Gina Rodriguez: 'Jane the Virgin' Star Takes Responsibility As Positive Role Model Seriously

Pam WrightLife

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Gina Rodriguez, who is being touted as the breakout star of the fall television season with her new show, Jane the Virgin, takes her responsibility as a positive role model for both the Latino community and young women very seriously.

"For me, I've always known that if this was something I was going to go into with seriousness, then as an artist, I have a responsibility," said Rodriguez in an interview with TV Guide. "We are given the blessing of recognition, obscene financial abundance, free things when lord knows you can afford it, and to not use [my position] to create change, to liberate people, seems like a waste of a gift. So I've never felt pressured.

"But I do stand here for all the young girls, regardless of their skin color, I sit here for all the Latina girls born in America who speak both English and Spanish — or for the girls that don't speak Spanish but are expected to speak Spanish — I stand here for all of those categories I fit into to say, 'If I can do it, you can do it. If I can follow my dreams, you can follow your dreams. If I can do this with respect and integrity and morality you can too.'"

The fame, the money and the responsibility are all very new for the 29-year-old actress, who said she comes from a very humble upbringing.

"I would look up at the screen and I would see very few [actors] that looked like me, very few that had my experience or represented what I saw in the real world," she said. "I have an amazing family, two older sisters — one's an investment banker, one is a doctor — but I never saw that on screen. We came from humble beginnings, we didn't have anything handed to us, so the idea of working hard was a privilege and was something there was pride in, like, I can and I will do this."

Rodriguez credits her mother for the confidence she possesses in empowering young women and Latinas.

"I used to hear my mom say, 'Cream always rises to the top, Gina, be patient, they just need to see you,'" she recalled. "I would be like, 'I'm not pretty enough, I'm not tall enough' and she'd say, 'You're exactly who you're supposed to be; you're enough. Just let people see it.' Now I can talk to more girls and tell them that any skin color, any economic background, any shape they were born into is perfect and right and strong and beautiful and enough because I'm sitting here not the stereotype. The cream rises to the top."

The actress said she can relate to her character, Jane.

"What's beautiful about Jane is that she has chosen the unpopular choice in life," Rodriguez said. "It's very popular to have sex and do drugs and rock 'n' roll, but it's not very popular to say, 'No, not for me. You do it, I'm fine. Nobody has walked that course yet, but I can try.' And that's Jane and that's me."

Pam Wright