Gina Rodriguez is partnering with Always to help provide schools with period supplies and raise awareness of “period poverty.” In the process, the newly engaged actress is opening up about her own experience with menstruation, sharing that she once wondered if she would ever “become a woman.”
“I was a super late bloomer,” the Jane the Virgin star tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I didn’t get my period until I was 16 years old, which means I didn’t get boobs.” Her peers were developing at a quicker pace, which left Rodriguez the target of cruel jokes. “I was always told I was flat-chested, called ‘pancake chest.’ The girls would make fun of me because I didn’t have my period yet. The boys would make fun of me because I didn’t have my period.”
While her friends were experiencing major changes, Rodriguez felt out of the loop. “Girls were talking about their periods and I had no idea what they were talking about,” she shares, “I had no idea what it was, and they’re all talking about how they feel certain things and I’m like, ‘I don’t feel anything yet.’”
So what does a kid do when she wants to fit in? She lies. “I think I lied probably a few times. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I get it too.’ I’m sure I totally lied. Like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I bleed too.”
Can you blame her? Rodriguez felt like she “wasn’t a woman.”
The actress impatiently waited for Aunt Flo to arrive. “I looked for it always.” Then, one summer in Puerto Rico, when she was 15, she thought the day had finally come. “I was on a horse and I bled a little bit. And I was like, ‘I got it!’ And my mom was like, ‘No you didn’t. You just bled.’ … It busted my hymen probably. I lost my virginity on a horse,” she recalled laughing. “But I thought it was my period, and I was like the happiest person alive. I’m finally a part of it! Nope, you’re not. Just wait forever, Gina.”
Of course, when she finally did get her period, it was at a completely inconvenient time. “I remember I had gone to school, and they sent me home. I went to a Catholic school and they knew I got my period and they sent me home.” Her mom couldn’t pick her up, so her dad did. “I had to tell my father, ‘Hey, I got my period’ and that I needed things, and he was like, ‘So what do we get you?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know! What do we get me?!”
While the exchange was understandably uncomfortable, her father wasn’t completely clueless. “He was like, ‘It’s fine, your sisters do this, your mother does this. I know.” “This” meaning, menstruate.
Unfortunately, for many young women, that’s not how the conversation goes. According to the Always Confidence & Puberty Survey, nearly one in five American girls has either left school early or missed school entirely because she did not have access to period products. Rodriguez, who credits her education for getting her “out of the hood,” is determined to change that statistic.
“I can’t imagine if we didn’t have period products. If my father was like, ‘Deal, I don’t have anything for you. I don’t have any money to buy you anything.’ That’s atrocious,” she says. “And I grew up poor, and even with the little means that we had, I can’t even fathom not having access to period products. So my heart breaks just instantly for those girls that are lacking access to period products.”
In working with Always, Rodriguez’s goal is to not only make sure girls have access to period supplies (Always is donating 15 million period products to girls in the U.S. this school year) but also normalize the conversation surrounding menstruation. She wants young women to have pride in their period. “Girls should not be like, ‘Ew, it’s gross that you’re bleeding,’” she says. “That’s your superpower. Look at that. You can create life.”
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