You might say that Anna Lisa Raya wasted the first five years of her life. After all, it took her all the way until six years old to realize that what she wanted to do with her life was write. Of course, once the decision was made, it consumed her completely. “Those few blank pages at the end of every book? I used to like to finish the story I just read in those empty pages. You should see all the handwriting in my early books.”
Today, Anna Lisa Raya continues her passion for words as Deputy Editor/Style for Tu Ciudad, a glossy, beautifully done magazine that looks at Los Angeles through a Latino prism, exploring the duality of bicultural life in a city that morphs into something different on a daily basis. A classic city magazine, Tu Ciudad explores topical issues but also serves as a fun and irreverent guide to all that Los Angeles has to offer.
Aimed at the city’s vast population of acculturated Latinos, the publication is growing steadily. After launching as a bi-monthly in June 2005, Tu Ciudad will increase its frequency to ten times a year starting in February, 2007.
As readers of the magazine will attest, Anna has cultivated an uncanny knack for spotting talent and predicting trends, particularly in fashion. It’s a combination of instinct and experience she honed during three years at Variety where she helped launch their magazine V Life, and during successful stints at People magazine and Movieline covering show business, human interest stories, fashion and style.
“My parents are American born,” says Anna with unmasked pride. “My dad is Mexican American and an architect, and mom is Puerto Rican and a dressmaker. I was always surrounded by clothes, by design, by a creative aesthetic. The fashion sense isn’t just because I worked at all those magazines covering the industry, it’s because I grew up with a dressmaker in the house.”
Anna recounts, “I used to be the model for my mother. She’d sit there and pin things on me all the time to see how they looked. It’s a process that I love …having bolts and bolts of fabric and being able to breathe life into it. Making it into a beautiful garment that makes a woman look beautiful and feel comfortable in her own skin.”
As one of the more widely read arbiters of L.A. style, Anna is frequently asked what it takes to make it as a designer. “I look for commercial viability, something people would be interested in buying. I look for ingenuity; something that I haven’t seen before. Ingenuity is really big –and a rare quality, unfortunately.”
When we met Anna she was preparing to purchase a loft in one of the downtown area’s most historic buildings.
“I’ve been meaning to join since I was at Variety. It was literally across the courtyard, but I never got around to it. Then, when the time came for me to put a down payment on a loft apartment, I thought I should finally ask someone for guidance.”
“I remember calling the mortgage broker who’s handling a lot of the places in the building where I was looking to buy. We were obligated to have him do our pre-qualification. So I had to talk to this guy, and he didn’t have five minutes for me. You could sense it in his voice. He was just blabbing off interest rates and things I didn’t understand yet, and it really freaked me out.”
“It was entirely different when I called First Entertainment. I spoke to Ginger Galvez, a Real Estate Loan Advisor. She sat there for a good hour walking me through the process and answering every little question I had. She continues to help me, emailing me restaurant suggestions for my magazine, and we’ve become casual friends. You just don’t get that when you’re dealing with a regular bank.”
We’re glad to have been able to help Anna understand the ins and outs of home financing. And now that she’s settled into her fabulous new space? “At some point in the foreseeable future I’d like to knock out a piece of fiction. After all, that was the genesis of what I’m doing now.”
We’ll be the first to buy it. Just make sure to leave some blank pages at the end. For tradition’s sake.