By: Paola Aguilar
As a young Latina woman, it’s rare to ever see yourself accurately represented on-screen. More often than not, Latinas are stuck playing roles as housekeepers or they’re over-sexualized. Not only do these common roles perpetuate false stereotypes but they do very little to represent a diverse culture. As a woman of color, I have found that seeing yourself represented in the media is a rarity. Seeing Latinas on screen are exciting moments and the women filling these roles, are (more often than not) completely inspiring.
Last semester I discovered one of my new favorite TV shows, Jane the Virgin. It’s a television show adapted from a Venezuelan telenovela about a working college student who is accidentally artificially inseminated. The show stars Gina Rodriguez who plays Jane. To be honest, when I first started watching this show I was not expecting to enjoy it. I was pleasantly surprised to find how relatable it is. For once, it was nice to see a Latina playing the role of an average working college student who is an aspiring writer. It was new and empowering to finally see a character I could relate to on television.
Since then I have followed Gina Rodriguez and have been constantly blown away by her career. In 2015, she won the Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy and gave this incredible speech giving thanks to her family and acknowledging the significance the award holds for the Latino community. Even before her Golden Globe win, Gina Rodriguez has publicly spoken out about rejecting roles because of the stereotypes they perpetuated and the intersection of her identity as a Latina growing up in the United States. When asked about her sexuality by a fan via Twitter, she refused to define her personality, saying “I love hearts. Period.”. Even more recently, Gina is now part of Clinique’s Difference Initiative and is advocating for education and the impact it can make in the lives of underprivileged students.
Aside from her many accomplishments and being unapologetically outspoken about social issues, what I appreciate most about Gina Rodriguez is the simple fact that she makes me feel represented by more than just my ethnicity. While there are a few other Latinas in media currently, there are even fewer who represent the average Latina who deals with the intersection of growing up in the U.S. and still being a part of Hispanic culture at home. I appreciate not only the role that Gina plays as Jane Villanueva in Jane the Virgin but how outspoken she is about social justice issues while also being proud of her own culture. Gina advocates for issues that are important to her because of the experiences that she has had in her life. She acknowledges her privilege and uses it to be a voice for the voiceless. I admire her openness in talking about the beauty standards of the television and film industry for women (and especially for Latina women) and her own struggle to work in an industry where external appearance is so significant. She never felt like she looked the way the industry expected her to. Although she may not fit what some think of as beautiful, there is no doubt that Gina Rodriguez is gorgeous.
When our society holds European beauty as the standard, it has been so incredible to see a beautiful and inspiring Latina who I can relate to.
Seeing a woman like Gina in the media is empowering for me. Here is a completely relatable woman who is fighting for education, speaking out against societal issues, and is successful in her career. You can’t be what you can’t see. Seeing a Latina woman advocate for so many issues that are also important to me makes me feel like my dreams can be reality.
I am thankful for women like Gina Rodriguez because she is a great model of what I can aspire to be someday. I have hopes of one day becoming a United States Senator and maybe even President of the United States. I have always wanted to use these political positions as a platform for speaking up about social justice issues and working to make a difference in the lives of those people who are underrepresented in our country. With Gina Rodriguez and the other inspirational Latinas who have come before her and will come after her, I am even more confident in my ability to do anything I want to.
So here’s to you, Gina, the women who have inspired you, and to the women you will forever empower.