Exclusive: Cartel Crew’s Nicole Zavala opens up about depression and mental health

Cartel Crew’s Nicole Zavala opens up about depression and mental health. Pic credit: @realnicolezavala/Instagram

There’s nothing Nicole Zavala is holding back this season.

VH1’s popular docuseries, Cartel Crew, takes viewers to the infamous port of Miami and into the daily lives of those who have been directly affected by their family ties to the notorious, billion-dollar drug trade.

Looking to change the narrative, the series chronicles descendants of the cartel who are choosing a life away from the temptation of fast money. This season, the cast also tackles serious issues such as social justice, mental health, and gun reform.

“I love this season because it’s not about even drama at this point, it’s about what real people are going through,” the New York native explained.

From her past relationships to plastic surgery, the 28-year-old Colombian beauty has always been open with her life, but this time around, she gets raw about her struggle with depression. “There’s not one thing I didn’t film or not say on the show.”

“I’m excited to show people that even though I went through my hardest moments alone, you’re gonna see I’m gonna be good, I’m gonna be straight and I’m gonna move forward,” she added.

Nicole recently took some time away from filming and caught up with Monsters & Critics over Zoom to discuss her mental health, breaking negative stigmas, and the brand new season of Cartel Crew.

On being open about mental health

While the last year was bad enough with the global pandemic, Nicole suffered a miscarriage late in her first trimester. This, coupled with the loss of her grandfather two weeks later, took her down a deep spiral of depression.

“I just feel like a lot of people don’t talk about it, ” Zavala explained. “It was a surreal depression, like it was really, really, really bad. It was something that I was dealing with by myself. So, I just wanted to bring, like, awareness and that’s why I’m so open with it on the show. [Because] I know people are going through it, they just don’t talk about it.”

Despite it being a very hard and raw point in her life, it was important for her to break the negative stigmas of mental health. “Depression, mental health, people look at you like, ‘she’s crazy,'” Nicole explained.

“You don’t have to be scared to say that, I need to talk to somebody, that’s not gonna make you look crazy at all. If you’re really going through what I went through, talk to somebody. It’s important to talk to someone. Cuz suicide is real.”

Although being in the spotlight comes with harsh criticism of the world, “The negativity, the comments, I don’t take none of that serious. I really don’t care what people have to say. I really like helping people.”

On feeling more connected to the group this season

If you’ve been watching Cartel Crew since day one, Nicole’s time on the show hasn’t always been smooth. However, three seasons later, she’s been able to form some genuine bonds with the girls.

“With Marie, with Betty, those are like really my girls, even outside of the show. Even throughout the pandemic, this was off-cameras, Marie knew what I was going through, she would call me every day non-stop [asking] are you okay, and sometimes I would ignore it, because It’s like, I have my days I don’t wanna talk to nobody.”

She added, “But now I realize I needed to talk to somebody, I needed to go through what I went through, you know, to realize this is what I needed the whole time.”

As for what she’s most excited to share this season, she simply replied, “How I overcame everything.”

“The season starts off with me going through it and towards the end of the season you’ll see how I am now, I’m good, I feel fresh. I’m not good good, but I’m good,” Nicole explains. “I can say that I can move forward and do what I gotta do and focus. [Viewers] will see that transition throughout the show.”

Check out our full conversation below.

Check out other interviews with What the Flocka’s Tammy Rivera and Growing Up Hip Hop’s Stevie J here.

Cartel Crew airs Monday nights at 9/8c on VH1.

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