Let me introduce you to my first "Mom Crush" April Hernandez Castillo. She is a talented actor, dynamic speaker, and a nationally recognized advocate. You may know her from her many roles on the big and small screen such as Eva Benitez in Freedom Writers, Officer Cira Manzon in Dexter and Nurse Inez in ER. However, I am lucky enough to know her as a friend, amazing mom, dedicated wife and hard working woman.
I met April when we were two childless, crazy, single girls filled with dreams and ambitions, running all over NYC. She was part of a core group of girls that I considered to be my "home base" when I was so far away from home. We all partied together, hung out and performed together (yes, she can dance too because she is talented like that). In our group, April was the tough "Nuyorican" from the Bronx and she was funny, fiesty and wouldn't take mess from anyone or allow anyone to mess with any of us. I remember when she got her first big break in the famous Yao Ming "Yo" commercial and that began to open doors for her.
I was so happy for her because anyone that knew April, knew it was only the beginning of what was soon to grow into an impressive career. What I didn't know at the time was that April had just gotten out of an abusive relationship. She didn't openly share she was a survivor of domestic violence with people because of the shame she attached to it. All she wanted to do was push it aside and move on with her life.
April moved to Hollywood and began booking acting jobs including her critically acclaimed role as Eva Benitez in Freedom Writers starring Hilary Swank. The success of Freedom Writers provided April with an amazing platform to speak at schools and events across the country. She quickly realized that she loved it because she connected with the audience. She began sharing sharing her story of survival of domestic violence and she realized she was not only having quite an impact on young audiences but she was also healing herself. She began to share her story more and more through motivational speaking and eventual became inspired to write her first book Your Voice, Your Choice: A Story of Resiliency & Redemption. In the book, April bravely shares her experience of an abusive relationship and how she not only survived it but also how she healed from it and went on to thrive in her life. She openly recounts her story and provides readers with the resources and tools they need to walk through the healing process.
In addition to actor and author, April is a spokeswoman for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, owner of Lion Chaser with husband Jose T. Castillo and, of course, mom to her daughter Summer Rose. She continues to use her platform to connect with people and empower others with her "Your Voice, Your Choice" message.
April is the funniest, most sincere, toughest and most vulnerable lady I know and I have the most respect for her. Knowing her as a mother has reconnected us and given me a new found respect for her. Every day she gets up and gives it her all no matter the challenges that stand in her way. She is definitely one badass momma that you should be following. Tweet her at @aprillhernandez, friend her on Facebook or follow @aprillhernandez on instagram.