What You Never Knew About Gina Rodriguez

Growing up in a basement apartment in Chicago, Gina Rodriguez probably never imagined that one day she'd been on stage at the Golden Globes accepting an award for Best Actress. That honor was bestowed on the brunette beauty for playing the strong female lead — who gets artificially inseminated by accident and becomes pregnant, all while still a virgin — in the aptly named series "Jane the Virgin." As the titular character, a single mom with a heart of gold who's in the middle of a steamy love triangle, Rodriguez, who has Puerto Rican roots, shattered glass ceilings for Latinx actors everywhere.


Although she's admitted to being very similar to Jane, the talented starlet has gone on to challenge herself in her celebrated career. She's shined on screen in the sci-fi thriller "Annihilation," where she shaved half of her head and lifted weights to transform for the part (per EW) and signed on to voice the lead of Netflix's "Carmen Sandiego."

When she's not on set, Rodriguez spends her time running a company and a nonprofit, and unwinding at the $2.4 million-dollar Los Angeles home she shares with her husband, actor Joe LoCicero and their fur babies. Although fans of the actress may think they know all there is to learn about Rodriguez, there are some interesting facts to discover about the accomplished star.


She grew up in these humble living conditions

Gina Rodriguez is the youngest of three daughters born to Puerto Rican parents (per Latina). The family lived in a basement apartment where the sisters wrapped themselves in sheets when they went to bed at night in order to keep rodents away, according to Time. While the trio slept, their father, Gino Rodriguez, would whisper, "I can and I will." 


Their patriarch's mantra paid off because the women all went on to have their own success stories. Gina's oldest sister, Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon, earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and became a partner in a private credit and equity fund (via LinkedIn). And middle sister Rebecca Rodriguez is a medical director (via LinkedIn). "We lived the idea of the American Dream," Gina told Time. 

On the night she won a Golden Globe in 2015, Gina not only took the fam to the ceremony, but to the InStyle afterparty, where the actress proudly posed with her newly acquired statue for a photo with Gabrielle Union. During the star-studded affair, her sisters apparently spent their time looking to snap a selfie with Channing Tatum (per Los Angeles Times), and can you really blame them?


Gina Rodriguez went to NYU's Tisch School of the Arts

Gina Rodriguez worked hard to get to where she is today and credits her education at the prestigious New York University's Tisch School of the Arts for her success (via Build). Fellow alumni of the program include Miles Teller and Elizabeth Olsen. At the 2018 Women's March, the college grad proudly held up a sign that said, "I'm the educated Latina you've been warned about."


Although her parents did not go to college, they valued education and made it a priority for their children (via Latina). As a result, Gina's oldest sister, Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon, was the first in the family to attend college (per Teen Vogue). In fact, it was Simon who helped her younger sister pay for NYU (per GMA). 

It turns out, however, that her tuition was not paid in full and it took her a while to pay it off. She graduated in 2006, but it wasn't until 2016 when she finally finished paying off her debt. "I would never change it for the world, but yes, it took me way too long," she revealed on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert." Coincidentally, she made this payment on the same day she got nominated for her second Golden Globe!


She had a wardrobe malfunction the year she landed Jane the Virgin

Although Gina Rodriguez was "a struggling actor for 10 years" (via Build), in 2014, things changed for the starlet with the premiere of "Jane the Virgin." She told Backstage that playing the titular character was the job she "was praying for." 


As for the casting process, the show's creator, Jennie Snyder Urman, told The TV Addict that Rodriguez was the third actress to audition, and she "knew automatically" that she had found her Jane when the then-budding actress read for the part. 

Although Rodriguez landed the role, it wasn't all smooth sailing for the series' star in those early days. In fact, she recalled an embarrassing moment that happened during pilot season, aka the time when sample episodes are made for a brand new TV series. "I ripped my pencil skirt down the back in the audition, no panties," she revealed to Us Weekly.

Her Golden Globes speech went down in history

Gina Rodriguez played the strong and sensitive Jane Gloriana Villanueva — who, on a typical day, balanced being a single mom, navigating a love triangle, spending time with her abuela, and writing a romance novel — so perfectly that she won a Golden Globe for her impassioned work. In 2015, she took home the statue for Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy, beating out notables names like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Edie Falco, Lena Dunham, and Taylor Schilling (via People). (She was also nominated again in 2016 and 2017, but lost out to Rachel Bloom and Tracee Ellis Ross, respectively.)


The gifted actress was praised for her speech at the ceremony, which made headlines for its inspirational message. Besides thanking her parents for telling her to "never stop dreaming" and her sisters for being her "biggest role models," she went on to explain the significance of her win. "This award is so much more than myself," she said. "It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes."

She met her husband on the set of Jane the Virgin

Besides helping to catapult her career, "Jane the Virgin" also assisted Gina Rodriguez in her personal life. That's because it was on that set that she met her husband, Joe LoCicero. As fate would have it, in 2016, the actor guest-starred on the series, playing a stripper who, because of a mix-up, showed up at her class instead of her bachelorette party (per Vulture). Besides catching the eye of his future bride, LoCicero must have charmed production as well, because he went on to star in four more episodes of the show as various characters. 


In an interview with AP News, Rodriguez gushed about her partner-in-crime, saying, "I did always pray that I would meet a really cool partner ... that I was going to have somebody that was going to uplift me and support me ... and I found it in Joe, and I found it on the set of 'Jane.'"

Two years after that initial meet cute, Rodriguez confirmed she was engaged with an Instagram photo of herself donning a sparkler. And as she planned her real-life nuptials, her character Jane's wedding, which took place on the show's series finale, was also being arranged. As life imitated art for the actress, she had to make one major promise to her then-fiance. "My husband made me promise that I wouldn't waste all my tears for Jane's wedding," she told Access Hollywood


Her Jane the Virgin co-star gave a blessing at her wedding

Besides meeting her husband through the series, Gina Rodriguez also found a lifelong friend because of "Jane the Virgin." On the show, which was inspired by telenovelas, Jane had an on-and-off relationship with Rafael — a handsome hotel owner whose sperm was the one she was accidentally inseminated with — who was played by Justin Baldoni. During the casting process for Raf, they tested "so many" actors, but when he arrived, Rodriguez called it "magic." They are so connected that when the actress spoke about first meeting him, she couldn't even finish the story without getting emotional.


So when Rodriguez was tying the knot, she wanted her "soul brother" and on-screen husband (their characters marry in the series finale) to stand beside her and her real-life hubby. In an interview with Hola! magazine, Baldoni clarified that he didn't actually officiate the wedding, but was asked to give a marriage blessing. "I was really humbled that they asked me ... Gina and I are very close as we have a lot of similarities in views of the world," he said.

America Ferrera inspired her to become an actress

Gina Rodriguez has said that she didn't see many actors who looked like her on television while growing up. "It really made me feel a certain way about myself, about beauty, what I could and could not be," she told The Washington Post. And when it came to pursuing her dreams of becoming an actress, there was one starlet's performance who made such a big impression on her that it changed the course of her life. 


When Vogue asked Rodriguez when she knew she wanted to become an actor, she said, "When I saw America Ferrera in 'Real Women Have Curves.'" In the 2002 film, Ferrera played a first generation Mexican-American teenager who breaks away from societal standards and familial pressure to get married and work in the family business in order to go away to college (via EW).

And now that Rodriguez has made it in the industry, she is, oddly, confused with the actress. In fact, in 2015, the Golden Globes' official Twitter account tagged her instead of Ferrera, who was on stage at the time (via NBC News). "It's fun to be able to say, 'Nope, sorry, not her!' and I keep walking," Ferrera, who also won a Best Actress Golden Globe for playing a TV series' titular star, told EW. It seems like the duo's embraced their similarities, evidenced by this video in which they united to support female politician Jacky Rosen. 


Gina Rodriguez turned down a role in Devious Maids

Although she wanted to make a name for herself in Hollywood, Gina Rodriguez didn't want to just accept any role that came her way. In fact, when she was offered a leading role in "Devious Maids" — a comedy-drama about Latina housemaids working for affluent families in Beverly Hills — she turned it down, citing that it didn't align with what she wanted her journey as an actress to look like (via Backstage). As she explained to The Sydney Morning Herald, she didn't want to give into a stereotype. "And I wasn't going to let my introduction to the world be one of a story that I think has been told many times," she said. "I wanted it to be a story that was going to liberate young girls and say, we're there too, we're the doctors, the teachers, the writer, the lawyers, and I can do that too."


As they say, the best things in life are worth waiting for. And it's a good thing she held out for a part that spoke to her purpose as an actor, because if she had done "Devious Maids," she would have never found "Jane the Virgin," which premiered a year later!

She was a professional salsa dancer for 10 years

Way before she was dazzling on screen, Gina Rodriguez was cutting up the dance floor. She began dancing salsa professionally when she was just 7 years old and continued for 10 years. Speaking about her early days in the Windy City, she told the Chicago Tribune, "I danced in Humboldt Park, and danced in every Puerto Rican parade." The actress was later able to use her dance skills on "Jane the Virgin." In fact, "Dancing with the Stars" dancer Derek Hough once guest-starred on the show and posted a clip of himself salsa dancing with the actress, who, he said, was "killin' it" on set (via Facebook).


She also showcased her talent for a good cause on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," where she gave the show's producer a salsa lesson, which raised $10,000 for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico. Another talk show host Rodriguez impressed with her hip shaking was James Corden. In an interview on his talk show, she spoke about the possibility of one day releasing a music album, which would include "lots of video" to display her skills.

The actress started her own production company

In addition to all of her leading movie and TV roles, Gina Rodriguez spends time behind the camera as well. The A-Lister launched I Can and I Will Productions — its name paying homage to her dad's nightly mantra (via Time) — "dedicated to creating artistic content for underrepresented voices."


The projects she's spearheaded with the production company include ones she herself has starred in, such as the rom-com "Someone Great." I Can and I Will is also behind "Carmen Sandiego," which Rodriguez felt connected to because she was a huge fan of the '90s series on which it's based, which starred an idol of hers, Rita Moreno (via EW). 

In 2020, the actress-turned-producer was at the helm of "Diary of a Future President," a comedy-drama centered around a Cuban American middle schooler who aspires to be president. Rodriguez, who played the titular character in flashforwards, also directed and executive produced the series, which ran for two seasons on Disney+. "I always had the goal to create content that would help change the landscape of our culture," she told Access. "I always had the desire and the draw towards the next generation, and for me, it's important to create art for them."


Gina Rodriguez gives back to those less fortunate

In addition to her production company, Gina Rodriguez also launched a nonprofit. The charitable organization is called the We Will foundation, and its mission is to give arts education and scholarship money to, in particular, young women who are less fortunate (per Variety). For this work, she was honored with the Young Humanitarian Award at the 2016 Unite4:Humanity gala (via Just Jared).


The actress and activist also joined the feminine care brand Always in its #EndPeriodPoverty campaign. The company partnered with Feeding America to provide personal care products to help young women who experience period poverty (via GMA). In an op-ed she wrote for Teen Vogue, Rodriguez explained why it's so important for girls to have access to the proper products during their menstrual cycle. "Nearly one in five U.S. girls have left school early, or missed entirely, because they don't have access to the products they need to manage their periods," she said. She stated, "I want to help make sure that fewer girls miss important time in class."

Her dad is a famous boxing referee

As for her athletic side, Gina Rodriguez started boxing at a young age. The reason for her early foray into the pastime was because her father, Genaro "Gino" Rodriguez, was a famous boxing official. One of the highlights of his career was when he refereed a fight for Manny Pacquiao in 2014. As a result of her father's profession, Gina saw her first fight at the age of 3 and was taught the art in her youth. "I grew up boxing," she told Jimmy Fallon. She noted, "I didn't realize how cool it was until I got older and guys were like, 'Oh, you're into boxing?'" 


As an adult, she continues to box, and has even sparred with her husband, Joe LoCicero. Her unique talent also came in handy when a director made advances towards her and she defended herself by punching him in the jaw (via Vogue)! She's so devoted to the sport that she's even directing a film about it based on the life of Mexican-American boxer Ryan Garcia. The actress will also produce and co-write the movie, as well as star in it. "His bravery has inspired me, and I am honored to have his trust to direct this film and guide his first foray into the arts," she said (via Hello!).

Gina Rodriguez was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease

At 26, Gina Rodriguez was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, which is a chronic autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland. It's treatable, but has no cure, and its symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, and memory issues. In the beginning stages of her diagnosis, she attempted to ignore it, and did things like not taking her medicine on time, eating foods that she knew were not going to make her feel good, and avoiding exercise. Then, she realized she needed to change her coping mechanisms. "[Hashimoto's] affects so many aspects of your life," she told Self magazine. "I've had it for so many years ... that rebellion of not taking care of myself can't exist anymore."


One of the lifestyle changes she made was to start exercising for her health, rather than just to lose weight. In 2017, she trained in the art of Muay Thai, aka Thai boxing, when she went to Thailand with her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Joe LoCicero, for a month. "Doing Muay Thai taught me so much about my body," she explained to Shape. "Now I view it as an engine that keeps me active and healthy."