One to Watch (if You’re not Already): Gina Rodriguez
Since Jane the Virgin first aired in October 2014, actress and activist Gina Rodriguez has rocketed to fame; becoming a household name for everyone with a Netflix account.
She has also starred in ground-breaking films such as Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation, children’s films such as Small Foot, as well as the educational teen animation, Big Mouth. 2018 has been a huge year for Rodriguez, and 2019 is looking even bigger for the star, with the fifth and final season of Jane the Virgin airing in January, and a leading role as Gloria in Miss Bala, also released in January.
So, why is this leading lady so important?
Firstly, her acting career. Gina Rodriguez is an actress who is always careful to choose roles that improve the way that minorities (particularly Latinos) are viewed and portrayed in the industry, rather than roles that exacerbate harmful stereotypes. She has turned down roles before for this reason, such as a part in 2013’s Devious Maids. So, her playing the lead in a show that has flipped Latina stereotypes on their head ~ Jane the Virgin ~ seems extremely fitting, and Jane’s characteristics appear strikingly similar to Rodriguez's. The other shows and films that she works on follow a similar pattern. Big Mouth is an educational and fun cartoon about puberty; Annihilation features five strong female leads paving their way through an alien ‘shimmer,’ and Jane the Virgin itself tackles issues regarding lack of documentation, abortion, motherhood, and religion.
Rodriguez also commits her spare time to activism and boosting Latino representation in the film and television industry. With only 2.7% of top movie roles being played by Latino actors in 2016, it’s clear that Rodriguez's intervention is very much needed. From working with Inspira America to create a song to support Hispanic children's dreams, creating her own line of lingerie which employs single parents and pays them above minimum wage; including hiring Colombian women who are struggling financially, to creating her very own production company that aims to break societal norms – she is doing all of this on top of being an award-winning actress and makes it look easy, too.
I Can and I Will Productions was founded by Rodriguez, and its mission is ‘to create art that tells stories from the unheard and unseen, discover and expose new talent and increase empathy and understanding for all communities. [They] believe that by breaking societal norms on screen, [they] can use art to create tolerance.’ Not only this, but Rodriguez has also created her own foundation, named We Will. The foundation focuses on funding for young people, with the aim of providing scholarships for arts education for those from less fortunate backgrounds.
If the above evidence is not enough to convince you that Gina Rodriguez is an amazing role model, simply check her social media. Every week, Gina posts her #MovementMondays, in which she highlights the inspiring people she has met or worked with in her life, posting their achievements and sharing their profile to her 2.9 million followers. On Twitter, Rita Moreno, a Puerto Rican actress, dancer and singer with a career spanning over 70 years – dedicated an entire video to Rodriguez, proclaiming her admiration of her: ‘watching you, a Latina, navigating our ‘business’ and with such confidence and grace, you go girl’.
These are my sentiments exactly. You go girl.