Cristina Perez woke up at 5am this morning, like she does every morning, but she says, “Who cares?” She’s a busy lady with lots to accomplish in her day. She doesn’t see it as a chore, but more like a privilege.
The Colombian-American judge has already won three Emmy Awards for “Cristina’s Court.” Now in her mid-40’s, the first television judge to ever cross over from Spanish to English-language TV is starting a new nationally syndicated court show entitled “Justice For All With Judge Cristina Perez” premiering September 17. Having successfully decided more than 2,000 cases in her career, she says what helped her most was her family’s history and values. She will be sharing her secrets of empowerment in the Student Leadership Summit at Expo Americas in Kansas City on September 15.
“I always tell people that my biggest strength is what people think my biggest weakness is,” says Perez. “When I started practicing law, what was against me was that I was a woman and Latina. For me, that became my greatest asset — my greatest strength. That was what really drove me to really find myself and made me unique. I was able to connect with people because of it.”
Perez says her mother always knew that she would pursue law, because whenever her sister and brother would get into a fight, she’d be the one arbitrating. However, Perez says what ultimately drove her to become an attorney dates back to her youth, her family being recent immigrants to the U.S., and her dad being unjustly judged.
“He came here and didn’t speak the language very well, and became a janitor,” Perez says about her father who is now a doctor. “He was judged by his accent, not by his worth as a human being, not by his life as a professional. But to this day, it didn’t affect him. It propelled him every day.”
She says this is only one of the lessons her parents taught her on how to become an empowered woman. Perez says these are the four most important lessons she aims to pass on to her 9-year-old daughter and other women:
1 – Be resourceful. – Find solutions, but also have the confidence to share it with others. As women, we are problem solvers. Understand that.
2- Have strength of spirit. – It’s something very internal that people have to find within themselves. My mother perhaps is the most empowered woman I know, because of how she makes others feel. She gives them security and makes them feel comfortable.
3- Be dedicated and have passion for what you do. – If you don’t have passion, then it just becomes routine to you. If you have passion, you’ll go to work everyday with a renewed spirit, and that’s what will differentiate you. I think when you have that, it empower others.
4 – Don’t take no for an answer. – Don’t let anybody tell you “You cannot,” because only you can decide that.
Perez says when she addresses the first and second generation immigrant youth at the Student Leadership Summit, she aims to remind them that President Obama passed deferred action because he saw their strength of spirit.
“I’ll talk about how we come from a culture that believes that children are the evidence of who we are going to be,” says Perez. “I’m not going to talk to them about things they don’t know, but things they might be afraid to acknowledge. If they’re not proud, someone needs to remind them of that.”
The lighthearted judge says she considers it an honor to do her job, which basically entails reminding people of what our parents taught us.
“You have to behave, say I’m sorry when you have to, and then there’s forgiveness,” says Perez. “I love my life, because of the struggles my father has been through. The first time I won an Emmy it was for my parents, because I did exactly what they taught me.”