Jenna Ortega Says Being a Hispanic Child Actress Was “Really Hard” Because “I Didn’t Look a Certain Way”

Jenna Ortega is opening up about not conforming to industry beauty standards and how she hopes to inspire other young girls to do the same.

During an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, published online Wednesday, the Scream VI actress recalled the pressure of going on auditions when she was younger while also trying to excel in school.

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“As a child actor, there are two jobs that you can get: you’re either the younger version of someone or you’re playing somebody’s daughter — and there were just not many leading Hispanic actors who I could be that for,” explained Ortega, who was born to parents of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent. “So a lot of the jobs that I was going for growing up would never work out, because I didn’t look [a certain] way. That was really hard, to hear that something you couldn’t change was what was preventing you [from succeeding].”

Earlier in the interview, she remembered some individuals that she had worked with “maybe didn’t always have my best interests,” adding, “As a kid, I was always being told what I should and shouldn’t do — which way I should go, what would be best for me.”

Those experiences and interactions negatively impacted Ortega’s confidence and self-esteem, she said. She even admitted to the magazine that she wanted to dye her hair blond at one point to look like Cinderella.

But, over time, she began to love herself again and realized what a positive influence she could be on others. “I thought, ‘I don’t want other young girls to look up at the screen and feel like they have to change their appearance to be deemed beautiful or worthy,'” the Wednesday star said.

While speaking about her experience in Hollywood, Ortega also acknowledged the “debate and discourse about what it means to truly be Latina.” She feels somewhat embarrassed that she doesn’t speak fluent Spanish, adding, “I wasn’t born in a Spanish-speaking country, I haven’t spent a lot of time in Mexico and I’ve never been to Puerto Rico — so there’s a feeling of not being worthy enough to be a proper representative.”

But, she still hopes she can use her presence in the industry to help increase Hispanic representation in television and film. “I want all people of Latin descent to be able to see themselves on screen,” Ortega said. “I want to feel that I could open doors for other people.”

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