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.

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