Actress Gina Rodriguez speaks on diversity in Hollywood

Hundreds of USC students lined up along Trousdale Parkway, waiting to file into Bovard Auditorium Monday afternoon. The students were excited to hear award-winning actress and activist Gina Rodriguez speak about women in the media, based off of her own experiences working in Hollywood.

This talk was organized by the Latina/o Student Assembly.

Rodriguez, who stars as Jane Villanueva in the television series Jane the Virgin, has advocated for increased diversity in media. During her talk, Rodriguez focused on the need for mainstream media to increase representation of people of color in film, television and print.

Rodriguez began the talk by briefly describing some of the major events and obstacles she had to overcome before landing her role on Jane the Virgin.

During this discussion, Rodriguez highlighted the significance of maintaining an optimistic and determined attitude, despite challenges. Rodriguez stressed the importance of staying focused on pursuing one’s own dreams, regardless of initial rejection or failure. Rodriguez explained that she still reminds herself to take risks and dream big.

“I am standing here, 32 years-old, having a dream of a 15-year-old, and I am not stopping until I make sure she gets all she wants,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez emphasized the idea that people should focus on their own career without worrying or comparing themselves to others.

“Success, failure, your journey, your path is yours and just yours,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez also advocated the need to continue loving and appreciating themselves, despite the internal insecurities people struggle with on a daily basis.

“The world needs all those things: self love, honoring yourself, not comparing or competing with anyone else, helping others and reminding myself that fear only exists between my two ears,” she said.

The talk later transitioned into an in-depth discussion of diversity in Hollywood and its overall effects on the perceptions and attitudes people have on the Latino community.

Based off of her own experiences and Puerto Rican background, Rodriguez described the struggle she had as a child trying to understand her dual identity as a Latina American. She explained that when she was younger she did she did not fully comprehend how or why the color of her skin would cause her to feel like she does not have a place in the movie industry.

“Growing up, I looked in the mirror and I always just saw a girl, a human being that wanted love and wanted her career to happen and wanted to be successful one day,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t see anything different about myself.”

Rodriguez outlined ideas to instigate change. She said that Latino communities need to unify and support each other.

“Every action you make can help push forward the agenda of peace and love and empowering, and understanding the differences between our cultures, but at the same time strength in our unity,” she said. “Let me tell you, I think that’s where our future is.”

Rodriguez later discussed her admiration for the show Jane the Virgin. She said her passion for the series stems from the show’s ability to address controversial issues in a playful way, touching upon themes of sexuality, immigration and feminism.

I wanted to be a part of an art piece that was going to start conversations,” she said. “And that’s what Jane does. It talks about political commentary without judgment.”

The audience’s thrilled applause throughout the entirety of the talk reflected the enthusiasm and energy Rodriguez imparted on her listeners.

“As an aspiring actress, I really felt incredibly inspired by what Gina had to say about never giving up,” said Isabella Dake, a freshman majoring in theater. “It really made me feel empowered to follow my dreams and continue pursuing acting.”