During the filming of her new movie, Deepwater Horizon, Gina Rodriguez realized what it would be like to be in a truly life-threatening situation. Portraying a real woman named Andrea Fleytas, who was just 23 at the time of the 2010 oil spill (which the movie is based on), Gina found herself on set in the middle of explosions atop a 90-foot-high oil drilling rig. "I felt the heat on my neck. I felt the singe on my eyelashes," recalls Gina. "I don't know how she did it. Andrea is brave and brilliant."
The same can be said of the 32-year-old Chicago native, who, since 2014, has been capturing hearts (plus a Golden Globe award) as TV's Jane the Virgin. Offscreen, Gina is brave, busting through barriers. In the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite outcry, she started her #MovementMondays campaign to champion the work of people of color in the arts. She's writing a book, I Can and I Will, to empower young people of all races, based on words of wisdom her dad taught her. She's also a partner with Naja lingerie and their Nude For All line, built on the idea that there is more than one "nude." The actress is brilliant, too, because she does things like lend her Golden Globes dress to a fan to wear to prom (which she might do again, in what is being referred to on social media as the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Gina Golden Globes Dress"). But it's safe to say that the refreshingly outspoken star—who makes you feel like her new best friend after one conversation—is so much more than that. Gina is just getting started.
Gina's wearing: Rita Vinieris skirt; rivini.com for locations.
I read you did a lot of boxing to get in shape for this role.
I obviously like to box, and I grew up in a boxing family, but I didn't know [director] Peter [Berg] was so into boxing. I ended up boxing every day. I got so strong that summer, it was unreal. Mark [Wahlberg] would come when he could. Peter and I would box each other in the ring. I adore him. He's cracked me across the face, and I've cracked him across the face. It's really not as painful as you would think. We don't break that easily.
You're wrapping up another action-packed movie, Annihilation. More stunts?
I have some pretty big stunts. I mean, I'm not stupid. I wanna live, but I'm like, 'I'm gonna Tom Cruise this. I wanna do my own stunts.' There are things I can't do, but if I can do it, I'm gonna try. I've always been that girl.
Is Annihilation the reason you cut your hair?
Do you love it?
You know what's so crazy? I was going to write for [Lena Dunham's] Lenny Letter about the transition of cutting my hair, and how five years ago, should I have cut my hair, nobody would've had any opinion or said anything to me on Instagram or Facebook or whatever. But being on a bigger platform like Jane means I got mixed reviews that really had me second-guessing my beauty.
Was there vitriol spat at you?
Yeah! I got some girls who were like, 'Nooo! Why???' Or like, 'It's so ugly! You don't look pretty anymore!' And I'm thinking, 'It's not your hair. It's my hair.' For me, it was so liberating to cut it and transform for a movie. Otherwise I would've kept my hair long until I was like, my mom's age because I love my long hair. But it's my security blanket. What I realized is that I rediscovered my beauty, and it does not live in my hair. It doesn't live in makeup and it doesn't live in clothes and it doesn't live in my weight. And I realized that health exists in mental strength and loving yourself. It's been awesome to rediscover part of myself where I don't have to rely on anything but my character, my heart, my mind, and my intelligence, which are what make me beautiful.
You seem very thoughtful about the message you want to put out there.
When you're blessed to live out your dreams, there is a responsibility to share your path and also excite and enlighten others. We do not live in this world alone. It disheartens me when I see artists take that for granted because I'm like, 'You've been given this platform for power, but where does your power lie? What kind of change can you create while you're given this little fraction of time on earth?' And I fail, oh my God. I trip. I make mistakes. I'm nowhere near 100 percent self-acceptance. But the only reason Jane exists is because of the people who watch it. I didn't do this by myself. So my gift to them is to be open. We're all human. We all have challenges, obstacles, illusions, and fears that stop us from living that better version of ourselves.
What were you like back in high school?
I looked like a little boy. I didn't get my period until I was 16. I went to school with all the wealthy kids, and I was on financial aid, and they all seemed to grow up a lot quicker than I did. So it was difficult. These kids had Mercedes at 16. It was surreal to think, 'Why isn't this my life?' But it made me work harder because I wanted it, too, and I knew I was gonna be able to get it: 'Oh, this is not my life, but it will be one day.'
Your Instagram features #MovementMondays, where you highlight the work of other Latino artists. Why is that important to you?
Putting out good energy really makes a difference.
What other advice would you give?
You've talked about having Hashimoto's disease, the most common cause of underactive thyroid. What helps you handle it?
If I can at least walk for 30 minutes a day, it's extremely helpful for my thyroid gland. Running, boxing, jump rope, and hitting the heavy bag are my workout constants. It's always been a battle for me with weight. Keeping weight off is very difficult because my metabolism is pretty much shot, which to me felt like a curse when I was 19. As an actress, I was like, 'Seriously?! In a world that's so vain, I have to deal with the disease that makes you not keep weight off?' But it actually became a blessing because then I got to represent not only women and Latinas but also women who are dealing with this disease. I'm gluten-free, which is the most difficult thing in the world because, like Oprah, I love bread! [Laughs] I definitely eat gluten-free bread every day.
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How do you avoid snacking while on set?
It's mind over matter because they put out doughnuts every morning, and they smell divine. I have to look at gluten like, 'Yeah, I want to eat that. Of course I do, but it doesn't make me feel good. And I want to feel good.'
And what helps you keep your energy up?
On set, I like to do videos of me dancing. And I'll do squats. I'll drop a squat any day of the week, even midscene.
When do you feel sexiest?
When I'm making people laugh, I feel like a little sex goddess. I feel sexy when I look at myself in the mirror and that voice shuts up, so I can see every part of me and love it. It's so interesting how we'll avoid mirrors. But it should be like, 'No, man, this is you, and this is exactly the way it should be.'
Gina gets juicy...
My can't-live-without beauty product... Tom Ford anything.
I would love... Jenna Ortega to star in the movie of my life (as she gets older).
My celebrity crush is... Tom Hardy. Delicious.
The last live concert I saw was... Radiohead, with my cast of Annihilation. Thank you, Natalie Portman, for the tickets. It was insane!
My favorite drink is... Baileys on ice. I know—I'm a grandma.
I'm terrified of... Allowing fear to prevent me from trying. Oh, and the dentist.
The best red carpet style-setter is... Kerry Washington. So elegant.
My go-to indulgences... Dates. I love dates!
My favorite jeans are... The ones that fit my body best during whatever time of life my body fits in them!
The weirdest thing I ever ate was... Cricket in Thailand. Not really trying to do that again. Wait! And fish eyes. My dad used to say they were good luck, or he still does, but I stopped believing—so no more fish eyes for me.
My favorite place in the world... Wherever my family is. Or Puerto Rico.
Styling by Karen Shapiro. Hair by Paul Norton for Joico. Makeup by Genevieve for Lancome/Sally Harlor. Nails by Kylie Kwok for Dior Vernis.