Renée Santos is a famed New-York based LGBTQ+ community comedian. She has been featured in a number of hit shows like ABC’s New Amsterdam, TNT’s Murder in the First, and Showtime’s Californication. She is a Latina and has experienced a life unlike anyone else. She uses these experiences to fuel her passion in the arts, while also working towards making the world a better place.
Where does Renée come from?
Renée Santos grew up in Massachusetts and is one of six siblings. She has four sisters and one brother. She is considered the “youngest of the oldest”, because she and her older sisters share both parents. Her younger siblings, however, only share a single parent. Renée has only seen both of her parents in the same room once – at her sister’s wedding. Her childhood was tumultuous. Her mother is a Cuban immigrant from Havana and her father is a Portuguese immigrant from the Azores. She grew up in a very religious household. Her parents divorced when she was just eight months old. Years later at just 14, Renée was placed in foster care because her mother was declared unfit to take care of her. A year later, she was pulled out of the foster care system by her biological father, who returned her only a year later because he did not want to take care of another child.
In high school, she lived in eight different homes. During this time, she went to four different high schools. She felt like an outcast, and like many other teenagers, she started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. However, she was defiant unlike others her age. In a group therapy session, she heard that only three percent of children in foster care went to college. She was determined to be a part of that three percent.
With the help of her older sisters, she found the FAFSA form and applied for Federal Financial Aid. Through the program, she got a full scholarship in Emerson College, through the department of social services in Massachusetts.
After receiving her BFA in Acting and Writing in 2002, graduating magna cum laude, she drove across the country from Boston to LA, where she stayed for thirteen years to follow her dreams. After booking a Showtime special, she found great representation in New York City, so she moved back east, where she has been since 2015.
How successful is Renée Santos?
Renée believes she is very successful, however, her definition of success is not the same as most people. She defines her success based on her ability to be her fullest self. Even though her career plays an important role in her success, to her, success means being able to honor your purpose.
In 2002, after moving to LA, she realized she had stepped into a city where everyone had the same dream as she did. This made her feel invisible. She knew that her purpose on this planet was to be a Stand Up Comic but she did not know why God had given her so much passion for a dream that she might never be able to turn into reality. To get over this disappointment, she started using even more drugs than before. However, this almost led to her death. After years of using, she almost died with 16 Oxycotton in her bloodstream and cocaine in her body training for the 2008 LA Marathon.
She believes that if you if you do not honor your purpose, it metastasizes. She says that our purpose as human beings is saying “Yes” in that experience.
She believes that one should not define success as a long resume or by financial success. She says that success is having the courage to take risks and to act on every opportunity God gives you. Once she’s gone, she wants people to say that she had the courage to honor her purpose. She believes this is a better legacy than a fat bank account. This is what she has learned in her 39 years on the planet.
She believes society has shaped what turning 40 should look like. She says that people give up on their dreams just to fit into that societal box. She believes it takes a lot of courage to not fit into that box. As she fast approaches 40, she has left no carbon footprint, she has no children, is unmarried and her work has been her baby. She has not lived vicariously through somebody else’s potential but has chosen to honour her own. This makes her successful.
One of her proudest accomplishments has been her staying sober and 100% clean for many years.
What is Unique about Renée’s Comedy?
Renée is very physical in her performance. She does jumping jacks if the joke calls for it. She also carries a large middle finger foam finger to point at a slide show she has arranged for comedic purposes. She also sings and carries a guitar when doing parodies. On longer sets, she is often accompanied by a pianist. She is also very observational. Her observations are usually personal which makes her a great storyteller.
Has Renée Experienced any Personal or Professional Tragedies?
Renée believes that if her life was a Shakespeare play, it would be a tragedy despite her being a comedian. Her childhood was particularly hard. Her Aunty Lizzy passed away in a car accident and her death left her family reeling, the effects of which eventually led to her being declared unfit.
Renée has forgiven her mother for this, however. She believes that her mother had a lot of pressure on her as a young woman. At only 25, she was already a mother of three daughters. Renée now sees, after working as a nanny and taking care of several children, that children fail to realize that their parents are not immune to faults.
Because of her mother’s state, she was sent into foster care and had to live in eight different homes and had to go to four different high schools which made life difficult for her.
Professionally, she has received more “no’s” than she has ever received a “yes”. However, her childhood prepared her for rejection. It has also made her a more resilient artist.
What are Renée’s Goals for the Future?
Renée would like to see her comedy translated into film. She would also very much like to have her own TV show. Both of these would be like a dream come true for her. She would also like to write for a Late Night Show as she believes it will give her the experience she needs to start her own TV show. She ultimately hopes to star in a comedy that is written by her.
Does Renée have any words of wisdom to share?
“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” ~ Mark Twain
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” ~ Erma Bombeck
The first quote is Renee’s screensaver and the other is a bookmark she has placed in her Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous.
How is Renée making the world a better place?
Renée is a volunteer in a number of organizations and even helps others with her Stand Up. Several people were very unhappy after the 2016 elections in the USA. She helped lighten the situation and her Stand Up allowed people to heal. She also helps young addicts stay clean. She is also a mentor at a Gay and Lesbian Center where she helps gay youth who have been alienated by their families. She helps them fill out financial aid forms so that they can go to college independently. She also volunteers for United Way, an organization that helps displaced foster care youth by involving them in community activities.
Each of these causes are important to her, as they have affected her in the past as well.