Last year, the lives of actors were disrupted for 118 days in what will go down in history as the longest actors strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Many in the industry, such as bilingual actress Idalia Valles, took it as an opportunity to regroup. She not only stood united on the picket lines with her fellow acting compadres, but tapped into new layers of her artistry through musical and directing projects.
Valles took a leap of faith and jumped into the world of DJing.
“There’s always a good and a bad that exists when something so monumental happens to our community,” Valles said. “I feel like the positives that came out of it was a stronger relationship with my fellow actors, writers and team members.”
Valles broke into Hollywood with roles such as Isabela Vargas on “Queen of the South,” and scored a Best Supporting Actress nomination from Next Generation Indie Film Awards in 2021 for her role as Jessica in the short film “For Rosa.”
“She’s not just an artist,” said Jorge Reyes, writer, co-producer and story editor for “Queen of the South.” “She always wants to approach things as a student, and I think that bodes well for her future.”
During the strike, Valles dedicated her time to something that turned into more than just a hobby.
“I’ve always had a love for music,” Valles said. “My community is really music-based, and I had really great people around me that were able to set me up with equipment and teach me, and they were so gracious with their time to teach me about DJing.”
Valles, who hails from Houston, says she practices and refines her DJ skills every day.
“From one day to the next, I started playing gigs and booking jobs and sharing mixes and things just really fell into place. L.A. is such a magical city cause it always allows that to happen; if you really put your energy into something, it’s there to support you.”
Inspired by the legendary David Mancuso and his disco club, The Loft, Valles weaves together old disco and international house music.
“The way the dance floor is treated as a sacred space and community is highly valued. [It] is such a beautiful thing,” Valles said.
The DJ world has led Valles to new sounds and genres she hadn’t been exposed to before, making her style ever-evolving. Valles described the space as her place of “Zen and peace.”
“I’m dipping my toes into higher BPM dance music for fun now that my ears have been pushed to listen to different things.”
Valles also shares a record collection with her partner, Jesse Sachs, whose music style includes soul and gospel house.
“Playing B2B [back to back] with him is one of my favorite flows to be in. It has created a whole different language between us or anyone I share the decks with,” she said.
One person who was instrumental in seeing Valles flourish was Luzi Tudor, someone Valles credits as her DJ mentor. A DJ extraordinaire in her own right, Tudor, a Romanian-born bi-coastal DJ based in L.A. and New York, instantly fostered a friendship with Valles, sharing similar life experiences.
“We connected right at the beginning of her DJing journey through a mutual connection,” Tudor said. “She picked it up so fast, enthusiastically; it’s been a beautiful thing to watch. I have been really impressed too by how seriously she’s taking the craft and truly eager to hone in the technical side of DJing like a true professional.”
Valles says DJing kept her grounded and allowed her to wake up and feel like she had a mentally helpful and productive routine throughout the strike.
Valles also delved into directing during the strike. She directed a short film written by her grandfather titled “El Ayer y El Hoy,” that follows the journey of her 93-year-old abuelito.
She credits a group called Latinas Acting Up as being instrumental in supporting her and other Latinas.
“We would meet every Friday and talk about our journeys together, which was really positive for us during such an intense moment,” Valles said. “The other side of the coin was really sad to hear stories of fellow members having to leave town, [they] had lost their jobs, they were hurt financially so much they had to take loans out, and seeing a lot of my community suffer through that was also very hard.”
Valles called those stark realities an “emotional roller coaster,” which fueled her to turn the page and create new opportunities for herself.
“The thing that unlocked for me during the strike was the ability to have space in my life to be curious about other activities,” Valles said. “Music is such a love language to me and everyone around the world, especially during dark times. I always fall to music to channel my emotions.”
Valles is not changing professions, but credits the strike with giving her space to become a student of another skill set that will stay in her toolbox of passions she will continue to explore.
“I hope I can just inspire other people to pick up a new skill, and see where it leads them,” Valles said.
Valles, living by her words, recently signed up for her first college class for screenwriting at UCLA.
“The beauty about my industry is that I have no idea what’s in the future for me,” Valles said. “That’s why I’m here, because I genuinely love seeing what’s next and being surprised by what life throws at me with my career as an actor or as a creator.”