She stars as Yoli in the Eva Longoria Baston produced series Grand Hotel, airing on ABC. Set to make her a household name, Justina Adorno spoke to Upscale Living magazine about her love for acting, veganism, and her two adorable fur-children, Catsby and Penni.
JUSTINA, TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF.
I was born in the Bronx and lived there with my family until I was about ten years old. I then moved to Columbia, South Carolina, and finished schooling there. As a child, South Carolina was a place for me to safely explore my environment, giving me freedom in ways I couldn’t have had in the Bronx. However, I knew at a very young age that for me to grow, I had to leave my small town and get back to my roots. In 2013, I moved back to New York to pursue my career.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO FORAY INTO THE WORLD OF ACTING?
At a very young age. Since I can remember, I always dreamt of being either a vet or an actress; anytime there was an opportunity for me to perform, I took it. In high school, I auditioned for an acting program, then auditioned for a boarding arts school. I continued to study acting in college, and after graduation, I signed with an agency and moved to New York. By 2015/16, I started investing 110% of my efforts in my career.
YOU STAR AS ‘YOLI,’ THE BLACK SHEEP DAUGHTER OF THE MENDOZA FAMILY IN THE NEW ABC DRAMA, “GRAND HOTEL.” WHAT WAS THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE FOR YOU?
Well, I love the fact that Yoli is the black sheep of the family. Family dynamics are typically nuanced; I’m proud to represent those who don’t necessarily feel as connected to their family in certain aspects.
IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ALSO HAD LOTS OF FUN FILMING “GRAND HOTEL.” CAN YOU SHARE A FEW OUTTAKES?
We had so much fun filming! My glam trailer was always the highlight of my day, whether it be chatting or singing with the glam squad and cast. Karaoke, singalongs, and dance breaks happened frequently. Whenever there was a scene at the dining room table with the family, something hilarious always happened. I remember us shooting a serious scene, and all of a sudden, the table started shaking, and we just all broke character and laughed out loud.
EVA LONGORIA BASTON PRODUCED THIS SERIES. WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH HER?
My experience working with Eva surpassed my expectations. She is knowledgeable and highly experienced. I felt as though I could trust Eva on and off-camera. She is such a boss! The woman does it all with such charisma and grace. You can feel the energy just brighten on set when she was around! It didn’t hurt that she always had Santi on set. I am in love with that baby! She made the set feels like home. We all became a family, and we owe a lot of that to Eva for setting the tone from when we all first met!
YOU ARE AN OUTSPOKEN AND PASSIONATE VEGAN, FAVORING A PLANT-BASED DIET. HAS THAT ALWAYS BEEN THE CASE, OR DID YOU MAKE A HEADSHIFT TO GIVE UP ANIMAL PRODUCTS?
Ha-ha, yes, I am! I’m a huge activist, and when I can make a difference, I always take on the opportunity. As far as my diet is concerned, I started my vegan journey two years ago. Once I internalized the messaging behind animal rights activism, I felt that I no longer had a choice. I began to follow vegan pages, animal activists and continuously educated myself by watching footage of the conditions that these animals were in. The truth makes people uncomfortable, but so does growth. By seeing the truth, I was able to grow and fully allow myself to dive headfirst into the lifestyle. That’s really what it is – a lifestyle – and it is one that I am proud of. To give a voice to the voiceless saves lives, and to save a life is to show compassion. This is what the world needs.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DISK TO PREPARE?
Lately, my favorite thing to do is to eat fresh seeded fruit. However, I do love making raw cucumber pasta with an avocado pesto sauce topped with olives avocado and cherry tomatoes! Just talking about it makes me want some now.
YOU ARE INCREDIBLE SHAPE. HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO STAY FIT?
Wow, I wasn’t expecting that. Thank you? Ha-ha, I’m honestly not in the best shape right now. I gained some weight for the role of Yoli and have been actively building a healthy relationship with food. Right now, I’m at a happy, relaxed place. I don’t make as much time for the gym anymore, which I really miss and should probably start doing so. I’ve recently wanted to bring back consistent physical activity into my life. It truly makes a difference for my mental state, let alone my physical. So, if there are any personal trainers out there … reach out! I need someone to kick my butt back into shape! Currently, I bike or go on hikes and occasionally hit the gym. Those are my favorite days.
YOUR NATURAL CURLS ARE BEAUTIFUL; YOU ALSO ROCK THE SLEEK STRAIGHT-HAIR LOOK. WHAT DO YOU PREFER?
Right now, I prefer my hair to be natural. My hair can be super curly or wavy/frizzy, and I just let it do what it wants these days, but sometimes I do enjoy blowing out my hair. I’m super grateful to have versatility with my hair. I change it based on the vibe I’m feeling.
FROM NEW YORK TO SOUTH CAROLINA, BACK TO NEW YORK AND FINALLY, LOS ANGELES. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MEMORIES OF THE DIFFERENT PLACES WHERE YOU HAVE LIVED?
My favorite moments always revolve around the people I meet in each location.
YOUR FUR-CHILDREN ARE ADORABLE. TELL US ABOUT CATSBY AND PENNI.
Ahh, omg, thank you! I miss them so much! They stayed back in New York this time around, and that has been very difficult. Those cats have been a huge part of my journey in life. Catsby was a bodega cat in my neighborhood in the Bronx, and at the time, I needed something to love that was low maintenance. So, the boyfriend was out, and I didn’t have the time to walk a dog, nor was I allowed to have a dog in my building. I saw Catsby the second week of moving back to New York and just fell in love with him. I told myself if he allowed me to pick him up, I would ask the guy at the counter if I could have him. You can add up what happened next. Catsby is my handsome man, threefold.
My other cat, Penni, was rescued in my neighborhood as well. I was working on an event, and my boyfriend at the time called me and told me there was a wounded kitten at the steps of the church. Her poor back legs weren’t working, and her tail had no movement. In the weeks following, I nursed her back to health and worked on grooming her relationship with Catsby, because he was a very “jelly” boy. She is my sweet little girl, my Penni PoPo. I love them so much and to watch their relationship grow warms my heart. They love each other so much. They are for sure my children. I’ve had to scold them for being mean to each other and praise them for being the cutest of siblings.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE HOBBIES AND INTERESTS?
I love songwriting. It’s seriously something I can do all day every day! I also love finding new vegan restaurants and making meals. I enjoy watching movies/theater and even rescuing animals when I can. In the Bronx, I frequently worked with a non-profit organization called Little Wanderers NYC that rescues cats/kittens that need care or homes. That is something I can do all day every day. If I can save a life at least once a day, I would be the happiest person, which correlates with my vegan lifestyle.
ANY EXCITING PROSPECTS / PROJECTS ON THE HORIZON?
I do, but it’s a work in progress. Let’s just say it has to do with my journey into veganism.