An active member of the Menlo Family Apartments community, Natalya is a promotora with the Universal Dream Team, one of the eight Neighborhood Leadership Groups (NLG), under the Best Start Metro L.A. Partnership, and is led by our partner agency Para Los Niños.
Where is your hometown?
I was born in Monroe, Louisiana and I came out here with my mom at six months, so I consider myself “Cali-born and raised.” I’m from Inglewood on the Westside, by LAX.
Do you live or work in Koreatown?
I live off of Pico and Vermont, on the outskirts of Koreatown. I’ve been here for two years. Before that, it was pretty hard. My mom passed away at 75 from lupus. I was an only child—a spoiled child—and I didn’t know how to take care of business. I was 19 and pregnant with my daughter and I was dealing with my mom’s passing. She was the only one who showed unconditional love. And then I had my daughter and my mom was gone. I had to learn how to become a woman. I had to grow up pretty fast. I was unstable for a minute, going from this apartment to that apartment and then I couldn’t afford it. Here I am, at 30, and this is the most stable I’ve ever been.
When I first moved into my building in June 2015, I didn’t know about a lot of things in my community. I was encouraged to be a part of KYCC’s opportunities for my children—ages 10 and 3—and I decided to be more open and see what this adventure would bring.
My daughter attends a Menlo program. When she got there, she was struggling with reading and math so they held one-on-one meetings with me and kept me in touch with the school, which helped her tremendously. Getting involved in the Neighborhood Leadership Group has been a great experience. I would say that KYCC has brought me out as a person. KYCC has been there as a family and they let you know they have your back if you need help. They never make you feel less than.
I have a passion for encouraging women, single parents, single mothers, women who are motherless or going through issues. Everything that’s happened in my personal experience, I like to share with others. My life’s journey is a lesson with tools.
What are your thoughts on Koreatown today?
Living in Koreatown has been a cultural awakening because it opened my eyes to diversity. Here in Koreatown, there is a lot of Hispanic culture and although I’ve been around Hispanic people, I’d never lived around them before. I learned not to judge others and to have other friends of different cultures. As a part of the Neighborhood Leadership Group, I went to a conference in Cerritos about empowering Hispanic women. I was one of three African American promontoras. I learned that as women, we are all the same—we have the same struggles, we all want to be successful and raise our kids, although we are different in color and background.
I’m comfortable here. I don’t even want to go back. I’m home. I can get away and close my door. I’m so grateful.
Where is your favorite place in Koreatown?
The Wing Factory directly across the street from me. The flavors are good and it’s quick to walk across the street, sit and eat. They have teriyaki wings, lemon pepper wings, fried shrimp in all flavors, and chili cheese fries. Everyone loves me around there—I make friends with all the workers. The owners are Korean and they are my friends. When I call, they know my voice.