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“Pero Like” YouTube stars talk being themselves, breaking barriers at SEE’s All Niter

by Chloe Goldberg

Gadiel Del Orbe and Julissa Calderon, breakout stars on Buzzfeed’s Latinx comedy series “Pero Like,” took to Stamp’s All Niter on Oct. 4 to discuss how staying true to their Dominican culture has brought them success in an industry lacking Latinx representation. 

Over 50 people gathered in Hoff Theater to hear from the two during Student Entertainment Events’ 38th annual All Niter, a festival featuring live music and games. The program had both a moderated and audience-led Q&A sessions. It concluded with a pumpkin painting contest, a nudge to the night’s Halloween theme. Throughout the event, Del Orbe and Calderon shared how their Dominican heritage has played a crucial role in their careers.

All Niter event poster featuring Julissa Calderon and Gadiel Del Orbe. Photo courtesy of SEE.

Growing up, neither considered becoming actors or video producers.

“Every time I looked at the TV…nobody looked like me,” Del Orbe said.

It wasn’t until he joined the U.S. Navy and started performing stand-up that Del Orbe considered making comedy videos online. Though his career was uncertain, he was sure of one thing‐ he wanted to make content for a Latinx audience. A gig at Buzzfeed gave him the chance to offer his audience a firsthand look into the culture he loved, while changing the negative portrayal of the Dominican Republic that he saw on social media. 

Calderon, who double majored in production and theatre at the University of Florida, said she never considered using her platform as a way to represent her heritage, but later changed her perspective. 

“That just happened, that wasn’t something that I really planned to do,” said Calderon. 

After realizing that she couldn’t master a Mexican accent for an early “Gentefied” audition, an upcoming Netflix series she stars in, Calderon decided to audition by portraying the character closely to herself. Once she got the job, the show’s executive producers were so impressed with her that they decided to change the “Yessika” character entirely, making her Dominican, said Calderon.

Del Orbe and Calderon first began breaking barriers on “Pero Like,” a web series launched by Buzzfeed staffers in 2016 to change the Latinx community’s historic underrepresentation in media. Today, the Youtube channel has over a million subscribers.

Each week, the show’s producers can be seen taste-testing different Latinx foods, competing in accent battles and trying new trends. 

Tania Martinez, a junior hearing and speech sciences major, has been keeping up with “Pero Like” for two years. 

“Just having a channel that you can relate to, and you’re like, ‘woah same!’…being able to say that, I think that’s pretty cool,” Martinez said.

The comedic duo met after Del Orbe sought out Calderon for a new video he wanted to shoot, later titled “11 Things Dominicans Know To Be True.” The nearly two-minute video has over 600,000 views. 

Despite an awkward first meeting and Del Orbe’s “disorganized” shooting style, the pair hit it off instantly, said Calderon. Three years later, they consider each other family. 

“People say ‘you should date’ and I’m like ‘Ew!’” Calderon said. “He’s my brother, he truly is.”

After the Q&A session, a couple volunteers from the crowd joined Del Orbe and Calderon on stage to paint pumpkins. While painting, the pair told family ghost stories, reflected on their time at Buzzfeed and discussed their favorite dances (salsa for Del Orbe, bachata for Calderon).

They also recalled their own college experience, and offered advice to the Latinx students in the audience. 

“Just knowing who you are, being super proud and unapologetic about who you are, that right there in itself, that gravitates people,” Calderon said.

“Educate everybody around you. We need to know our history and learn about it and pass it down,” Del Orbe said.

Angeline Mendez, a senior criminal justice and criminology major, plans to carry on that tradition through her sorority, Lambda Theta Alpha, the first Latina sorority founded in the U.S.

As LTA’s community service chair, Mendez organizes Latinx-based social events concerning politics, financial advice and more to bring awareness to issues surrounding the Latinx community. She shared how important it was to attend events featuring other Afro-Latinas.

“Even though we’re both Afro-Latina, they might have different types of experiences that taught them something else that I can bring back to my sisters,” Mendez said. 

In addition to her work on the upcoming Netflix series “Gentefied,” Calderon is currently writing a new web series that she hopes to release next year. Del Orbe is planning an upcoming tour with comedian Aida Rodriguez, whom he considers a mentor.

As for the future of “Pero Like,” Del Orbe said he hopes that one day he will be able to continue the show for the “next generation of Latinos.”


Featured photo courtesy of Pero Like’s Facebook page.

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