Recently named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People,” Gina Rodriguez is a star on the rise, as well as an amazing role model. Perhaps you recognize her from a recent cover of Women’s Health magazine or from her leading role as Jane in CW’s Jane the Virgin. If you haven’t watched, go stream Season 1 on Netflix right now and then come back to this article. It’s okay, I forgive you. But do it now.With a down-to-earth vibe and a genuinely positive attitude, Gina is a rising star who has become my most recent obsession. In addition to being an award winning actress, Rodriguez is an advocate for body positivity as well as stronger representation of minorities in mass media. And she plays a complex and interesting, yet realistic and relatable character on her show. Both Rodriguez and her character are the refreshing change of pace we need in our media today.
Rodriguez has a career history that spans both the stage and the screen, but her breakout role is certainly her current position as lead character Jane Villanueva on Jane the Virgin. Perhaps it may seem surprising this adapted telenovela is actually quite progressive. In my opinion, this program is one of the most diverse and complex shows I have seen on broadcast network television in recent years.
The cast is refreshing, with females of color taking the leading roles; the white male characters take on more supplementary roles. Characters of different backgrounds and sexualities all play an important role as well. Additionally, the show normalizes and celebrates a non-traditional family structure. Their situation is certainly unique, but they struggle in some ways and thrive in others, just as your typical nuclear family would.
I also applaud the way the show brings up and deals with “taboo” topics such as virginity, the struggles of new motherhood, and postpartum depression. The show inspires more dialogue about these under-discussed issues and handles them in the most mature way I have ever seen on television. Different values are represented and no one is shamed for their decisions. On top of everything, Jane is such a likeable character who doesn’t give up on her dream of being a writer despite the difficult circumstances and challenges life has thrown her way. I could go on, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers.
But back to our leading lady, Gina Rodriguez. In addition to playing an amazing character on television, her charm and appeal in the real world is infectious. The attitude and messages she projects in interviews and on social media are empowering for women of all ages. She promotes a powerful body image in which she encourages women to be their own role models and not live up to some image society has pre-determined for us.
Her attitude about success is inspiring as well. There is no denying she has worked incredibly hard to get to where she is today, and she attributes much of that success to a motto her father instilled in her: “I can and I will.” Rodriguez explains that, to her, this mantra means that, “I’m capable of anything and that the only person who can stop me is me.” She is very aware of the power of the position she holds, but never forgets to appreciate where she came from and how she got here, which is evident in her Golden Globe acceptance speech.
If you don’t trust my judgment, perhaps hearing about Gina by the legendary Rita Moreno (EGOT winner, well-known for her role in West Side Story) will open your eyes. Moreno, in a piece about Rodriguez, writes: “Gina is a young woman who knows her true north and orbits in a galaxy all her own…how fine that, in my lifetime, I’m witnessing such an inspiration for the new generation.”
Be sure to watch Jane the Virgin, Mondays @ 9 on the CW, or on Netflix, Hulu, or CW.com
Be sure to follow Gina on Twitter (@HereIsGina)