Barbara Ferrer serves as the director of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Before joining the Zócalo/California Wellness Foundation event, “Can California Lead a New Reproductive Rights Movement?”—put on in partnership with Esperanza Community Housing’s multidisciplinary arts festival South Central Innervisions: An AfroLatinxFuturism— she joined us in the green room to chat about West Side Story, why listening is an essential leadership skill, and finding beauty in the world.
What’s one of your favorite sports?
Soccer. My two children are huge soccer fans—my daughter actually played at NYU. So we’ve been following soccer for a long time. And we have some of the best teams here. And they play at the stadium right up the street. So it’s been really exciting. It’s one of the things I love about being here.
Contentious question: Do you have a favorite player?
I have players I love, but I don’t really have a favorite player. I will say, LAFC is my favorite men’s team, and Angel City is my favorite women’s team. They’re both amazing teams; lots of talent.
Speaking of talent, what is your hidden talent?
I don’t think I have a hidden talent. It’s more that I love being outside, and I’m happy to do things in the water. So I wouldn’t call it a talent—just things I love to do. I love rafting—white-water rafting—kayaking, swimming.
What’s a song you love?
“Three Little Birds.” I’m a huge Bob Marley fan.
What’s a movie that’s touched your life?
Well, I love West Side Story, but that’s just because I grew up in Puerto Rico, and that was like the first movie I ever saw. Growing up, we didn’t really have a lot of movie theaters. We didn’t really go to the movies. I saw it dubbed in Spanish, and everyone was rooting for the Sharks, not the Jets. But I love the remake, actually. I thought that was a lot of fun. In many ways for people who are immigrants in this country, I think there’s a universal message about how hard it is for some of us to be in this country.
If you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be and why?
Maybe corn? It kind of stands up straight when it’s growing. And I feel like it holds its own.
How do you decompress?
Music is the easiest way for me to remember how beautiful the world is. Like sometimes, in the midst of all of this, you know, it’s really important to remember how lucky we are, how blessed we are, how much beauty there is around us.
What’s your best leadership advice?
Always listen to other people. There’s nothing we do by ourselves. Nothing.