Real L Word’s Raquel Castaneda Tells All: The Autostraddle Interview

She might not have had a lot of air time during Season One of The Real L Word, but Mikey‘s former fiance Raquel Castaneda certainly made up for it with quality over quantity. She provided some of the most hilarious moments of the ‘groundbreaking’ first season with the epic bra strap proposal at Fashion Week, “I am the original Amy Winehouse,” her observations on lesbian mating habits during Dinah Shore and forcing Mikey to appear as a lovesick puppy, waiting for her bronzed ass to finally show up for [insert anything here]. Luckily, Raquel is just as awesome in real life and wanted to chat with Jess about the ins and outs of filming a reality show, Riese’s RLW recaps, Ilene Chaiken, her break-up from Mikey and our very own parody video.

So, I hear you are a huge fan of Autostraddle…

Of course I am, are you kidding?! [laughing]

Do you read the recaps?

Oh, always! I used to live for them when we were watching our season air because it was like, if you wanted the underlying real story then you go on Autostraddle and read about it… Oh my god, it just killed me. Loved it.

Did you see the parody video we filmed?

Are you joking? I cried! It was so funny…Mikey and I were together at the time and I was like, “Oh my god. It’s so true.”

Can we talk about how amazing our friend Robin Roemer was playing you? She’s actually a professional photographer and also does our Calendar Girl shoots, but I think she was actually born to play you in that parody video.

Oh my god, she was amazing. Great job on the likeness — “I need time for myself to put on my makeup” — that was epic [laughing].

I’m really glad that you have such sense of humor about everything. Did Mikey appreciate the recaps as well or was she offended in some way?

Well, you can ask her but I thought it was really funny and you’ve got to laugh at yourself. I mean, this is why I chose to do the show in the first place… because if you get an opportunity to see what you’re really like or how you’re perceived in life… I’m just someone who’s constantly searching and looking at myself and evaluating my intentions and my options, so being able to see…. even the bra strap falling when I was on stage at Fashion Week…like, really Raquel?! [laughing] That was so  funny in the parody… I thought she was just hilarious.

What was your reaction when Mikey initially told you she wanted to do this show? Were you apprehensive at all about putting your life out there?

I’m the one that actually suggested that we do it because, I just was like, you know this would be a really good opportunity to live your life as a model and a voice for people that don’t have one or can’t or aren’t sure of their sexuality… I was just thinking of the people that can’t come out or want to know if there’s other people like them. This is just the right thing to do so I kind of pushed Mikey on the idea of doing the show a little further.

Were there any circumstances during filming that were manipulated or dictated by producers?

Faked for the cameras, hmm. You know, the main example I can think of was when we went to Las Vegas for Magic [the fashion trade show.] my producer was like, “Just pretend you missed your flight” and I was like, “Umm, she’s gonna get mad. I don’t know!”

So they just wanted to create some conflict for the storyline.

Here’s the thing. They’ve got to slate everyone in some storyline. I think overall each of us actually got off lightly, but everyone needs to understand what you saw was loosely taken from parts of who we can be but it’s not really a direct interpretation of who we are. In the producer’s defense they actually didn’t do anything crazy with us, so I’m OK with it.

Did you ever have to re-film certain pieces of conversation that they had missed on camera?

There was one thing where we were all at Dinah Shore and I opened my laptop and got all excited to discover an article covering Mikey’s proposal at Fashion Week and they were like, “Can you do that again?” — they missed my “oh my god” reaction and I was like, “um, not really.” There weren’t any scripted scenes or directed or coerced to act or behave in a certain way. People pretty much did whatever they felt comfortable with. I mean, sometimes they’d ask me to re-enter a room or go right instead of left, because of cameras…. little things like that.

Did they encourage you to have sex on camera in the hotel scene at Dinah Shore?

Well, the producers said something along the lines of “How would you guys be together if you were home alone right now…” Stuff like that. We obviously could do whatever you wanted so I shared what I was comfortable with and I think the other cast members pretty much did as much as they wanted as well… wherever their moral compass dictated.

So, the whole running joke of you being late to everything. What was really going on?

I didn’t sign a contract to be a full cast member because of my work commitment at the time. Mikey and I chose to participate in different ways, so the camera crew was with Mikey, not me. If the camera crew was with me I could’ve created whatever story I wanted to about my work, just as Mikey did. Anybody who knows me is aware that I work a lot but that’s OK. Interpretation is reality. I have a career that I’m very committed to and that actually takes priority in my life – so while it’s a true attribute, it was still shaped by the producers. I thought it was funny, I suppose!

You were pretty phenomenal in the Dinah Shore episode. We all wished you had been seen more throughout the season because you were so hilarious with your observations on the lesbians migrating once a year, etc.

[laughing] I got a huge response from that episode! If you got to sit with me more you’d really get a glimpse of who I am, but that was so fun and how true was it though? Before we went last Spring I was talking with a friend and I was like, “dude why have we never gone to Dinah Shore?” Apparently it’s just like this epically phenomenal calling of one lesbian’s life! [laughing] Like, why have we never gone?!  And he was just like eh, we were too busy creating and being goth or something. [laughing] So yea, it was just never my thing in the past. I’m a little bit more of an intellectual but I’m glad I got to experience that part of me for the show. Actually, this summer I’ve been hanging with Rose [Garcia] a lot and they’re a really good time. I’m glad I had the experience of the show… it was such a great way to look inside and take some inventory and see what was going on in my life. What I liked, what I wanted to keep, what I wanted to change… Just constantly re-evaluating and soul searching. I’m really, truly a 100% different person than I was last year.

What has been the biggest change since last year?

The priorities in my life have shifted. The priority in my life was completely my relationship and I know it wasn’t shaped that way but it was everything to me. Now, I’m like the center of my universe and that has made all the difference in my life and it’s really an amazing thing to be on the path of self-discovery and figure out everything you ever needed or wanted is right here and it’s pretty awesome. So, I would say that that absolutely is the difference and I’m living such a new and different life – like, I have a real life and I have awesome, really good friends, my work has tripled, my relationships are so strong. Lots of travel and epiphanies and I just really feel alive, I really do.

Did the changes stem directly as a result of the show?

Oh, for sure.

From the microscope placed on your relationship?

Yeah, that will do a couple things for your life and it’s just up to you the direction you want to take it in, and I really used it as something powerful and examined my internal life and what I really wanted to do and where I really wanted to go in my life. Everyone on the show has had the opportunity to do whatever they want with what they experienced internally as a result of doing the show.

Are you in touch with Mikey now?

Listen, the girl and I have known each other for eons. If you believe in past lives you can probably imagine that this will keep going probably for a couple other lifetimes. She and I will always love each other and be in each other’s lives in some way. We’re like family. She’s doing great, I’m doing great… it’s good.

Do you think that the show was ultimately responsible for your break up? Meaning, do you think that if you hadn’t done the show that you’d still be together?

I think it put on the pressure the same as anything would when you’re both working a lot and taking a lot. But, I don’t think it’s what caused our break up. Not at all. I think it was inevitable.

Do you think it’s possible to go on a reality show in a relationship and come out with that relationship in tact as it was before?

Absolutely… filming a reality show definitely does a couple of things for you and you can decide to be a money-hungry fame whore or you can decide you want to be a real person. You can be whatever you want and this is your life, you know? So, if you love someone I don’t see why anything would change the way you feel about them. You know, lots of people get a taste of fame and fortune and they want more of it and it’s like this person then becomes consumed with getting that. They become like, “I can get this, I can have more, have my pick of the litter” and I think what they find is that the grass isn’t always greener… you must be happy with what you have already and be grateful for it. Look, I get the allure… In the beginning it’s so attractive and people know your name. Shit, you go to Target and people are like, “oh my god, are you Raquel?!”  It really it changes your life in some way. Everyone who did the show is forever changed, it’s like becoming a vampire [laughing].

Did you feel pressured to accept the proposal because you knew that it was going to be on TV?

I was really shocked! She honestly proposed to me a week before and I accepted. The crew knew she was gonna do it at Fashion Week for the cameras but I had no idea. I was like, “Oh my god, we’re getting engaged again?!” I was really shocked so that’s why my face is like that! That was completely genuine. It was totally cute and adorable and epic and just a great thing.

It did seem like the Season One cast all became really tight after filming except for you and Mikey. You two appeared to be a bit alienated from the rest of the cast.

I personally was just traveling a lot and working a bunch and I know it was the same for Mikey. I love those guys and I’ve known Rose a really long time… almost as long as I’ve known Mikey! Here’s the thing — this is a moment in our life that will last forever. It’s kind of like summer camp and it’s like you’ve got to really value it that way and I really truly do love those girls so much and to be able to share in that experience it was just really fun. While we’re all very different, i’s always more interesting to find the things in common… all of us are more similar than different and my intention was totally to remain friends with everyone but it’s just been a little bit difficult at times.

Are you watching the new season?

Of course! [laughing]

What’s your impression of Season Two?

Well, it’s a totally different show. This is just Whitney’s season and that’s OK, I love her and think she’s amazing. But everything is really different from the way it’s shot, the angles, directions, the cinematography. This is Ilene’s take on The L Word and hopefully she will continue with the show and lots of other cities so people can see living out gay lives in different places.


What’s your take on Ilene Chaiken?

I’ve actually known her for years and I know you guys tease her a lot but honestly until you meet someone and spend time with them, you never really know a person. I can’t really judge her – she’s always been really nice to me. Look, am I gonna scissor her in a parody? Probably not, but I think she’s awesome! [laughing]

She has this whole vendetta against us. Our parody video was recently blocked on YouTube and she had a special request for the Season One cast not to do interviews with us last year.

I believe you! I’m sure she’s probably got the fuckin’ look of death for you guys. I’m sure she’s got it out for you. If this were the mob she’d probably have a hit out for you guys. I mean, the gay mafia. [laughing]

Amazing. Did you ever tell Mikey not to wear the Bump-It?

[starts cracking up]

I mean, you are a hair and make-up artist! Just putting it out there!

Oh, maaaaan! Listen, she loves the Bump-It! People are gonna do what they want… the Bump-It might not be for me, it might not be for you,  but it’s for her and you’ve just got to let her have it. There’s the Bump-It, there’s The Donald… you’ve got to let people have what they want and we all just have to be okay with it. I’m okay with it, we’re okay with it. [laughing]

Why did the producers make her say “Fashion Week” every three sentences?

I don’t think they made her say it, I think she just says “Fashion Week” a lot on her own. I don’t really know [laughing]

Since you are a stylist afterall, what make-up items should every girl have and do you have any tips?

Well, if you lean on the butch side of things you must always have a chapstick with you. I always carry lip gloss, mascara, and at least a bit of concealer in my bag. But people that wear no make-up you can just put on a little bit of mascara and be perfect. You don’t need high end brands, even the drug store – like mascaras from L’Oreal or Cover Girl work well. Every brand has something for you. As far as tips, would say just always follow trends. You want to stay current and relevant and you want the story you’re telling to make sense. So, if the season calls for matte color you stick with matte or if the trend is in for glowier skin go with that. Of course there are no rules you can do and be whoever you want if that’s the story you want to tell… it’s up to you. Just always keep in mind that the world is your audience and you’re painting a story so keep in mind what story you want to tell. So, if your bra strap falls off they might do a parody of you so keep things in mind, people. If you’ve got big hair people might put on a wig and make fun of you. It’s going to be funny so keep it in mind. [laughing]

It’s kind of fascinating how the majority of the girls on The Real L Word are hair and make-up artists.

Isn’t that weird?! Listen, there was a really awkward time for me when felt kind of weird that I’m a hair and makeup artist and a lesbian and actually worried like, “do clients feel comfortable with me?” But seriously, The Real L Word… It could’ve been the hair and makeup show!  It was totally surprising and weird for me because for years I felt very strange about being a hair/make-up artist and being a lesbian. I think it’s really bizarre. Like, I’ve never seen so many hair and makeup artists in one place outside of a fashion show, seriously.

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Jess is a pop culture junkie living in New York City. She enjoys endless debates about The L Word, Howard Stern, new techy gadgets, DVR, exploring the labyrinth of the Lesbian Internet, memoirs, working out, sushi, making lists, artsy things, anything Lady Gaga touches, traveling, puppies, and nyc in the fall. Find her on Twitter @jessxnyc or via email.

Jess has written 267 articles for us.

29 Comments

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    I saw Mikey and Raquel’s casting tape last year and I wondered why wasn’t Raquel on the show more often ’cause she seemed neat. She could have made the show so much better if she appeared in each episode for at least 5 minutes.

    Props to Robin for her acting chops in the parody. ^_^

    Thanks Jess and Raquel!

    (I clicked on the first link, her Facebook fan page, and the link doesn’t work…)

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    I only clicked on this because I thought it’d be discussing Ilene Chaiken’s death, and then I wondered why there wasn’t an open thread about it… Damn misreading stuff!

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    Raquel came off in the series like she had a drinking problem and was annoying as hell.

    This interview she is lucid and normal.

    I am so baffled why people (continue to) put themselves on television like that?

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