A New Friend For Life

Interview with Carla Dirlikov Canales

Manumailagi Hunnicutt

Lead With Authenticity

This evening we had the pleasure of interviewing Carla Dirlikov Canales. I was a little nervous before this interview, as there was a miscommunication, and we didn’t know if there was going to be an interview at all. But everything was sorted out, and I ended up having one of the best interactions with another person in my life. She made it so easy to feel comfortable around her, as talking to her felt so natural. 

The most memorable part of the interview was when she answered my question about cultural identity as a mixed woman. In her founder’s statement for the Canales Project, she describes her experience as bi-racial as involving cultural confusion. Her words resonated with me, since I’m half-white and half-Samoan, and all my life I’ve felt like I was too white to engage with or represent Samoan culture. It felt amazing to be able finally to ask her about how that part of her identity has affected her, and she made me feel like it was OK to feel the way I do and that I am not alone in feeling that way. 

Her biggest piece of advice to me was to “lead with authenticity.” She was also extremely kind and open to us, which made our visit feel personal and authentic. I’ll never forget her kindness, generosity, and authenticity.

Chloe Smith

“The Most Important Conversation You Can Have Is With Yourself”

Today we interviewed Carla Dirlikov Canales. Chelsea asked Nash, Mordecai, and me to hold a parking spot for her while she made her way from the White House to our hostel. Once parked, she greeted us with a warm smile and handshakes. After we escorted her inside and she settled into her chair, it became clear that she not only had a genuine interest in our questions but was also genuinely interested in asking us questions. Our visit felt less like an interview and more like a genuine conversation.

The hour we spent together seemed short, as we took turns asking her questions and answering hers. I play music and have a love for singing, so it was very interesting to hear about her multiple careers, especially her career in opera. I asked her how she stays motivated in such a demanding and highly competitive field. She told us that she keeps herself motivated by observing how people work in DC. She explained that in many offices in DC there are medical professionals who look after people so they don’t have to stop working, even if they’re not feeling well. She noted that the people who work the hardest never complain, and that the intensity with which her colleagues work inspires her to work harder herself.

One thing she said that struck me as profound is that the most important conversation you can have is with yourself, and that how you speak to yourself affects how you live. Teenagers are very impressionable, and the way we view ourselves now can shape who we are for the rest of our lives.

Carla is not only a joy to be around, but she is both a very intelligent and kind person. At the end of our visit she gave us her phone number and encouraged us to reach out to her. We all appreciate Carla’s ability to be authentic. – Chloe Smith

Emilia Lord

 Trusting Yourself

Today we met with Carla Dirlikov Canales, an entrepreneur, teacher, singer, actress, and diplomat. Carla was gracious, kind, and authentic. She asked us questions about ourselves: what makes us happy and how we spend our free time. She emphasized that the most important thing that she and other government employees focus on is ensuring the well-being of younger generations, which was evident in the genuine way she spoke to us.

As juniors, we are starting to think about our future careers, which can cause great anxiety. I was relieved when she told us to let go of stress, that it is essential for us to invest time in ourselves and to trust that our careers will come if they are meant to happen. She spoke on the importance of getting to know yourself and understanding the source of self-criticism inside you. Once you understand yourself, you have already overcome the hardest and most important part of growing as a person and working toward achievement. Walking the line between asking for advice and understanding yourself authentically can be incredibly difficult. She spoke on the importance of intuition, and how in times of indecisiveness your own moral compass will lead you in the right direction. She said that the best way to put full faith in what you do is to know that only you can do it: if you want something badly enough, you must put trust in yourself to achieve it. Carla gave us countless pieces of advice, but what I liked most is that she emphasized the importance of accountability, authenticity, confidence, and the power of creativity, regardless of what field you are in. She is a true inspiration. – Emilia Lord