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Gina Rodriguez's Poignant Childhood Story Illustrates The Need For Diversity In Film, TV

New York — Gina Rodriguez has never been shy about pointing out the need for more diversity on television, and the “Jane The Virgin” star opened up last week with a story that illustrates how important it is for young people to see characters on screen that they can relate to.

As one of the hosts at P&G’s Orgullosa forum “Nuevas Latina Living Fabulosa” on Wednesday, Rodriguez and her co-hosts, including Entertainment Weekly correspondent Nina Terrero, radio personality Angie Martinez, and “Today” show style expert Lilliana Vazquez, spoke about what it means to be Latina today.

One audience member thanked Rodriguez for being a role model to her daughter, and Rodriguez responded with a personal story about her childhood.

From left to right: Rodriguez, EW correspondent Nina Terrero, Radio Personality Angie Martinez and Style Expert Lilliana Vazquez.

“You know when I was younger — it’s crazy but it’s so true, and I’ll never forget this because my mom reminds me also — I asked her, ‘When were Puerto Ricans born? When did Puerto Ricans come about?’ And she’s like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And I was like, ‘Like when did it happen, was it in like the ’50s?’ And she was like, ‘What are you saying?!’ And I was like, ‘Well because I don’t see us anywhere. I don’t see us on the TV, I don’t see us in the movies I love. When did it happen?!’ And she’s like, ‘We’ve always been around and you will tell those stories one day.’”

“And that’s [why] it is so important for us to have people that we can relate to, that we do know came from our similar background because then we feel like we belong,” the Chicago-born star continued. “And Hollywood is very vital to make sure we are telling those stories, and they’re not different stories than anybody else, we’re all human. We all want the same things. But it’s good to have those faces on screen because then we belong. We have desire, we have drive, we have power, we know our power at a young age. I want to give my children power and let them know they’re not limited by anything — definitely not by the images that we’re given every day.”

This is not the first time that Rodriguez has spoken about the impact that the lack of diversity in film and television had on her childhood. Before the debut of the CW’s “Jane The Virgin” and the star’s Golden Globe win, the actress spoke candidly on the subject at the Television Critics Association last summer.

“I didn’t become an artist to be a millionaire,” she told Buzzfeed. “I didn’t become an actor to wear Louis Vuitton. I have to give this dress back when we’re done. I became an actor to change the way I grew up. The way I grew up, I never saw myself on screen. I have two older sisters. One’s an investment banker. The other one is an doctor, and I never saw us being played as investment bankers. And I realized how limiting that was for me. I would look at the screen and think, ‘Well, there’s no way I can do it, because I’m not there.’ And it’s like as soon as you follow your dreams, you give other people the allowance to follow theirs.”