She's been called the next big thing, and now, after her Golden Globes win, everyone seems to be talking about Gina Rodriguez.
The star of CW's surprise hit, "Jane the Virgin," about a young, devout woman who discovers that she was accidentally, artificially inseminated, brought many to tears when she accepted her award for best actress in a TV series, musical or comedy.
"The award is so much more than myself," the 30-year-old actress said. "It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes. My father used to tell me to say every morning that today is going to be a great day [and that] I can and I will. Well, Dad, today I can and I did."
With a second season of "Jane" renewed just hours before Rodriguez's Globes win, it's clear this young actress is just getting started.
If you haven't yet discovered Rodriguez, here are five things you need to know about her.
|Her Role Models|
Rodriguez was born in Chicago, the youngest of three daughters of Genaro Rodriguez, a boxing referee, and Magali, who migrated from Puerto Rico. One sister is a lawyer and another is an investment banker. So Rodriguez's father was somewhat dismayed when Rodriguez told him she wanted to be an actor. The turning point came after he saw her play Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in an American Stage production of "Casa Blue," she told Reuters in 2012. "He turned to me and said he was proud," Rodriguez said, her eyes tearing up. "Having him accept what I did, that was my big break. It's so important to me to make my father and mother proud. And I want to do it with integrity and respect." During her speech Sunday night, Rodriguez thanked her family. "Thank you to my mom and my dad for telling me to dream big and to never stop dreaming. To my siblings, to my sisters ... for being the biggest role models in my life," she said.
|Her Big Break|
After graduating from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and working in theater, Rodriguez booked her first guest role on "Law & Order." Then, in 2011 she landed the recurring role of Beverly in the soap opera series "The Bold and the Beautiful." She got her first film role the same year in the musical "Go for It!" and was nominated for an Imagen Award honoring Latinos in the entertainment industry. But it was her starring role as a young Latina rapper struggling to keep her family together after her mom is jailed on drug charges in the 2012 Sundance film "Filly Brown" that not only won her an Imagen Award but served as her big break. Rodriguez learned to rap for the film and even recorded some songs for an album that hasn't yet been released. "It was a beautiful discovery, and it was an art form I had never owned before," Rodriguez told Entertainment Weekly about discovering her music abilities. "I was able to dabble in it and now I feel a little more confident. And hopefully however life turns out, I’ll have more opportunities to do that."
|Her Biggest Struggle|
Rodriguez was diagnosed with thyroid disease in her late teens. "I got thyroid disease when I was 19. I had hypothyroid, underactive thyroid, and it was very hard to deal with my weight," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "It was something I never thought about prior to getting thyroid disease. For a while, I would look at myself and what was on screen and in magazines and say, 'This is never going to be possible because there's no way I can attain that beauty size.' I had to look at myself and overcome the idea that I was limited by what God gave me."
|About Her Own Virginity|
Playing a virgin on TV doesn't mean Rodriguez is open to talking about her own love life. "It's normally the fans and watchers who wanna ask me, 'So, are you a virgin?' And I'm like, 'None of your business!' C'mon! Typecasting! Method acting!" she told E! News on the red carpet Sunday with a laugh. Rodriguez may laugh off the personal questions, but she said her boyfriend, "Revenge" actor Henri Esteve, does not. "Talk to my boyfriend, he's really upset about it," she told E!, before adding, "Just kidding, it's inappropriate. It's all inappropriate!"
|Being a Role Model Herself|
Early in her career, Rodriguez decided she wouldn't play characters that didn't serve as role models for young Latinos. "I didn't see color as a young girl; I used to think that we didn't even exist," she told THR. "And then to see Rita [Moreno] do it [perform], I just realized we needed to make a stronger impact. That set off my course. And I used to say that I was going to be the Latino Meryl Streep one day."
Turning down Lifetime's "Devious Maids," about four Latina maids working in Beverly Hills, and a hip-hop film that she said "portrayed Latinos in a real negative light," Rodriguez said she then read for "Jane the Virgin." "This is supposed to be my journey. Whether this journey lasts one season or 10, I'll take what I can get, because these are the stories that I want to tell," she told THR.