'Orange is the New Black' actress Diane Guerrero talks life, politics and social issues at UConn

PRLACC and SUBOG hosted a heartwarming and candid discussion with Diane Guerrero at Jorgensen Tuesday night. Guerrero is best known for her roles on hit shows "Orange is the New Black" and "Jane the Virgin." (Akshara Thejawsi/The Daily Campus

On Oct. 11 at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, actress and author Diane Guerrero had a conversation with the audience about her pathway to her career, her experience in the industry and her passion for activism. Over 200 students gathered to hear the well-known “Orange is the New Black” and “Jane the Virgin” star.

Guerrero motivated everyone to take a stand on the injustices that affect us today. We cannot continue “sleeping” on the issues that affect our everyday lives. Guerrero’s effective and passionate use of her platform to speak on these issues aims to help people recognize that there are dire issues that we need to plan to change, and that we can never stop fighting.

To start off, Guerrero spoke about her recently released book titled “In the Country We Love.” It touches on her upbringing; her tribulations, her successes, her fight to pursue her passions. She talks about how her experience being a Boston native and living in a Latino community contributed to who she is today.

A major factor that played a part in her life while growing up was her parents’ immigration status. She always noticed that her parents would be afraid to open the door for anyone who knocked. She did not quite understand why until she questioned it at the age of seven, when they told her that they were not citizens of the U.S. and could be discovered, detained and deported at any given time. This struck anxiety in her, embedding fear into her reality.

This tragic possibility did not become a reality until she came home from school during her freshman year of high school to find her home empty.  Her parents had been discovered and were already being deported back to Colombia.

Guerrero was devastated as she realized that she would have to continue living in America without her own parents. This event sparked her self-motivation to work hard and find something that was going to generate the money to allow her a stable life.

During Guerrero’s four years of high school, she struggled to find what exactly it was that she wanted to do. She humorously admitted that she went to an all-girls school because she was boy-crazy. “I thought maybe being around nuns would calm me the hell down,” she said. Without this distraction and the help of therapy sessions along the way, Guerrero was able to find out what she truly wanted to run with-acting.

When asked what her experience was finding opportunities to display her talent was like, she replied, “It’s hard for a woman of color to have doors open for her.” When looking back on her roles in “Orange is the New Black” and “Jane the Virgin,” she credits them for her boldness about her life.

“If it weren’t for these two shows, I don’t think I would have had the courage to share my story.”

Aside from acting, Guerrero is passionate about activism for immigration, empowering the voice of minorities, taking a stand in politics and equal rights for women. She strives to be someone who cares about her community and uses her platform to speak out about important issues that concern her people and the country we live in, not just superficial topics like makeup or fashion.

She encourages others to fight for what they believe in against all odds. She addressed the injustices and flaws in the immigration system, the degradation of women and minorities in society and how important it is to vote if you want to make a change. She also participates in a “Women Can Stop Trump” campaign, which challenges the disrespect that presidential candidate Donald Trump continuously displays toward women.

State Senator Mae Flexer also came to the podium to expand on Guerrero’s thoughts. She spoke about her past financial struggles and how she had to push through difficult times in order to have been able to attend UConn, similar to what Diane had to do once her parents were deported. She emphasized that Diane was correct about the fact that white privilege is a  tragedy of society that prohibits people of color from receiving the same opportunities. She also said minorities have to work twice as hard to make their dreams a reality.

Gabrielle Ferrell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at gabrielle.ferrell@uconn.edu.