Entertainment

This Is The Most Profound — And Unexpected — Speech About Cultural Identity You’ll Read Today

You will fall in love with Gina Rodriguez, star of The CW’s Jane the Virgin, after reading her powerful and impromptu speech. “The way I grew up, I never saw myself on screen.”

Jane the Virgin is not The CW’s typical show — there are no demons, no vampires, and no forces of darkness — so it’s incredibly fitting that star Gina Rodriguez is not interested in being your typical Hollywood actress.

A fact that became quickly clear as Rodriguez, who was born in Chicago and is of Puerto Rican descent, promoted the family comedy — about a twentysomething who is accidentally inseminated — at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills on July 18.

In the first question posed to her at the panel, Rodriguez was asked why she chose Jane the Virgin over Lifetime’s Devious Maids, another show she was in consideration for, as her first major Hollywood role.

Her answer, published in full below, not only offers a thoughtful deconstruction of how Hollywood represents Latinas, but proves why Rodriguez is exactly the kind of star every network — and culture — needs more of.

I wouldn’t say that I chose Jane over Devious Maids. When I was presented with Devious Maids after Sundance, after I did a film at Sundance and I had an ABC holding deal, I found it limiting that that was the one that was available to me. I found it limiting for the stories that Latinos have. For the stories that Americans have, I feel like there’s a perception that people have about Latinos in America specifically — somebody growing up in Chicago, English being my first language, Spanish being my second — that we are perceived a very certain way.

Our stories have been told, and they’re not unmoralistic, you know, being a maid is fantastic. You know, I have many family members that have fed many of their families on doing that job, but there are other stories that need to be told. And I think that the media is a venue and an avenue to educate and teach our next generation. And, sadly, right now the perception they have of Latinos in America are very specific to maid, landscape, pregnant teen. Mind you, I am playing pregnant but not a teen.

I didn’t become an artist to be a millionaire. I didn’t become an actor to wear Louis Vuitton. I have to give this dress back when we’re done. I became an actor to change the way I grew up. The way I grew up, I never saw myself on screen. I have two older sisters. One’s an investment banker. The other one is an doctor, and I never saw us being played as investment bankers. And I realized how limiting that was for me. I would look at the screen and think, ‘Well, there’s no way I can do it, because I’m not there.’ And it’s like as soon as you follow your dreams, you give other people the allowance to follow theirs.

And for me, to look on younger girls and to say, ‘Well, Gina’s like me, maybe not necessarily the same skin color, maybe not necessarily the same background, but like that’s me. I’m not alone. I can do it too.’ So every role that I’ve chosen has been ones that I think are going to push forward the idea of my culture, of women, of beauty, my idea of liberating young girls, of feeling that they have to look at a specific beauty type. And I wasn’t going to let my introduction to the world be one of a story that I think has been told many times.

I wanted it to be a story that was going to liberate young girls and say, ‘Wow, there we are too, and we’re the doctors, and we’re the teachers, and we’re the writers, and we’re the lawyers, and I can do that too. And I don’t have to be a perfect size zero. I can be a perfect size me.’ And that’s what I live. So Jane, I waited for her patiently. And now she’s here. And thank you for being here with us. Because this is a dream come true to me.

Jane the Virgin premieres October 13 on The CW.

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