NEW FACES

Keyla Monterroso Mejia Has Been Working for This Moment

by Hannah Jackson

Keyla smiling at the camera
Photo courtesy of Keyla Monterroso Mejia

The actress Keyla Monterroso Mejia cemented her stardom the moment she began gyrating on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Last year, 24-year-old Monterroso Mejia enchanted fans with her portrayal of Maria Sofia Estrada, a wannabe actress whose father blackmails Larry David into giving her the starring role in his new show. To convince Larry she could pass for an aspiring ballerina, Maria Sofia launches into a series of fluid body rolls and haunting moans, her brown doe eyes flickering from innocent to sultry at breakneck speed. “As soon as I started dancing, Larry started laughing,” Monterroso Mejia recalls of the shoot during a recent Zoom interview. “We had to do it a couple times because he just kept laughing so much.”

Monterroso Mejia certainly made a lasting impression in her first major Hollywood role: her performance earned heaps of praise, from cries on social media calling for an Emmy nod to the musician St. Vincent shouting her out in an interview. On top of it all, Monterroso Mejia is ramping up to appear in two upcoming Netflix series: Freeridge, a spinoff of the hit show On My Block, and the comedy limited series, Boo, Bitch.

Corrina, Monterroso Mejia’s character in Boo, Bitch, is the ringleader of the Christian Club. “She believes in purity rings, she believes in Jesus, and she believes in hell,” the actress says. It’s no surprise, then, that she expected her character to adopt a more conservative look to match her values. “I’m not gonna lie, I did think ‘Oh my god, this girl wears turtlenecks and skirts down to her ankles.’ But it wasn't like that.” Instead of Angela on The Office, Corrina leans closer to the likes of Marianne Bryant in Easy A or Quinn Fabray in Glee. “My boobs are a little out,” Monterroso Mejia says.

Working on Boo, Bitch was a boon for Monterroso Mejia, who was preparing to star in Freeridge–both helmed by Lauren Iungerich. “I felt like it really helped me prepare more for Freeridge as far as style, pacing, and the tone of the show,” Monterroso Mejia says when she calls me from set for another interview. “Although they’re different shows, it has a lot of the same team. It was a really good peek into the future.”

This rapid career acceleration is a welcome change of pace for Monterroso Mejia, who left high school in the middle of her junior year to dedicate herself to acting. The 40-mile drive from the Inland Empire to Los Angeles for acting classes proved difficult, so Monterroso Mejia moved in with her aunt. Though she was much closer to the city, she still had a long commute ahead of her early morning class. “I would leave at 4 A.M. and I would get there around 5,” she says. “I would just stay in my car, I’d bring a blanket and a pillow, and I would sleep there.”

After years of struggling to make it in the industry, the actress caught a break when she booked Curb and the Disney short film anthology Launchpad in the same week. Her stint on Curb grew from one episode, to three, to six—but the actress characterizes her expanding role as a double-edged sword. “I had so much self-doubt, so much imposter syndrome,” she says. “I had all these negative thoughts, and I remember bawling my eyes out the night before [filming Curb].”

Monterroso Mejia, who is candid about her struggle with depression, realized that achieving career success isn’t everything. “Something really interesting was, I was achieving all these things, and there were times where I was so fucking sad,” she says. “I thought this would have made me so happy. I thought this would have taken away all my depression, all this sadness.” Maria Sofia served as an avatar for Monterroso Mejia. Suddenly, she was stepping into the skin of somebody endowed with a hubris that she personally lacked, and this hyperbolic character forced her to consider how harshly she treated her younger self. “This is what I would have loved to have been,” she says of Maria Sofia. “I would love to have this confidence to look ugly and stupid and ridiculous, and nothing's gonna matter, because I know I’m beautiful.”

If you ask Monterroso Mejia about her first day filming on the Curb set, she will tell you that she blacked out. “I cannot tell you a thing about that,” she says. However, she maintains that “somebody should have told me to wear a thong because you could see the outline of my underwear. That shit was so embarrassing!”

In the end, it all turned out okay. In fact, it was better than okay. Larry David himself called her after the wrap to thank her for her work on the season. Don’t ask Monterroso Mejia if they keep in touch, though: “I deleted his number because I was afraid to butt dial him.” These days, she’s much more confident. About to wrap her first starring role in a Netflix show, Monterroso Mejia has single-handedly made her wildest dreams come true. And, while her imposter syndrome is fading, she’s already found something new to worry about: “Damn, when am I going to work again?” she muses with a chuckle. “Things are happening but, like—oh my god—will they ever?”