Latinas understand that together, everything can be better. There is a collective understanding that when we band together, we are powerful. We can move the proverbial mountain and slay all the metaphorical dragons sent our way. There is power in our collective. America Ferrera is someone who has understood this philosophy. And for that, she has become an advocate for it.

Alongside “Stranger Things” actress Millie Bobby Brown, Ferrera was named Glamour’s Global Woman of the Year. Her work as an actress-activist has put her at the forefront of establishing awareness of issues that affect not just Latinas but women everywhere. For this reason, Glamour recognized her as one of their Global Women of the Year. It is also why they shared her poignant essay about everything that’s led her to where she is today.

Loading the player...

Ferrera admits that she knew at a young age that she wanted to become ‘both an actress and a human rights lawyer’

The “Barbie” actress starts her piece by acknowledging that she knew what she wanted to be as a child. As a five-year-old kindergartener, she told her mother she wanted to be “both an actress and a human rights lawyer.”

“While I already knew what I was passionate about in kindergarten, it wasn’t until many years later—well into my career as an actress—that I truly understood how these two ambitions could go hand in hand: how I could use my platform to amplify the causes I care about and use the power of storytelling to impact people’s lives for the better,” Ferrera explains.

She recalled, “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to fight injustice to incite change in this world.”

Ferrera notes that she grew up experiencing inequality as the youngest of five to a single mother in the San Fernando Valley. The actress cited how she and her family were consistently “moving from one two-bedroom apartment to another” while her mother worked tirelessly to provide for them.

The “Gentefied” producer recalled how she and her siblings lost their meal assistance in the fifth grade at school. It was something she notes as a turning point for her.

“It was isolating and embarrassing to be hungry at school, unable to focus on learning and socializing. Even at that age—and even without the wider context of the world’s inequalities—I understood that it wasn’t because of anything I did or deserved,” she writes.

Ferrera continued, “This experience helped shape my desire to be a part of making people’s lives better, to try to forge a world where families and children didn’t have to work miracles to survive or to live with dignity.”

She almost gave up acting because she thought it was a selfish pursuit, but she had a change of heart thanks to a professor

Because of her desire to understand the world around her, she enrolled at the University of Southern California to earn a degree in international relations. As such, she had to juggle both her acting career and school. 

Ferrera explained that it was something “that squeezed out most of the fun of either experience” and saw her always working. 

“Nevertheless, I pursued both, juggling studying, auditions, and tutoring for gas money,” she added.

But, during her first year at USC, she began to “doubt” if acting was a path she should pursue.

She recalled, “Was I simply being frivolous and driven by my own ego and ambition? I considered quitting acting because I had decided it was a selfish dream and I should instead become a lawyer or a legislator, someone who could actually make a difference.”

Through a conversation with one of her professors, she understood visual storytelling could create change and conversation. The professor told her how his East Los Angeles high school student recommended he watch her film “Real Women Have Curves.”

“He explained to me that my movie was life-changing for this young girl and had allowed her to have a conversation that she had never thought possible. He allowed me to see storytelling as a powerful tool for change,” she affirmed.

Ferrera found her true power in her community and began seeking change in the world around 

The director and producer credits her campaigning for Hilary Clinton in 2008 as something that helped her hone in the power of her voice. Through her advocacy work, Ferrera became more focused on her need to help her community. 

She cites that since she was raised in “a matriarchal home” she understood the power women hold “in a household.”

Ferrera adds, “It is so often the women who carry so much of the responsibility to create access and opportunity. But also, it is the women who are given the least resources to achieve it.”

“So I became very passionate about democracy and elections, and that’s how I got proximate to the issues of environmental racism and access to education, reproductive freedom, and bodily autonomy,” the actress explained.

This mentality led her to participate in things like the Women’s March in Washington D.C., the #MeToo movement, Time’s Up, and the establishment of Poderistas.

Motherhood also added another layer, and she found herself advocating that a parental leave policy be implemented at the Directors Guild of America. Ferrera admits she will keep fighting for what is right for women everywhere.

“My deepest hope is that the future for women looks like genuine safety: physically, emotionally, and mentally,” she begins.

Ferrera asserts, “My commitment is to keep fighting and showing up in a beloved community where women find strength and courage in each other, to continue the work toward the change that we all deserve.”