Gina Rodriguez on fighting 'period poverty': 'I have a voice and I'm proud of it'


When Gina Rodriguez was 15, her classmates made fun of her for being flat-chested. The future "Jane the Virgin" actress hadn't yet gotten her period, which made her feel "vulnerable" to being judged and ridiculed by her peers.

Flash forward nearly 20 years, and Rodriguez is speaking out on behalf of young women like herself, partnering with Always in its fight to end "period poverty," which wants to reverse a trend that sees 1 in 5 American girls missing school due to a lack in access to period products.

"It’s not taboo, and it shouldn’t be -- especially in America," Rodriguez told AOL's Gibson Johns about the conversation around periods. "We talk about how progressive we are, but it’s a little setback to hear that stat about 1 in 5 girls. That’s a lot of young people, and it's such a vulnerable time in their lives. I’m fighting for them. I’m fighting for 15-year-old Gina. Like, 'Don’t make fun of the fact that I’m flat-chested. I’ll get my period and then hopefully I’ll have products for it.'"

"It’s normal and it’s our super power," Rodriguez continued. "When a girl has her period, that means she can have a baby. Her power has just come into effect, and it should be celebrated in that way."

In Rodriguez's mind, it's all about reframing that conversation to be positive and something that people don't feel ashamed to talk about. And, if she's the person that has to use her voice to start that new conversation, then so be it.

"This is where I lend my voice. This is where flying in and out of New York in one day and then going back to work the next day has to happen. Because if you don’t do it, who’s going to?" Rodriguez explained. "It’s about the normalization of the conversation and bringing awareness to a conversation that rarely happens in our culture. We talk about a lot of sh-t in our culture, especially now, so if there’s a time and a climate to talk about something that makes people uncomfortable, let’s do it now. I would like to change that culture surrounding it, too."

Since entering the public eye, the Golden Globe-winning actress hasn't been shy about using her platform to help amplify the voices and problems of those without such a platform. But as she told us, it took her some time to be comfortable with that.

"I want to enrich my life and fill it with goodness and service and blessings and positivity," Rodriguez said. "I think that’s the one thing I wish I would’ve told myself when I was younger: Start that now! But, I’m very proud to get to this place where I’m comfortable in this and in me and this feels right. I have a voice and I’m proud of it. I’m not afraid of it. And Always approached me for that voice."

Another reason why the actress is so drawn to Always' mission is that it's also about educating young people. As she explained to AOL, she grew up in a low-income neighborhood in the Chicago area with poor public schools and her parents would drive their kids to private schools so that they could get good educations. Because of her parents' dedication, she's made it her mission to help those that were in similar disadvantaged positions.

"I grew up in the hood, got a good education [and then] got out of the hood. It was like, that’s what you do. And then what you do is you go back and you try to get everyone else out, too," she said. "To think that there are girls that are missing out on opportunities is heartbreaking. You think about the sliding door possibilities, and already the playing field is unfair."

And in a time when, as she said, the conversation around gender equality and power dynamics has never been more at the forefront of culture, this is the time to raise awareness for every kind of inequality, especially one that exists for so many young women and can go to affect the rest of their lives.

"We talk about how to uplift our women and how to get more women in CEO positions and in front and behind the camera," Rodriguez explained. "Well, it definitely starts there. It starts when we’re young. We need feminine products, so that we don’t miss out on class just because we’re not boys."

Join the conversation by posting a throwback photo on Instagram, using the hashtag #EndPeriodPoverty and tagging @Always_brand.