. “If you want to see one and not the other, you can. It’s up to the reader. I like big ideas, but I’m not impressed by literary elitism. It’s harder to be funny and popular than it is to obfuscate and pontificate. Anyone can buy a thesaurus. No one can buy insight. I guess you could say I’m a utilitarian wordsmith whose mendacious misanthropy is a byproduct of existential despair, but I also like writing about sex and shoes. So, you know. Make of me what you will. I don’t care. No, really. I don’t.”
Alisa was named Artist in Residence at Berklee College of Music, from which she graduated with a bachelor’s in music performance (saxophone and voice), and at Washington & Lee University, where alum Tom Wolfe appointed her to the position, saying, “she’s like the new me,” because of her witty writing and biting social commentary. For the record, she looks terrible in an ice cream suit and spats – but who, other than the aforementioned Wolfe, and perhaps Foghorn Leghorn, doesn’t?
With a master’s from Columbia in Journalism, Alisa is also a certified fitness instructor, fitness silver medalist for New England, and a former fitness catalog model. Like, WAY former. Like, forty pounds ago former. But we can still brag about it here, because that’s what aging starlets do, dammit.
She is a licensed educator – aka “had creativity beaten out of me by the P to the E to the P-E-D, baby” – who has taught for UCLA Extension, UNM and the Santa Fe public schools. She’s also an accomplished songwriter, if by accomplished we mean “does the ill-advised thing because, love,” who sings into her Garage Band program with verve and enthusiasm that belie her actual (barely existent) vocal abilities.
Alisa is a proud single mom to a cool teen boy who makes her laugh as much as Carlin. She’s got a dog and a cat who love her, as does the child, mostly because of Stockholm Syndrome. She tries to have boyfriends but usually they end up saying things like “Talk normal,” and leave her for women who don’t force them to listen to “the latest draft of my epic novel.” Meh.
“If I’m breathing, I’m creating,” says Alisa. “I don’t care if it’s a writing a book, developing and selling a TV series, composing, recording and producing a song, or building a nonprofit or business from the ground up – there is nothing I love more in life than thinking of an idea, and then acquiring and mastering the tools to make what was just a cool thought into an even cooler reality. No, wait. There is one thing. Pringles. But, you know, other than THAT.”
Alisa says she does her best thinking while running trails in the high desert mountains of New Mexico, with headphones blasting moody indiepop. People who come to her house are generally forced to endure more Lana del Rey than is good for anyone except the most unhappy of clowns.
“I’m a friendly extravert who usually prefers to be left the fuck alone,” she says. “I don’t think that means I’m an introvert as much as it means I wish people weren’t generally such assholes.”
Alisa changes her hair color and makeup almost as frequently as she changes boyfriends. She takes a lot of selfies, but defends herself with a very reasonable question: “What Would Frida Do?” I think we all know the answer to that one.
Asked to name five things she loves other than being creative and scandalous, Alisa says, “Friends, family, cooking, movies and, what the hell, gotta be honest here…vodka.”