Jenna Ortega Reflects on Being a Hispanic Child Actress in Hollywood: 'That Was Really Hard'

"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]," Jenna Ortega said of the challenges she faced as a Hispanic child actress in Hollywood.

Jenna Ortega is looking back to the start of her career.

While the now 21-year-old has become a huge star thanks in part to the success of Netflix’s Wednesday, the road to to fame wasn’t exactly an easy one.

In a new interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Ortega reflects on growing up as a Hispanic child actress, and the obstacles she faced landing roles.

“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,” Ortega, who was born to parents of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, explained.

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She continued, “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].”

Ortega also touched on some of the people she had around her early on in her career — some of whom she said “maybe didn’t always have my best interests.”

“As a kid,” she added, “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 negatively impacted Ortega’s self-esteem, with the young actress telling that outlet that she even wanted to dye her hair blonde at one point to assimilate.

Over time, however, she found herself and her inner confidence, and began to realize what a positive influence she could be on others by just being herself.

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“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 shared.

Ortega also acknowledged the “debate and discourse about what it means to truly be Latina,” telling Harper’s Bazaar that she feels somewhat embarrassed that she doesn’t speak fluent Spanish.

She added, “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.”

Still, Ortega said she’s hopeful her success and presence in the industry can help boost representation for the Hispanic community in both television and film.

“I want all people of Latin descent to be able to see themselves on screen,” the Yes Day actress said. “I want to feel that I could open doors for other people.”

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