Gina Rodriguez Talks Latina Role Models, Mental Illness & Being An Anti-Bullying Advocate

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October is an important month, not just because it is time of year where the holidays officially kick into high gear with Halloween, but because it is also National Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying is such a huge problem in our global society, and the popularity of social media, the internet in general, and the ability to remain powerfully anonymous has given rise to a new kind of harassment: cyber bullying.

Underneath it all lie the same characteristics and attitudes that need to be changed in order to stop this horrible epidemic which, in some extreme cases, ends lives far too soon. So we are all about supporting and promoting campaigns which aim to tear apart negativity and build kindness in the world.

T-shirt design website Customink has teamed up with the Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center to create an awareness campaign called ‘Be Good To Each Other’ which utilizes the power of celebrities. A total of 11 actors, singers and athletes are using their voices to influence their followers to take a stand against bullying. One of those celebrities is actress and Golden Globe Award winner Gina Rodriguez, star of the CW’s ‘Jane The Virgin’.

Gina is a woman who is at the top of her game and has an enviable job, but life wasn’t always easy for her. In fact, being a Latina in Hollywood already puts her at a distinct disadvantage because if you look at the TV landscape today, we are in dire need of more diversity.

In the annual ‘Boxed In’ report from the Center of the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, it was reported that only 12% of clearly identifiable protagonists were female, and women make up 29% of major characters. Within those already abysmally-low numbers, Latina women only accounted for 4% of characters show on screen. Yikes!

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We had a chance to ask Gina Rodriguez about how the bullying culture of Hollywood toward women and minorities has influenced her to become an anti-bullying advocate, especially now that she is in a position to make a change.

Growing up, she says the type of bullying she experienced was seeing women like her being excluded from mainstream entertainment.

“I felt the pressures and limitations of being a Latina women growing up, especially in Hollywood as I never saw Latina women playing positive roles. My two sisters are successful women – one’s a doctor and the other an investment banker but I never saw Latina women portraying these types of roles,” she said.

Once she started her career in the industry, there were definitely certain types of pressures and standards she felt she needed to conform to. But because of a certain health issue, she was essentially forced to accept her body for the way it was.

“I’ve definitely felt the pressure to look a certain way in Hollywood. I was diagnosed with thyroid disease when I was 19 years old, which caused my weight to fluctuate. I struggled with it in the beginning and thought there was no way that I could reach that ideal beauty size,” she admitted.

The entertainment business can be very tough on women, but often the key to combating pressures, as in any industry and part of society, it to support each other so that none of us feel alone in our struggles. Having experienced her own struggles, Gina believes all of us have a responsibility to stand up to bullying, and not just be a bystanders. The stakes are far too high.

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“Bullying has a huge effect on young people and has led to mental health issues, substance abuse, and even suicide. That’s why it’s important to create an ongoing conversation about the topic and making sure that the issue is dealt with year round,” she said.

With Customink & Pacer’s ‘Be Good To Each Other’ campaign, people now have the opportunity to start a conversation with a piece of clothing. Each celebrity has designed their own t-shirt with a message aimed at raising awareness about combating bullying. There are a few options to choose from to be part of the collective effort to combat bullying with kindness. You can custom-design your own shirt using the templates provided by Customink, purchase the official Pacer Unity Day t-shirt to wear on October 21st, or buy one of the t-shirts designed by the group of celebrities.

Gina’s design reads “kindness is always in style”. On October 21st to celebrate Unity Day, the campaign is encouraging those who have purchased a tee to upload an image of themselves using the hashtags #BG2EOsweepstakes and #UnityDay2015 and you automatically go in the running to win some more Customink swag.

How about that, selfies for a good cause! Now that’s something we highly encourage.

Gina Rodriguez may be the star of a hit TV show, but as her story shows, bullying can affect anyone in a number of different ways. It’s not just up to celebrities to carry the burden to stop this epidemic. This is why campaigns such as Be Good To Each Other are important, as they activate everyday members of society to do their part.

Let’s work together to create a bully-free world.

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