From a young age, Arianna Cruz describes not wanting to address her culture because she felt “too different.” Her mom’s family moved to the United States from Mexico, while her dad is originally from the Philippines. As a military brat, she spent most of her childhood in Travis Air Force Base, where both of her parents served.
“I think as a young woman of color who is first-generation, it was hard for me to figure out my relationship with my culture,” says Cruz, director of marketing and outreach for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana. “I grew up in an area that had so many different people of different cultures, then I moved to an area where there was significantly less diversity.”
Cruz relocated to Indiana toward the end of elementary school to be closer to her mom’s family, and she’s remained here ever since. She graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in 2018 with degrees in marketing and international studies, which is also where she started to explore her culture. After college, Cruz started to push herself to think about the “bigger picture.” With experience in the creative community and drive to work in mission-based organizations, she founded MORE, a magazine for people that want more for themselves, the people they love, and for the world we live in.
“MORE was the culmination of my journey as I began pushing myself to think bigger picture about my own goals to positively impact my community and those around me,” Cruz says. “I wanted a way to start conversations, and with the magazine being focused on articles, I found this as a way to share voices and stories with others.”
The acronym MORE stands for Making Opportunities Reachable for Everyone. MORE is packed with articles that inspire and educate its readers and calls them to action. Through the magazine, Cruz is able to create conversations about topics such as conscious living, sustainability, diversity, inclusion, equality, and philanthropy.
We chatted with Cruz and got the 4-1-1 on how she turned her magazine dream into a reality, what success looks like to her, and her favorite places to visit in Indy.
Maven superpower: Connecting. I love connecting with people. In some way, we can get so much just from listening to others. I feel like connection is key to that and it comes really naturally to me.
The eye-opening truth I learned was that when you fill your cup to the point it’s overflowing, you have the ability to fill the cups of others.
How did you take your idea for a magazine and make it a reality?
As they say, it takes a village. The magazine came together because so many people believed in the mission of Making Opportunities Reachable for Everyone, and a lot of the topics resonate with not only the audience but the creators. Every topic that is covered is a topic that matters and deserves to have a space of conversation for it. I think because of that personal buy-in, many of our contributors put their heart in their words, design, photographs, and work. It wasn’t easy by any means, but the biggest propeller was me understanding what I did and did not know how to do.
How do you define success?
Success looks different for everyone, and even more different depending on what part of your life you look into. For me, success is based on the fulfillment of my cup. And my cup isn’t based on money or tangible things that I literally use to fill a cup, but rather my cup of peace. I know now that I cannot fill everyone’s cup. That was a hard truth for me, but as much as I wanted to be everything for everyone, I realized that was not possible or feasible. The eye-opening truth I learned was that when you fill your cup to the point it’s overflowing, you have the ability to fill the cups of others. At the end of the day, you cannot care for others without first caring for yourself.
Where do you hope to see MORE in the future?
The magazine is definitely on a slightly larger scale than what I thought it would be. I had planned on it being pretty Indianapolis-centric, but as I was reaching out and working with people, it quickly grew to be working with people across the country. There are so many different ways of what it can do. I often tell people that the magazine is for people who want more from themselves and more for those around them and more for their community. I want us to be having these conversations that grow you so that you can grow others and thus your community. But I don’t know, to say where it could be, I feel like it could look so different. I want it to be something that is supporting the place that we are and that we’re based in Indianapolis.
Name a woman in your life that has shaped you the most.
The first woman that comes to mind is a teacher I had in school, Mrs. Betty Feay. Truthfully, I do not know what her official title was, but I know our little group of smarties went to her class for whatever the advanced math classes were. She was one of the first adults that I felt looked to connect with me as a person and less as just a student. We had a teacher that I had been close with who passed away when I was really young, and I remember she and I had a real conversation about those feelings of sadness and grief at a time when I had never really had to address those feelings. I think of that connection a lot even now because though I talk to so many people between MORE Magazine and my work with Big Brothers Big Sisters, at the end of the day, I’m having conversations with real people. It’s important to take time to just ask, “How are you?” and really create a space for people to share how they are.
You mentioned that cultural identity is something that’s important to you. Can you expand on that?
I remember not wanting to even address my culture for a long time when I was younger because it just made me feel too different. It wasn’t really until the end of high school, beginning of college, that I really felt the desire to be able to explore my culture. It’s hard to balance exploration of culture when it feels like your culture is tokenized. When I moved to Indianapolis, it was really incredible to join cultural clubs where I was with other people my age, looking to learn more about ourselves and where our families came from. It created a safe space for me to learn tinikling (a Filipino dance) and try making homemade tortillas at home. Even now, I’m still continuing to learn how to cook more traditional meals at home and grow my language use. I think it helps a lot to have a partner who is as encouraging and willing to learn with me.
How do you hope to use this magazine and inspire others?
I curate every issue of MORE with the intention to educate, inspire, and call people to action. I feel like the call to action can look so different to so many depending on where you are in your journey. The call to action can be asking someone a question, it can be taking steps to learn more about the topic an article covered or spending time to reflect on yourself and how different topics might intersect with themselves.
What are some of your favorite places to visit in Indy?
When I think of places that I enjoy going to, I always lean toward places where people have the opportunity to share their stories and channel their creativity. I think of White River State Park for concerts and the Melody Inn off of 38th Street. It’s such a hole-in-the-wall but it’s so cool to see musicians perform there, especially as they’re coming up. I also really love going to Gallery 924 and Long-Sharp Gallery and Newfields.
Samantha Kupiainen is a regular Indy Maven contributor.
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