Vanessa Colosio Diaz’s political awakening has been slow but steady. Distantly related to a man who ran for president of Mexico (and was subsequently assassinated), politics intrigued Diaz growing up, but also put her off.

“I really at a young age learned what the sad realities of politics can be … so I think that’s also why I stayed out of politics, subconsciously,” the 33-year-old muses between sips of a mocha at Alana’s Coffee Roasters in Mar Vista — the neighborhood she hopes to soon represent as an At-Large Director on the Mar Vista Community Council.

Then again, she says, “I was always the squeaky wheel amongst my friends to vote and to sign petitions.” There was also something inspiring about knowing that politics, in a way, ran in her blood—that she, “this quote-unquote ‘low-income’ little girl with literally a field-working dad could aspire to something.”

Diaz was born in Sacramento but grew up three miles from the Mexican border on a ranch in the Imperial Valley.

“I remember looking at the San Diego mountains and thinking I needed to be in a city again. So as soon as I turned 17 and graduated from high school, I went to San Diego State and never moved back,” she recalls.

In San Diego, Diaz built up an impressive resume doing PR, social media and marketing for brands such as DC Shoes, MillerCoors and Westfield, as well as various odd jobs for nonprofits and fashion-related operations. Yet a year before #MeToo hit, she experienced sexual harassment while at one organization and felt she had to find a new path forward. She reported the incident the day after the election of President Donald Trump, who’d been accused of sexual misconduct multiple times.

“That was my mini-protest,” she says. “The election helped give me the courage to stand up.”

Diaz moved to Mar Vista with her partner Chris and started Pipeline Pepper, a creative services and consulting agency that she operates out of The Riveter co-working space in Marina del Rey.

“I feel like there was a ceiling in San Diego that you could reach,” she explains, “and I feel like in L.A. there’s no ceiling — it’s just sky.”

Since moving to L.A., Diaz has been focused on ways to help women make their voices heard. She’s been involved with Vote-RunLead, an organization that helps train women to run for office; hosts the networking-discussion forum Pitches, Pumps & Politics on Facebook; and plans to launch a podcast aimed at helping survivors of sexual harassment get their lives back on track.

If elected to the community council, Diaz hopes to show younger people “that you can have a voice, that you can get involved,” she says. “On a national level, there aren’t a lot of things we can do right now, per se, but you can still help at your local level, at your regional level, at your state level — start there.”

— Christina Campodonico

Photo by Courtnay Robbins