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Ashley Soto

Ashley Soto-2020-04-11 at 3.05.43 PM

Ashley Soto, a Providence resident, has exhibited impressive perseverance and kindness during the coronavirus pandemic through her various outreach efforts as a singer, medical interpreter, and current Miss Rhode Island titleholder. I spoke to her via Zoom on April 11, and we discussed how she is dealing with this extraordinary moment.

Ashley is a medical interpreter and her job has placed her on the front lines of the coronavirus progression into Rhode Island. Despite the widespread panic, she continued to provide essential interpretation services, which are even more necessary during a public health emergency, until she determined it was no longer safe to visit hospitals in person.

This decision was based upon her mom’s safety. Ashley’s mother, who was born in Mexico, suffers from an autoimmune disorder, and the coronavirus posed a severe threat to her health. As a result, Ashley took leave from her job and says that she has been quarantining at home for several weeks with her mother. Due to the heightened dangers that immunocompromised people face, Ashley is constantly disinfecting the house and even under normal circumstances, is careful to thoroughly decontaminate shoes, clothes, and her car after returning from the hospital.

“My brother and I disinfect all grocery bags and plastic wrapping before we enter the house,” she explained. They are on constant alert for potential sources of contamination.

Despite all of these precautions, Ashley has come face-to-face with the pandemic at home. Her father, who was raised in Guatemala, was diagnosed with the virus and was hospitalized for several days. Thankfully, he was just released and is now recovering at home, but it was a scary experience for Ashley and her family. According to Ashley, she and her father are “just like twins,” and the entire process of his diagnosis and illness was almost surreal. She adds that it is one thing to read about a public health crisis in the news, thinking “it’s not going to touch me,” and another entirely to watch helplessly while a loved one gets sick with the virus.

But, she hasn’t let fear or panic overtake her, and has been working on several projects to help keep others safe and healthy. Ashley uses her platform as Miss Rhode Island in the Nation of States beauty pageant to post grocery discounts on social media, as well as on the outside of her house. “I want to protect her friends and followers on social media,” she tells me. She doesn’t only strive to lessen her neighbors’ financial strain, but has continued to advocate for performing artists’ safety. As an experienced singer, Ashley knows firsthand the potential pitfalls of performance and the dangers that can arise through this work. She has also continued advocating for survivors of domestic abuse in the Providence area, after seeing how it has impacted her community. She wants to make sure that people are able to feel safe in their homes and with their partners.

Ashley maintains a sense of optimism that is enviable in these circumstances. She can’t wait to return to the stage and sing; her voice lit up when she told me that she’s actually recording her first song in a home studio right now! It was a pleasure to talk to her, and inspiring to hear about how she is supporting her community, even in the midst of a quarantine.

Original interview conducted in Spanish


Interview and translation by Sophie Buchheit
Brown University, Class of 2023


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