I met Leeza Hernandez years ago, and I’ve always felt she was waaaaaaay cooler than me. That’s hard for me to admit. Add to that her incredible artistic talent and way cool accent (she hails from the south of England), and I almost don’t want to talk to her. Except you can’t help but talk to Leeza — she’s too much fun, she’s got too much energy, and she’s way too smart. Read her interview — you’ll see what I mean.
As I said, Leeza is originally from England, but has been living in the USA since 1999. In 2004 she switched from newspaper and magazine design to children’s book illustration and writing. 2012 marked a milestone for her as she celebrated the release of her debut-authored picture book Dog Gone! (G.P. Putnam’s Sons).
Middle school: DUCK!
(Oh, that’s hilarious. sorry for interrupting!)
High school: You might not be good at that and that’s okay. It in no way means you are a failure, simply do your best!
That’s great advice — I wish someone had told me that in high school! Moving forward in time, though, you’re now a professional artist. What are your favorite things to draw?
I love drawing chubby chickens wearing boots, scarves and/or earmuffs. There’s something very funny to me about that image. Makes me smile.
That’s made me smile, too! How do you see the books that are being published today as helping to empower girls to be smart (or, as we like to call it, nerdy)?
Showcasing any female character who, when faced with adversity, finds victory and overcomes chaos in clever, articulate and intuitive ways is a sure fire way to empower girls. I think that society is more open to embracing these types of characters and therefore today’s books have become the perfect platform to inspire nerdy chicks, help them be smart and know that anything in life is possible.
I agree — finding great examples in literature is a way to inspire girls to go after their dreams. Can you tell us about a fictitious nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her?
Roald Dahl’s Matilda has to be one of the first “fictitious nerdy chicks” I ever remember having an impact on my life. There’s so many things to love about her- in spite of a difficult home life and an atrocious headmistress, she sought and found solace in books. With an insatiable appetite for learning she discovered the power of knowledge. Two other fictitious nerdy chicks whom I admire are Alice Pleasance and Violet Beaudelaire- smart girls who knew how to keep it together!
I love those characters, too! (See — I told you Leeza is waaaay cooler than me!) You truly are a Nerdy Chick, Leeza. What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a Nerdy Chick?
Oh wow, now you’ve put me on the spot! Okay, sorry if this sounds cheesy, but getting in to college was a big deal for me. Going through high school, and knowing that there was an exciting world filled with mystery and yet-to-be-discovered opportunities beyond the waters that surrounded the island I grew up on, were what made me more determined to study and get to college. That was my gateway to a new world. I absorbed myself in my art especially, and getting into art school will always be one of my favorite achievements. Debuting as an author/illustrator last year felt pretty good too!
I think college was a pretty big deal for a lot of us — doesn’t sound cheesy at all. It’s very inspiring to hear how you used college to open up a “new world,” as you put it. I think that’s what college is supposed to do.
Let’s shift gears a bit and have some fun…Do you have a personal “theme song,” perhaps one that speaks to your inner nerdiness?
Hmm, I never thought about a theme song. Ziggy Marley’s “Believe in Yourself” perhaps?
Love it! If someone gave you $75 and you could only spend it on you, what would you do with it?
No brainer! Books and art supplies.
Can you tell us one thing you buy at the grocery store that you cannot live without?
Cheese: a good strong cheddar. (Hate to think what my cholesterol levels are like though!)
Ha! LEEZA HERNANDEZ, LOVER OF CHEESE. I think I love that even more! And finally, is there anything else you want to share with us that has made you who you are today?
Well, aside from art, sports and French were my favorite subjects throughout most of my school years. I was terrible at science. Also, I played cello for three years in middle school, but only because all the flutes were taken in the school orchestra. I can’t play cello anymore, but I do still play descant and tenor recorder.
Thank you, Leeza, for this great interview. I will never look at chickens without boots or earmuffs the same again!
If you want to know more about Leeza and her work (and who wouldn’t?), you can find her on the web at www.leezaworks.com. Her books can be found at www.doggonethebook.com and www.eatyourmathhomework.com. Follow her on Twitter: @leezaworks