Chosen Family

Spiritual Healer Emilia Ortiz Talks HBO Max Pa’lante!’s ‘Are You Listening?’ and Chosen Family

Family isn’t just the group of people we are born into. It also consists of the people we choose to call family. Are You Listening? on HBO Max Pa’Lante! demonstrates just that in their episode on chosen family. In conversation, trans ballroom icon and Legendary judge Leiomy Maldonado and bisexual bruja and healer Emilia Ortiz discuss what chosen family means to them.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Pa’lante! HBOMax (@palantehbomax)

In many cultures, spiritual advisors and healers play an important part of society. Many of the traditions of these roles are passed down from generation to generation and Ortiz represents that transference of knowledge. Being born into this practice, she uses her gifts to support others, including her chosen family. With her platform, she shares her spiritual insights and advocates for better mental health practices and cannabis use. Her profile has steadily increased, as she’s been featured in Paper Magazine, Vogue, Vice, Refinery29, and more sharing guidance, wisdom, and a window into her life to all.  

INTO spoke with the Puerto Rican Brooklyn native about her experience on the show, how her practice supports her chosen family, how rest is also resistance, and what chosen family means to her. 


Your episode of Are You Listening? with Leiomy Maldonado on chosen family is really beautiful. I’d love for you to tell our readers, what does chosen family mean to you?

So, to me, chosen family, I really feel it’s a combination of family that we choose and family that chooses us. And what I mean by that is people who we find in the world, [the] people who really see us, right? And people who are really able to take in who we are completely, not just at surface value, but at our core. We meet them and we choose and we decide. And sometimes it’s people that we meet and they choose us. They let us know that, for example, “I see you as a sister”, or that’s a place that you hold on that person’s life, right? 

I really believe it’s a combo because we exist beyond ourselves. And that’s why it’s important for me personally, in my definition, to see chosen family as something that goes beyond who we choose and is inclusive of those who choose us because sometimes we don’t recognize the role that we’re playing in someone’s life.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by 🧿 Emilia Ortiz 🧿 (@ethereal.1)

In Brooklyn Magazine, you mentioned your interest in hosting a TV show. So, it was really great to see your goal start to shape up. What was it like being able to share space with Leiomy and talking about chosen family from different perspectives?

In some ways, I’d say, a dream come true in ways of manifesting something in the TV realm. And being able to have one of my things like that, as far as, on air and everything and associated with a big company, such as HBO, be with somebody who is just so… I cannot even begin to sing her phrases, but just so wonderful in so many ways and embodies such a representation of chosen family because that is such a big thing in the LGBTQ community. 

I feel like she’s just such a perfect representation of what that can do for our life when we embrace chosen family. And it was just so special because she really is such a force and I felt so blessed to be in a position to interview and sit in conversation with someone who has done so much with their life. But she’s just such an amazing person inside and out. I mean, really, her energy is just off the charts amazing. And I really can’t sum it up other than just feeling truly blessed and thankful that my spirits got me in that room.


Within your practice, you’re a bruja, a healer, mental health advocate, and cannabis advocate. How have you used your practice to support your chosen family?

Well, let me think, because there are a lot of ways. Everything from being able to give advice beyond my own consciousness, being able to support those people in my life with advice from my spirits, being able to support them with facilitating healing work and sessions, having many, many, many remedios up my sleeves, helping them to be able to bring forth manifestations that they did not know they were capable of bringing forth, and being able to be somewhat of a spiritual fairy godmother to so many. Not a madrina. I have not taken on any godchildren, but to kind of play that role as a spiritual fairy godmother to so many, especially my chosen family, has been such a blessing because it’s about helping them to heal, not just to bring forth things. 

Facilitating healing sessions with them has been such an honor because anytime somebody has me be a part of their healing journey, I truly take that as a really honorable thing. And it’s a blessing that people trust me to do that work with them and to support them through that. But I think in an ideal world, family, chosen or not, would play such a big role in all of our healing, right?

Obviously, there are things we have to heal from within our families, but if they were able to also support our healing and play a role in that, that’s truly magical. And being able to do that for my chosen family, because so many have so many wounds from their blood family, has really just been essential in our roles with each other. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by 🧿 Emilia Ortiz 🧿 (@ethereal.1)

What advice would you give to someone who is looking for a chosen family?

That’s such a loaded question, because there’s so many different things that we all need from family. But what I would suggest people look for when looking for chosen family is people who not only make you feel safe, but affirm your safety, affirm who you are, show up for you, and are able to be soothsayers. And it’s important that our chosen family and our people are able to kind of call us on our bullshit, but in a way that makes us feel supported, not attacked, right? More so, calling in people who are capable of calling you in rather than calling you out.

People who, like I said, make you feel safe and affirm your safety, make you feel protected, and just help you to feel seen completely, right? And not just one side of you, but people who are really capable of seeing all of you.


Recognizing that Pride Month is a time of protest, celebration, remembering those who we’ve lost, and of course, healing. How have you acknowledged Pride Month with your chosen family?

This Pride Month, it’s been more of a focus on healing and also rest in the form of healing. So many of my chosen family and I, especially in my chosen family who’s in the LGBTQ community, we have spent so many years fighting in so many different ways, especially my LGBTQ family. From when I was in high school and obviously beyond, we really started very young with resistance. 

I think for us that this was a time where we don’t feel finished with our work, but have recognized that rest can be an act of resistance as well. When we have been conditioned to believe that we cannot ever rest and that can be very healing. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have to step up again. That’s not it at all. But it’s about rest so that we can continue and rest so that it can be sustainable for us, instead of us engaging in things, whether it be behaviors or activities that we use to try to keep that fire going, but aren’t actually helping us to sustain what we need to.

I’ve been more focused on healing. Also understanding that we’re not alone in the fight, so we don’t have to do it all, right? Rest is key to sustainability and being able to continue this long term because it’s not just going to go away and unfortunately there is going to be a new thing. But if we’re not sustaining our energy by taking moments to rest and things like that and moments to heal and decompress and process everything that’s happening, how are we going to be able to move forward?

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by 🧿 Emilia Ortiz 🧿 (@ethereal.1)

Don't forget to share:
Read More in Culture
The Latest on INTO