My mother grew up in a generation that believed thin was everything; you were either skinny, or trying to get that way. As a child, I watched her go on diet after diet, struggling with standards that, as a Latina woman, were totally unrealistic. Seeing my mother struggle with her weight confused me: I looked at her and thought she was beautiful, she was my mum. And this woman, who I looked up to every day, couldn’t see her own beauty? I watched her become so fixated and stuck on being a certain jean size, on being thin and not too curvy, that she was always waiting to be skinny, waiting to fit into that dress, waiting to be happy.
And that's what really struck me: I didn’t want to wait.
It wasn't until I started going to acting classes and getting involved in my community through the arts that I really found myself and my voice: the voice that would tell me that if you can dream it, you can achieve it. I studied acting, dance, and singing, and those skills and talents fulfilled me and lit a fire in me. Eventually, I followed this voice to California at the age of 18 to become an actress.
It was in Hollywood that I understood you don’t become an actress real quick. I was repeatedly told by different casting agents and directors: 'Oh, if you just lost 10-15 pounds, you’d be perfect for this part.' Too tall, too short, too curvy, too sassy. If I had tried to fit their moulds, we’d all still be waiting. I just couldn’t believe that my craft, my brain, and my tenacity were being overlooked because of my size.
But I’m not one to let someone else change me. Hollywood would have to wait while I set my sights on something else. As a creative at heart, my next path was in makeup and beauty, and that was where I was discovered as a model. One day, a photographer asked me if I'd ever modelled before and if she could take my photos. There I was thinking, 'This woman is crazy.' I couldn’t see it. I kept thinking 'I’m too short; I’m too curvy,' but I ended up agreeing to the project, and the rest is history. It only took one voice, one woman, to change my path. And the more I shine, the more I can help others shine too.
Now, I am a mother myself. Nowhere have I felt so much awesome responsibility than when teaching my daughter that there is no wrong way to be herself — to be a young woman, whatever her size. I know how early these ideas are instilled in each new generation, and it’s my job to be that voice; to tell her that she is beautiful and that she can achieve whatever she sets her mind to.
It’s been a long time coming but my mum has finally embraced her beautiful body, too. While I definitely think my career and my successes have played a part in that, I’m even happier to think this change has come because people all over the world are finally speaking up about body positivity. It helped her. It helps all women. And we need to keep talking and encouraging women to feel like they can be themselves — inside and out.