AAMBC's Michelle Cuttino gets underneath it all with Erica Mena

Erica3 Michelle: How does a girl from the Grand Concourse in Bronx, New York, who “entered the world in a jail cell,” break into modeling and videos? How did you get your start?


Erica: From day one I was in love with the performing arts. As a kid I loved watching west side story, Annie, Flash Dance ECT. I remember I would round up the kids in the neighborhood and charge them to watch me act out these scenes from the movie. The good old days! *Laughs*

I started pretty young at 14 modeling in catalogs and look books. But it wasn’t until I won that Jennifer Lopez MTV contest that the door opened.


Michelle: You first appeared on the reality TV show Kourtney and Khloe Take Manhattan and helped the duo successfully launch their store, Dash. What was that experience like for you?


Erica: I honestly learned a lot from working with the Kardashians. They are young, successful, family orientated and powerful. I really took in as much as I could while working with them.

I also learned the way reality television works and how tough you have to be to really be a part of it and last.


Michelle: Your debut on Season 2 of Love & Hip Hop New York (LHHNY) was eventful, including the ongoing dispute between you and Kimbella Vanderhee that was dubbed “The Battle Of  The Video Vixens”. At that time, were you just trying to make a name for yourself on the show, or were you really upset at Kimbella’s professionalism or lack thereof?


Erica: I already had a name for myself. Ten years in this industry. And the fact that I have accomplished so much all before the age of twenty one; that’s the reason they came to me to be on the show. Why I decided to do it was strictly with the intentions of showing a different dynamic coming for the “video vixen” world especially. Girls like Kimbella have caused the value to depreciate by doing things for very low or no compensation at all. I’m open on speaking the truth when it comes to that.


Michelle: With Season 3 of LHHNY, we saw a budding relationship between Rich Dollaz and yourself that led to your iTunes hit “Where Do I Go From Here?” What was it about this particular song that made you so adamant about recording it?


Erica: The “Where do I go from here” record is so relate able. When I first heard the song it hit home. The emotion and words that make up ‘where do I go from here’ are deep and for me it was perfect to explain what all that I have been threw in five minutes. I knew from the minute I heard it that many would relate to it.



Michelle: What kind of response have you been getting from the song? Can we expect a full-length Erica Mena album in the near future?


Erica: The response has been great. I know people weren’t expecting that from me and the fact that I pulled it off made many angry. If there has been a response that’s negative it’s because they didn’t want me to pull it off. The fact that I really did do it makes people talk some more. I’m happy with the responses negative or not I know I did my very best.


Michelle: Rumor has it that you and Rich Dollaz are engaged to be married. However, you have said on several occasions that the two of you are not together. What is the real deal and what role do you play in each other’s lives at the current time?


Erica: Rich and I deal with a lot now that the show is on air. We are both passionate about work and we both know what we want in life. We are not engaged and are so over whelmed with work that right now we are focused on just that. Either way we are stuck with each other because we are extremely close. I’m here for him, he’s here for me.


Michelle: April 1, 2013 is the release of your tell-all novel, Underneath It All. However, you are describing it as your “diary”. Please tell us briefly what the book is about.
Erica: I say diary because I’m letting the world into my life. The beginning to now. I’m honestly just getting started in living my life. Yet I have accomplished so much and I’m only twenty five years of age. Ten years of working in the industry and my relationships. It’s Erica Mena The untold story of the misunderstood beauty.


Michelle: You published Underneath It All under La Femme Fatale (LFF) Publishing. Were you signed to just the one book deal, or is there more to come from Erica Mena


Erica: I am signed to more than just with La Femme Fatale’ Publishing. This deal has been in the works since 2011. The owner of La’ Femme Fatale’ Publishing Michele A. Fletcher is a well-respected person in the entertainment world.



 Michelle: At one point on LHHNY, you had a very emotional conversation with Yandy Smith about your past with your son’s father, Raul Conde from Terror Squad. Will you be speaking more in depth about the struggles you endured during that relationship in Underneath It All?
Erica: Raul made a huge impact on me and my life. I was with him for a very long time. It’s important that I speak on my relationship with him.


Michelle: The altercation between you and Raul went viral and showed you kicking him in the head and hurling many expletives his way. Your explanation is that it was the first time you had seen him since leaving your abusive relationship and it was your moment of fighting back. How has that video impacted your life since going live?


Erica: I’ve never given an explanation of that kind. After leaving Raul he found his way to me after months of not seeing or being in contact with him. He put his hands on me coming out of a Hollywood club. Feeling furious and fed up I did fight back. Years of frustration and pain was released in that moment that it is sadly used against me a lot.


I wish I could have done things different but I had enough and right then is when I stopped caring. I didn’t want to feel violated anymore. To the unknown they think I’m a bad person for that and maybe I am; but I’m sorry I can’t take back how much I was willing to fight for control of my life again. I just wanted to finally be happy again.


Michelle: What advice would you give to anyone that is involved in an abusive relationship?


Erica: Don’t keep letting it happen. I have guilt that I’m still trying to let go of because I can’t believe how much I let someone hurt me purposely and I let it happen. That’s why I love how strong I am now.


Michelle: During that same conversation with Yandy Smith, you spoke about anger management and learning to control your temper. However, at your recent event at The Nail Lounge in Manhattan for your PrittyNPink lipstick line launch, you were involved in a catfight with one of Rich’s exes, Tiffany. What happened there?


Erica: It’s not one of Rich’s ex. And because it was covered by VH1 I can’t speak on what happened. You all will see what happened really soon.


Michelle: As for your PrittyNPink lipstick line, how did that venture come to pass and where can your products be purchased?


Erica: A good friend that has her own cosmetics line came to me with the idea because I would always get stopped by people, emails, or comments on my pictures of woman asking what color lip stick I was wearing. I love make up in general but lip stick is my all-time favorite. To me it made sense and I love trying and believe in doing it all.


You can purchase the line on the site. I have a collection of fabulous pinks that go with all skin completions. Www.Prittynpink.com


Michelle: You are also getting a lot of flap for the Instagram photo you posted that many interpreted as your pregnancy announcement. Was this a prank, a media stunt, or just something that has been blown totally out of proportion?


Erica: All I did was post a picture of this beautiful woman that had a baby in her with the caption “Life how exciting” that then started the talk. Then in DC I took a group pic of my friend who so happened to have her arms around my belly. My Instagram went nuts with comments that I was with child. I then made a joke back with another pic to make a mockery back at people who just love to assume.


Michelle: The gossip mill is also buzzing with talks that you have been fired from LHHNY due to Mona Scott Young being tired of your antics and violent tendencies. You say that it is untrue. Please put the rumors to bed and let us know your status with LHHNY.


Erica: I’m here! Still working and excited for what’s to come. I am not fired and trust me Love and Hip Hop keeps getting better as we wrap up the season! Juicy!!! *Laughs


Michelle: Being a triple threat isn’t easy. When it comes to modeling, acting and singing, which do you like best and why?


Erica:  I Love modeling because I’ve been doing it for so long. But now my new love is writing. My book has opened up a new world for me that makes everything I’ve already done look easy.


Michelle: Lastly, in bearing it all and telling your story, what do you hope people will walk away with once they have read Underneath It All?
Erica: I want the people who truly know me to no longer have to defend me to those who don’t know me now. It hurts me to see those I love have to speak in my defense because there is more to me. I’m someone that is very much like you. I’ve been through a lot. I am crazy, real, fun; I have a good heart, a mom that gives and does her very very best. I’m about family loyalty and dreaming because anything is possible no matter what. Not everyone it built for what I do. Everyone wants the glamorous life until they see what it takes to get it.
9780988861565More on the book:

I’ve gotten used to living behind mirrors and smoke screens; it’s easier to portray an image for the world to see. When I’m alone I am haunted by my truth. A girl who entered this world in a jail cell. A girl who was served struggle with a side of pain on a broken platter. A girl who was thrown into a tank with sharks deep in a world whose motto is to eat or be eaten. I can still see the dirt underneath my nails; I’ve fought too hard to get where I am and I don t plan on looking back. However, there’s always someone waiting to knock me down because they don t think I deserve it. Well I say to hell with them. I’ve put in too much to allow anyone to drag me down. So either you’re riding with me or against me…


Buy here: http://amzn.to/XQWzu9


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