At 13 Years Old, Jenna Ortega Wrote An Essay About Being ‘Proud’ Of Her Latinidad
Jenna Ortega is undoubtedly Hollywood’s latest it-girl, catapulted to spine-chilling fame with her new Netflix series “Wednesday.”
Ortega’s role as Wednesday Addams — and those goth dance moves — have put her on everyone’s radar. However, she has actually been acting since childhood. Now, an unearthed essay she wrote at 13 years old about her Latinidad is giving us all the feels.
The California-born celeb began her acting career early on, featured in shows like “CSI: NY” at 10 years old. Her big break was starring in Disney’s “Stuck In The Middle” as Harley Diaz (never forget!). Conversely, others might remember her as young Jane in “Jane the Virgin.”
In short, Jenna Ortega’s name might be on everyone’s lips now, but her career is a decade in the making.
The star’s family history in her own words
Ortega wrote about her Latino family history for POPSUGAR when she was 13, around her “Stuck In The Middle” days. While some people have recently criticized the actress for “not being Latina enough,” the essay shows she’s always been “extremely proud” of her roots.
In 2016, the “X” actress wrote about being “75 percent Mexican and 25 percent Puerto Rican,” describing her family story. She explained, “My greatgrandma on my mother’s side migrated from a small ranch near Sinaloa, Mexico. She came to the United States as an illegal immigrant in hopes to make a better life for her four daughters.”
While Jenna Ortega was criticized for struggling with her Spanish on TikTok, the essay brings to light why that may be. She wrote, “My great-grandma] wanted them to speak perfect English, so that they would not draw attention and be deported, so they went to English speaking schools and were only allowed to speak English to her, so she could learn the language while trying to get her papers.”
Meanwhile, her maternal grandfather was “born in Puerto Rico, moved to New York with his family… then moved to California.”
“Spanish died down” in her father’s side of the family
Ortega described how her father is “100 percent Mexican” but his family moved to California “generations before” his birth. As with many Latinos in the U.S., her father “is not fluent” because “Spanish died down in his family.”
Back to language: she explained, “Since my father does not speak Spanish, trying to teach my siblings and me the language when we were little was a struggle.”
Ortega’s mother planned to teach her children Spanish so they could be bilingual. However, her father could not understand what the mother was saying to them. As she explained, “His constant questioning became too much,” and now they continue to learn Spanish as a family.
Still, the star’s family unit kept Latino traditions, such as piñatas at birthdays, Christmas tamales, tacos, and carne asada.
The most heartwarming part of the essay? Ortega’s early reflections on being a Latina in Hollywood. She said “there are not as many roles out there” for her as a Latina, and that “it was hard” starting out.
The actress continued, “I was constantly shut down because I did not have the look they were going for. You have to keep pushing.”
Ortega said she was “proud” to see “fellow Latinas rising up,” giving a hair-raising Easter egg into her future. “There are not as many Hispanic leading ladies out there as I would like, but I want to help change that in the future.”
And help change that she did.
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