Monday, December 12, 2016

Gina Rodriguez is the Woman I Have Been Waiting For

I was first introduced to Gina Rodriguez, star of Jane the Virgin, when I stumbled upon a clip of her Golden Globes acceptance speech in 2015. Without ever watching the show or knowing much about Rodriguez, her speech captivated me and brought me to tears.
"This award is so much more than myself; it represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes. My father used to tell me to say every morning. 'Today is going to be a great day. I can and I will.' Well. Dad -- today is a great day. I can and I did." 
From then on, Gina Rodriguez became someone I have continuously admired. She has inspired me in many ways as the first famous Latina I identify with. Apart from our strong affirmation to our Hispanic culture, she inspires me because of her focus on the issues she cares about and the person she aspires to be. Gina Rodriguez's Golden Globes speech was just the beginning. 

My growing love for Gina Rodriguez continued with her role in Jane the Virgin. For the first time, I was looking at the TV screen and the woman staring back at me was a reflection of myself. Rodriguez's character, Jane Villanueva, is a strong Latina, granddaughter to immigrants, living in a bilingual household, pursuing higher education, and dreaming to become a successful writer. She was juggling school, work, friends, and family. Then on top of that, dealing with being accidentally artificially inseminated. Gina Rodriguez has been very outspoken about rejecting roles that perpetuated negative Latino stereotypes prior to Jane the Virgin. In an interview with Marie Claire this month, she said,
"I was looking to play a girl who was independent and smart and going after what she loved. A girl who was taking risks and going up against challenges. Just a girl."
Her decision to wait for a role as important and visible as Jane Villanueva is one of the reasons I adore Rodriguez. The Golden Globe was well-deserved for the believability, emotion, and impact Jane Villanueva's character has had on women like me. Her talent goes beyond Jane the Virgin, but this role was an amazing start to the impact she has made and will continue to make in Hollywood. 

Gina Rodriguez uses her platform to her full advantage. She is aware of her impact in Hollywood and how her confidence, voice, and actions can inspire women and men. She is an advocate for education and teamed up with Clinique for their Difference Makers Initiative this year to spread the message of education equals empowerment. She is the co-founder of the lingerie line, Naja, which promotes positive body image, women empowerment, education, and the environment. She is involved in politics and even interviewed Barack Obama a few months ago. She wanted to create an event that would honor young women's accomplishments and partnered with Marie Claire to create the first ever Young Women's Honors this year. She is outspoken about changing the image of Latinos in Hollywood and creating roles that do not perpetuate negative stereotypes. She speaks eloquently in every interview about her identity, her purpose, and her desires. 

In 2015, Gina Rodriguez showed me how important diversity in Hollywood is and how truly inspiring it can be. When I look at Gina Rodriguez, I see myself. A first-generation Latina, motivated by higher education, looking to change the world, with dreams bigger than herself, whose parents often struggled financially but worked hard to put food on the table and give us (my siblings and I) everything we needed. She is a Latina who loves her body, who is confident, who does not speak Spanish perfectly but is unapologetically and perfectly herself. I needed Gina Rodriguez to remind myself that "I can and I will" succeed making my dreams and my family's dreams become a reality.

We need more women like Gina Rodriguez. So thank you for being you, Gina, and setting the bar high to show us it's possible.


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