Girl Crush: Why Gina Rodriguez is the role model I want for my daughter
I am a mother.
It is a sentence consisting of merely four words, yet it is charged with a million emotions and bearing a heaviness unlike any I have ever known — the heaviness of worry and joy and responsibility and, of course, love.
More specifically, I am the mother of a daughter. I am Marlow's mother.
And whether you are walking the same path as I am or not, you likely know that raising a little girl today is sometimes a terrifying journey to undertake.
On motherhood and the media
With each passing hour, I see my precocious 3-and-half-year old open her eyes just a bit wider and take in more of the world. Her tastes are evolving at every new turn — what was "awesome" only a moment ago is "for babies, silly" now; what she couldn't live without a year ago now snuggles beneath the bed with the dust bunnies.
And so I wait, with dreaded anticipation for the day her fickle girlish fancies shift from animated royalty like Elsa and Anna to the reigning queens of pop culture headlines like Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian.
I consider with a fearful heart the day my sweet daughter starts to study these stars monopolizing the headlines and, subsequently, turns her scrutiny inward.
Will she, interpreting the messages sent by some of these celebrities and their portrayal in the media, build a tower of self-doubt and insecurity nearly impossible to thaw, much like her favorite Disney princess?
But then, there's Gina Rodriguez.
A few weeks ago, I caught the premiere of a new show called Jane the Virgin and was immediately taken by the strong female roles and the cheeky but clever humor. And then my editor shared with me her interview with Rodriguez, who plays the title character.
Upon watching it, a singular thought echoed in my mind: This is the role model I want for my daughter.
If my Marlow's impressionable young mind is going to be swayed by the words of a celebrity, let it be swayed by the empowering words of this celebrity.
On being a role model
Photo credit: FayesVision/WENN.com
By taking a role like Jane, Rodriguez explained, she strives to convey a simple, yet powerful message to little girls from all walks of life: You are enough.
"I don't understand why in this industry we so often tell another person you're not good enough," she told us. "You're not pretty enough. You're not going to make it. What is it about our culture that wants to put that image out there? That wants to put that motto out there instead of a motto of 'You can, and you will'?"
If she gives little girls a face like theirs, a body like theirs, a heart like theirs to look up to, then maybe she can create a ripple.
"Then there's going to be a little girl out there who's going to be like, 'Please don't speak to me that way. I know who I am. Please do not tell me no, because I will find the door that tells me yes. Understand that when I fall to my knees, I will dust them off, get up and keep walking,'" she said of the effect she hopes for with every role she takes.
Photo credit: FayesVision/WENN.com
Rodriguez also speaks to one of my most central concerns as a mother raising a daughter in a society where many famous young women behave badly and are seemingly rewarded for it.
How do you teach your child accountability when the stars she idolizes lack any real sense of it?
Rodriguez empathizes with such women, pointing out about fame, "I can understand in this industry where you have people that want to do for others get lost, because the demons are so real."
Which is precisely why, she says, "to put yourself in check is a daily reminder."
Accountability is a must. "The beautiful thing is remembering, 'Yes, my shit stinks.' That, at the end of the day, I'm human like anybody else. And that what I say, what I do, makes an imprint. Not because of Jane the Virgin, but because I'm a human being," she shared.
"I've had lots of times in my life on this journey of acting where I've seen amazing highs and then I've seen lows, and what I realized through all of it is the only thing that's constant is my character."
What young girl wouldn't be served well by hearing that popularity is fleeting? As my Marlow retires her My Little Ponies in favor of crushes, I will read these words back to her.
Photo credit: Brian To/WENN.com
And I will hope that, like Rodriguez, she realizes that the things that she is made up of are of far more value than things that garner attention.
I will tell her how, like Rodriguez, she can do anything she wants to do... regardless of what she looks like or was indoctrinated to believe.
"Do not tell me that I am not pretty enough, skinny enough, tall enough, this enough to be on the cover of anything or to accomplish the lead in a show or to be anybody I want to be," said Rodriguez, "because those are limitations we've created."
If you strip away the labels — if you put a sheet over her head, says Rodriguez — none of the little boxes we put each other in matter.
"Somehow you unveil me and we are bombarded by these images that then decide what I look like to you," she said. "I remove those images, and everything is possible for me. Because guess what? We create those images, so we can also change them."
Photo credit: PNP/WENN.com
What's even more refreshing, as a mother, about Rodriguez is that she lives by what she says. She says she wants to be a positive role model for young girls through the characters she chooses, and then she does that.
Much like the easy self-assuredness Rodriguez brought to the set during her interview, Jane embodies "a planted confidence," in that she isn't swayed by power or status.
"I like the idea that Jane doesn't limit herself by the ideas of being something she isn't," Rodriguez said. "She's very much so like, 'This is who I am, and I love myself.'"
It's an idea Rodriguez wishes she herself had been exposed to by the media growing up.
"I think that growing up as a young girl that didn't look like the covers of magazines — that didn't look like the billboards or the ads — I limited my power by looking at those images and thinking that if I wasn't them I wouldn't be powerful, and I wouldn't let me dreams come true," she said. "I wish somebody early on told me that is so false. That you are enough today, and the second you accept yourself is the second everybody else around you does as well."
Photo credit: FayesVision/WENN.com
I can't think of a single women — mother or daughter — who doesn't need to hear that. And, really, therein lies the binding thread of Rodriguez's appeal: Her inspiration is transcendent.
The truth is I don't just want Rodriguez as a role model for my daughter. I want Rodriguez as a role model for me, too.
As I brainstormed ideas for this feature with the SheKnows editors, we all agreed that this humble star is a role model every woman needs... despite any disparities in age, background, beliefs or the like.
The Cyruses and the Kardashians of the world dominated 2014. Let the Gina Rodriguezes of the world be the women who dominate the headlines and steer our trends in 2015.
And, sure, we get that a shift of the pop culture tide like that would take time. But Rodriguez has some words of wisdom about perseverance, too.
"It may take you 10 minutes, it may take you 10 years, it may take you 100. But it will be worth the journey when you reach it and say, 'I got here because of persistence, because of faith, because I can and I will.'"