Mestiza of the Month: Michelle Rodriguez

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For our inaugural post in April 2016, we will be profiling one of Hollywood’s most famous mestizas: Michelle Rodriguez, known for playing stereotypically badass female characters, made famous primarily by the never-ending Fast and Furious franchise, in which she has starred in 4 films so far (with the eighth film currently filming) as well as on the second season of Lost.

Michelle was one of the first Hollywood actresses who was stereotyped into the ‘tough female badass’ role, and one of the few that can play the part convincingly’ especially in non-superhero contexts where the character does not have any supernatural abilities. Her tough expression (probably just Resting Bitch Face though), ethnic background (non-white actors and actresses can automatically be portrayed as more aggressive due to conscious and unconscious stereotyping on the part of both the film producers and the film audience alike) and athletic physique made her a perfect match when casting directors needed a tough female character; in both the heroine and villain role.

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Born in 1978 in San Antonio, Texas to a Dominican mother and a Puerto Rican father, Michelle grew up with 10 siblings and half-siblings and was partially raised by her devout Jehovah’s Witness grandmother (although she has since abandoned the faith). She also lived in the Dominican Republic with her mother  from the age 8 to 11 followed by Puerto Rico up to the age of 17, before finally settling in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Fun Fact: A DNA test conducted on the television program Find Your Roots revealed that Michelle’s ancestry was 72.4% European, 21.3% African, and 6.3% Native American.

She first broke into the scene in 2000 with the little-known but critically acclaimed film Girlfight, playing a troubled teen who channels her aggression into boxing. No doubt her first starring role influenced the type of roles she was offered up to this day. In a slight departure from the typical woe-is-me victim narrative from actresses who say they are ‘sick of being typecast’, Michelle has gone the opposite way and even copped to her own hand in such typecasting. She says:

“Oh man, I was typecast the minute I did a film called Girlfight years ago. You allow yourself to be typecast. If I decided I didn’t want to be typecast tomorrow, I’d just do an indie film where I play some poor girl who goes through some excruciating experience and win myself an award for crying or being raped. But at the end of the day, I’m not in it for the acting. I only wanna be someone I respect or someone that I consider interesting or fun. I’m here to entertain people and make a statement about female empowerment and strength, and that’s what I’ve done for the last 10 years. I pigeonholed myself and I put myself in that box by saying no to everything else that came on my plate. Saying no to this, no to that, and eventually I just got left with the strong chick that’s always being killed, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

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In October 2013, she also came out as bisexual saying that “I’ve gone both ways. I do as I please. I am too curious to sit here and not try when I can. Men are intriguing. So are chicks.” “I’m getting older. Eventually it’s going to wrinkle up and I’m not going to be able to use it. I wanted to be honest about who I am and see what happens.”

She further says that she hopes her coming out can inspire others to be true to themselves without being judged, noting that “Maybe by me opening my big fat mouth like I usually do and stepping up and owning who I am, maybe it might inspire somebody else to do the same.”[52] She described herself as bisexual in another interview later that month: “Bi, yeah, I fall under the B category of LGBT

True courage.

So from all of us here at TMP, we wish Michelle greater success in both her personal and professional life. You’re an inspiration, Michelle!.