Reality TV stars like Kim Kardashian and her family have turned their shows into cash machines that generate millions of dollars each year. Nene Leakes of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" is on her way to turning her 15 minutes of fame into a fortune.
Now Bronx bombshell Erica Mena is striving to do the same. The beautiful video vixen from the Grand Concourse is on track to be the breakout star of VH1's "Love and Hip Hop New York." She's a triple threat: modeling, acting and singing.
I caught up with her at Sofrito restaurant in Midtown Manhattan.
Mena may appear to be an overnight sensation, but she's a 10-year veteran of the entertainment industry, having appeared in music videos with artists like Chris Brown. Now she has a song on iTunes and a book that will be released in April called "Underneath It All."
"Not many girls make it out of the Bronx and can say I have a portfolio, I've done a Tommy Hilfiger campaign. I've done a reality show," she says.
She makes no apologies for being as ready to throw a punch as she is to strike a pose.
"I do live my life and I only have one life to live, and it's just unfortunate that a lot of my tests in life come in the form of different battles that I do have to fight, and I'm ready for war," she says.
But she does feel misunderstood. And says she has a sensitive side. Erica started to tear up recalling her deepest pain. She says her readiness to fight comes from having escaped an abusive relationship with her son's father that started when she was just a teenager.
"What made me wake up more than anything was my 2-year-old hearing me drop pans in the kitchen, and just learning to walk, came running toward me with his hands up and all he could say was ""no! No! Daddy's going to hit you," she says.
Erica says she left and never looked back, but ran into him much later. That fight was captured on video.
"In the moment of me finally fighting back, I got my life back," Erica says. "I didn't have to fear anymore."
She knows people like to see her fight and doesn't care. Erica says as long as people are talking about her, it's all good.
Erica says that she hopes to continue in her reality show and move forward with her singing career and continue to make the most of every opportunity.
"My career will always be important to me but at the end of the day, this industry, none of this lasts," Erica says.