Actor Gina Rodriguez on smashing stereotypes
When I watched television and films as a kid, I didn’t see the reflection of my skin, my body type or my culture. Not seeing a positive Latin American perspective limited my view of what was possible for me. At a very young age, I started to think that I wasn’t going to be in the movies or TV shows I loved to watch. That can do something to a young person’s mind when they’re creating their dreams.
My character, Jane, is an opportunity for me to talk about the idea of fighting for what you want and being fearless. It’s eye-opening to see Jane’s relatability to so many different types of women: mothers, single mothers, women who come from a similar background or who have a grandmother in their home who speaks a different language.
Believing that I was going to be a part of a movement, like many women before me, took a lot of fight. Rejection can be so heavy. When I got to college, I was diagnosed with thyroid disease. I saw “leading ladies” in a very specific mould, in terms of what is beautiful, what is romantic. That wasn’t my body type, so I believed I might as well stay in my lane.
Why are we not breaking down these barriers and allowing younger generations to believe anything is possible for them? That you’re not limited because of your skin colour, cultural background, religious background or economic background? Those are all obstacles planted to limit the population from enjoying success, love, laughter, health and a good life. I think education really opened up my eyes to what I was capable of in terms of breaking down those barriers.
I recall asking my mother why I travelled so far to go to school, when all my friends went to the neighbourhood school. She said they wanted to give me opportunity. When I got older, when I decided to go to a better high school outside my Chicago neighbourhood, when I wanted to apply to NYU, I didn’t understand why the kids in my neighbourhood were not doing the same. I had a neighbourhood friend who was a teenage mother, and my new high school friends thought that was insane. I was growing up in two environments: one of them that felt very limited and the other that had much more opportunity. In retrospect, I understand that my grammar school contributed to getting into my high school, and my high school contributed to getting into my college and the university I was accepted into—truthfully, all the universities I was accepted into. Education got me out of the surroundings I believed I was imprisoned by. Books and extracurriculars were limited in giving children that vision; that doesn’t exist in the neighbourhood that I grew up in. I think that’s why television is so powerful. Now, as an artist, I feel a beautiful opportunity and responsibility to open that up for others.
“I saw ‘leading ladies’ in a very specific mould, in terms of what is beautiful, what is romantic. That wasn’t my body type, so I believed I might as well stay in my lane.”
Rodriguez brings her positive energy and sleek style to recent red carpets, from New York to L. A.