Graciela “Gracie” Ramirez had planned to become a lawyer, until her college adviser suggested she try advertising. “I realized I’d been conceptualizing and creating all my life,” she says. “So I changed my major real quick.”
Fifteen years into an advertising career, Gracie has done her share of conceptualizing and creating. Most notably, she’s built the skills necessary to give back through design. She’s done it through the Sherman Heights Community Center, where she serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors. “Sherman Heights is a predominantly Mexican-American community where I grew up,” Gracie says. “To be able to come back and use my skills on behalf of the people who live there has been amazing and very fulfilling.”
Through programming on education, health, personal growth and culture, Sherman Heights Community Center gives Gracie an opportunity to help people like herself. It’s a refreshing change, one that motivates her to be an example for others to find success in the creative industry.
As it is, Gracie has turned to freelancing. She has struggled to find full-time employment over the last two years. With the last name Ramirez, she’s not shy about saying she has encountered name discrimination, and the fourth-generation Mexican-American hopes to see change.
“I’m here to say that discrimination in the workplace is alive is kicking,” Gracie says. “It’s easy to dismiss it if you don’t experience it, but for someone who has been in the advertising industry for 15 years, I can say with certainty that it’s still here.”
Gracie’s husband, James, is Black. So are her sons, Desmund and Dontez. Being wife and mother to them raises the stakes in an age where we still have to say Black Lives Matter. Battling against gender bias was hard enough, says Gracie. When she met James, it opened her eyes to his struggle, too.
“I never saw it before,” Gracie says. “I noticed when we would walk together how people would look at him and see fear in their eyes, women grabbing their purses more tightly. It hurt me so much. I see it, and I see him living it, and it’s so hurtful. And to know that is something my boys will go through, as a mother it’s heartbreaking.”
After years of creative success in Los Angeles, the uphill climb in San Diego came as a shock to Gracie. Undeterred, her involvement on the board of the Sherman Heights Community Center motivates her all the more to rise to an executive-level position and show people of color that success is possible.
“Creative industries are slowly moving toward diversification, but it’s not moving fast enough,” she says. “If you’re not coming across racism on a daily basis, it’s easy to become blind to it. As a Brown woman, I don’t have that luxury.”
As one of few Latina women in San Diego’s creative industry, Gracie has a lot to prove — to herself and to any Brown or Black girl — that yes, they can break through. “I have always tried to pave the way for others in advertising and graphic design,” she says. “And I’m still trying.”
Gracie Ramirez has used her time as an independent contractor to cultivate a passion for cooking and family. She launched Foodie Moovies to promote creative cooking and family bonding. The initiative has taken on more meaning during the pandemic, proving to Ramirez that life can bring unexpected blessings at unexpected times.
What is Foodie Moovies?
It’s something I did with my boys, Desmund and Dontez, when I was working full-time. I had very little time for anything, and I wanted to create ways for us to spend more quality time together. Every Friday, I would pick a movie to watch. I’d grab takeout on the way home and try to make the popcorn, drinks or dessert match the movie.
How did you come to create the Foodie Moovies blog?
When I became unemployed, I sought an outlet for my creative energy. My friends suggested I blog about it and see what happens. I started getting really into it. I began cooking complete meals based on the movie themes.
What’s something you’ve learned from the project?
I consider myself an art director, so writing was a challenge. The blog forced me to learn how to write and say exactly what I want to say. It’s been empowering.
What impact has Foodie Moovies had on your family?
The kids love it. They’ve started putting in their two cents. It’s an opportunity for us to have some family time together, and it’s a way for us to do it on a budget. It’s created great bonding time for us. After the movie, we talk about it, and I include three questions on my blog that others can ask their kids afterward to have a teaching moment.
Can you give us an example of one of the questions you ask?
“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” is a true story about a boy from Malawi who created a windmill to help irrigate his community’s cornfield. I asked my kids, “What do you think would have happened to his community had he given up and not pursued the windmill?” “What does his family struggle with daily that we here in America do not have to think about?” I want my kids to think of these things, take notice and be grateful.
Show your support for Gracie Ramirez and her Foodie Moovies project by engaging with her or following her on Instagram.