Friday, February 23, 2024

Started from the bottom, now we here

From small town Chelan to Best Dressed at Oscars


MALIBU - The road to stardom is complex. For some who are born into fame it is easy, while others claw their way to the top from challenging circumstances. 

As was the case for Blanca Blanco - who grew up in Chelan after moving to the Valley at age nine with her parents (Octavio, Margarita) and six siblings. Blanco, now a successful actress that has appeared in over 30 films was named Best Dressed at the 2017 Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, for wearing a dress that she helped design. 

“I am not a designer, but I had an idea of what I wanted to wear so I picked a sketch and picked the fabric and had another designer cut the dress,” Blanco said. “We had three or four fittings to make sure you couldn’t see the body suit underneath.” 

The body suit - which matched Blancos skin color - was so hidden it drew the attention of paparazzi at the event, who perceived that she wasn’t wearing any underwear to one of the biggest nights in Hollywood and caused Blanco and her dress to go viral. 

“A lot of people were calling me, I was in all the top news and apparently an email I received said the dress got the most media from Dior and all the other top designers,” Blanco said. “If you look, you can see the body suit but definitely a lot of people contacted me. The dress got the most attention and they were even comparing it to an actress in La La Land.” 

Of course, things weren’t always as glamorous for Blanco. 

“When we moved to Chelan, my parents were immigrants and my father worked in the fields making $4 an hour for a family of seven,” Blanco explained. “All of my siblings and I, we had to learn English but the school was very supportive with the teachers and social workers. They would help us with coats and gloves or even food for the winter.” 

Blanco first started taking acting classes, singing lessons and organized theatrical performances while going to school and working part time. There she found her passion and started to enlist her two brothers and sisters to reenact scenes from popular films for the families amusement.  

After graduating from Chelan, Blanco attended Washington State University where she earned a Bachelor's degree in Psychology. She then moved onto Eastern Washington University where she received a Master's degree in Social work. After completing her education, she transitioned to Los Angeles to pursue her passion as an actress. 

One of the biggest things Blanco attributes to her success was the Chelan community. 

“We were an example of very poor and everyone did something with their life because of the community,” Blanco insisted. “We were able to feel that we could move forward, and even though it was harder when your father doesn’t work in the winter, the teachers helped a lot. They look at each student with respect, regardless of the circumstances.” 

One teacher in particular was now retired Jean Kulakowski. 

“Jean is a very sweet lady and she helped us make sure we had all of the things (we needed), I loved school for that,” Blanco explained. “We didn’t speak English and used to live in a car garage when we first moved to Chelan with no water or electricity, but Jean and Mrs. Taylor would come to our place and make sure we were taken care of and staying warm. It was tough growing up, but the support of everyone really made a difference. People in Chelan are so naive and really want to help you, here you have to be more careful, but it makes you appreciate growing up in a smaller town.”

Now a celebrity living in Malibu, Blanco has taken what she learned as a kid and her past volunteer work in Chelan and is giving back to the community. 

“I am active in the community and do a lot of charity work,” Blanco said. “I volunteer at a mission and feed the homeless for every holiday, I am an ambassador for Step Up, which promotes education for teenagers and helps them go to college and I run fundraisers for lupus and cancer. Acting is my career, but I don’t see it as a full time job necessarily.” 

When asked about what advice she would give a highschool student in Chelan, Blanco stated, “if you have a goal or passion, keep moving forward. Don’t let your circumstances interfere with your goals and get as much help from your teachers as you can. You control your future, it will be challenging, that is a given, but if you have a passion and you want to reach there, you will get there. No one has ever accomplished anything from not trying.” 


Zach Johnson can be reached at or (509) 682-2213


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