I grew up under a roof of driven individuals. My mother is an African-American woman, my father is a half Puerto Rican, half African-American man and my stepfather an African-American man. At a very young age I knew that being a young Afro-Latina, there were going to be some uphill climbs for me. My mother noticed the areas in which I excelled as an actress and as a singer. She nurtured and facilitated those dreams as best as she could and put me into art programs from the age of seven all the way up until I was 18 years old. She also prepared me for the obstacles ahead, knowing that as a person who is part of three different minority communities, how much harder I would have to work compared to my white peers. The fight for identity, existence and liberation for myself and others like me would be long and challenging. To this day, it is truly amazing to me how I didn't realize that until I reached my mid-20s, but I was always and still am willing to fight.
When I started reaching the peak of my career as an Afro-Latina, and as a woman of the Trans experience, as much as I felt I was making strides, there were still those three identities that were holding me back from making it into a space I had always dreamed of being. My confidence began to deplete when I started realizing that I was systematically being placed in a box.
It wasn't until my big breakthrough, being cast in Pose, that the pieces of that box began to fall. I realized I was breaking barriers as a leading actress of a hit show telling stories that had never been told before to mainstream audiences.
When being held in a box for so long, after the four sides fall, your eyes are open to all the changes that continually need to be made. Specifically, in the African American and Latinx community.
There's just not enough being done within the Black and Latino communities as far as representation is concerned, behind and in front of the cameras. Diversity has always been pushed in my household so not seeing it fully exhibited and embraced breaks my heart. I do feel like there's a lot of exposure around our identities as people of color, but there's still much that needs to be done.
The Television Academy can show love and support to our experience by opening the door to marginalized groups and letting us have a seat at the table, recognizing the hard work that many diverse groups of people have fought hard for and acknowledging the art and the talent. Our world and the people in it are changing every day and I believe the Academy has the power to change -- and make change as well.
Mj Rodriguez is an actress, currently starring as Blanca Rodriguez on Pose.
The statements and viewpoints expressed in the article above are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions or viewpoints of the Television Academy, the Television Academy Foundation, or their members, officers, directors, employees, or sponsors.