Gina Rodriguez's pitch-perfect acceptance speech was the highlight of last night's Golden Globes. Her win was also a rare and important moment of recognition for Latinas in Hollywood, who continue to be criminally underrepresented year after year.
Rodriguez, who was awarded “Best Actress in a Television Series-Musical or Comedy” for her starring role in the new CW series "Jane the Virgin," acknowledged her win as a positive step in changing Hollywood's profound diversity problem.
“I’m definitely part of the testament that it’s changing. It’s not only something that I see, but something I experience everyday," she said during an emotional Q&A backstage.
Rodriguez's win at the Globes — and the general consensus that the Chicago native of Puerto Rican descent stole the show with her acceptance speech — is an important step in the right direction, but there's still a long way to go.
And that one movie is McFarland, USA, based on the true story of a Latino cross country high school team who is guided to victory by a white man, Coach Jim White (it's almost too easy), played by Kevin Costner.
As Flavorwire points out, Latino stories and monkey stories will get equal representation this year. 2015's only monkey movie, Monkey Kingdom, doesn't feature the token white savior character, though.
Little progress has been made since last year; Cesar Chavez was the only Latino-centric studio film released in 2014.
According to a comprehensive study, Hispanics are "clearly are the most underserved racial/ethnic group by the film industry," despite their considerable spending power. From 2007 to 2014, Latinos represented a dismal 4.9% of speaking characters in American films. That number is even more shocking considering that they purchase 25% of all movie tickets.
The numbers prove that Latina actresses are boxed into one of the above three categories (or some combination of those three — see: J. Lo as hot dancing maid.)
Take actress Lupe Ontiveros, of Mexican descent, who played a maid more than 150 times throughout her acting career. Or Teresa Yenque, who, over the course of seven Law and Order: SVU appearances, has been relegated to the role either of cleaning lady or the relative of a murder victim.
As for the the notorious sexy Latina stereotype: 37.5 percent of Latina actresses are shown partially or fully naked on screen, making them more likely than females from all other ethnicities to be portrayed this way.
Avoiding these kinds of stereotypical roles has been important for Gina Rodriguez. She explained why she took the role as Jane the Virgin during a conversation with Fusion's Alicia Menendez earlier this year:
“Jane is the first, second, generation Latino story,” she told Menendez. “She’s hard working, educated, going to school, trying to do everything that’s in her mind and I want little girls to be able to follow something like that.”
It's easy to be discouraged by the shocking lack of opportunity for Latinas in Hollywood, but Rodriguez has some advice to keep the momentum going.
Her tactic? To never make excuses (however justified they may be) about how her skin or body or accent held her back.
"It’s like cry me a river. Keep trying. Come on." Rodriguez said in an interview.
"Yes, there are 150 doors that are going to slam in your face, but there’s going to be the one with a little crack in it, and you’re going to bust that bitch down."
Alexandra DiPalma is a producer for Fusion Lightworks, Fusion’s In-house Branded Content Agency.