April Hernandez | Living life with no regrets

April Hernandez-Castillo with Bethany Hamilton Actress and current host for the lifestyle interview show “100 Huntley Street,” April Hernandez has maximized many chapters of her life to showcase to success by dreaming big. Emboldened with passion and fearlessness, Hernandez sat down with HOPE to uncover some of her deepest pains and share her story. What is your daily routine for seeking happiness and balance in your life?

I would have to say that having a 1-and-a-half-year-old definitely keeps me focused! The first thing I do when my daughter and I wake up is say, “Thank you, God.” I’ve learned that, when you have an attitude of gratitude, it does make you feel good and keep you in line. It’s a way to remind myself that I’m in my blessing right now. I don’t have to wait for it. Everything else I want to accomplish will happen when it’s supposed to. I know Oprah is always talking about having this attitude, but it’s one thing to hear it; it’s another thing to actually do it and experience how it will completely change your outlook on life.

What do you look to for inspiration?

There is a constant fire within me to find out how I can be better and help others be better. My husband and my family inspire me. My nieces are an inspiration to me as they approach their teens. I know I have to be a role model for them, and it’s important to have role models. When I was a child, I barely had any role models other than my parents. That inspires me to constantly challenge myself.

As a result of this outlook, you’ve had some success and recent accomplishments. What are some of those achievements that you are most proud of?

I would definitely say having a successful marriage! I know most people expect to hear me say that doing a movie or having a talk show is what I’m most proud of, but for me it’s my marriage. I’ve been married to him for 13 years! It’s about being together, inspiring one another and loving each other—trying to constantly be a wife that honors her husband and being aware of his needs. I really feel that, because marriage is a joke to some people, it’s not taken seriously anymore. People think that simply being together is enough, but it’s really not. The both of us found God at the same time, so to have that and also be in the public eye is, to me, the most successful thing.

Is there a monumental moment that you feel has taken your career to the next stage?

When I decided to become a stand up comedian! There wasn’t anyone in my family who was in the arts or anyone cultivating that in me. I literally was crazy and bold enough to believe I was funny! I wanted to take it a step further to try it. I was able to prove to myself that all I needed was to work through that fear. When I was that young at 21, I was so fearless, and I felt so alive when I did it.

Let me tell you, when you are on that stage, there is no comfort level—you are uncomfortable the entire time. You’re thinking, “I really hope someone laughs.” And when someone laughed, I was so excited. It was the best experience of my career at the time, but of course things grew for me from shooting Freedom Writers and working with Hilary Swank. I grew into becoming an actor as my dream became that more tangible. I was able to do this at the start of my career with comedy by not so much worrying about how I was going to do it but just believing that I could.

I’ve heard that before especially from successful entrepreneurs. They always express how important it is to take risks once they decided to chase their dreams.

Right! There is always a time where I second-guessed myself, but in the end I would rather fail a million times than not try at all. That’s my nature of who I am. I’ve lived a life of risk my entire career, and I don’t know how else to live!

That’s not always easy for others to acquire that same mentality. What was it about your lifestyle or upbringing that allowed you to take those risks?

I grew up Catholic, so I always had the influence of God in my life, but it was more so having both of my parents around. They didn’t have much, but they were able to create in me the attitude of a big dreamer. My father would always tell me, “There is nothing impossible that you can’t accomplish.” He told me this sometimes on a daily basis. So, as a child, I had this identity. I knew who I was from a young age. I really didn’t allow people to tell me who I was. I always knew there was more to life, and I grew up in the crack era. I grew up with people who were addicted to drugs, so I knew there had to be more to life. My parents set a standard for reaching success—they only had a high school diploma but it was their street smarts, their hustle, and that desire to be great that really inspired me.

I notice that you advocate a lot to end domestic violence during your plight for activism. What is the root for this advocacy?

The main cause for my advocacy is based on my experience being a survivor of teen dating violence. I was in an abusive relationship from age 17 to 20. He was my first boyfriend, and I was in love. Literally it was great in the beginning, and it slowly progressed into physical, emotional, and mental abuse to the point where he almost took my life. It was at that moment I realized that this was not the love my father was talking about. Once again, that’s not something that was in my home. I didn’t grow up with this in my home. I didn’t have daddy issues or lack confidence. I say that because that shows that violence can happen to anyone. Thank God I was able to leave, but one day I got down on my knees and said, “God, if you’re real, I need you to save me. Because if not I will die, and I’m not ready to die.” It wasn’t until 10 years later that I got this urge to start speaking about it. So I started going to a therapist and taking training, asking God to heal me. But now I can speak about it from a place of power not of pain. That was important, because I didn’t want to find myself on stage transferring past feelings of pain and anxiety to others dealing with abuse. I wanted to be in a place of peace and power when I was speaking to others. I want to share that abuse is unacceptable and explain the reasons why. You are worth it. You are not alone, and you can make that mess into a message. I’ve found that many people don’t like to talk about it, so I already knew that it was a taboo topic. But, once again, I took a risk by sharing this.

What is some advice you have for women about taking risks in chasing their dreams?

I always say: “Dream big. Be bold. Take risks.” That’s a motto that I’ve lived by all my life. It’s great to dream, but it’s even greater to make that dream come true. If there is a dream that you have, and it’s been inside of you, just take that risk! You don’t know if it can actually happen—it may just be a moment away from coming true. I’m all about becoming a lion and going after it! Why not you? What’s the difference between your dream and someone else’s? There is no difference, except that the other person chose to work harder, and they disciplined themselves, and they didn’t stop! You really have to dedicate yourself and work hard and don’t stop until you get it.