“Jane The Virgin” Star Andrea Navedo Talks New Memoir, Bronx Roots, and Advice for Latinas

Andrea Navedo has been a standout and inspiration for Latinas everywhere since the first time she strutted on stage as Xiomara Villanueva in the CW’s hit show, Jane The Virgin. But her story doesn’t just start there. As Andrea beautifully lays out in her newest venture, a deeply personal memoir titled Our Otherness Is Our Strength: Wisdom from the Boogie Down Bronx, so much of the person she grew into is rooted in her upbringing as a Puerto Rican, navigating her love of acting, and an ever-present sense of otherness. I was fortunate enough to read her book early, and I absolutely adored it. While you can read my review here, in this article I’m going to be exploring everything I learned throughout my conversation with the lovely and effervescent Andrea Navedo. 

Not wanting to miss a beat, we started things off by diving headfirst into her book, where the inspiration came from and how it felt to call herself a published author, “It’s amazing. First of all. It’s amazing that I wrote a book because, you know, growing up, I didn’t feel like I was smart enough…I mean, you have to be smart to write a book. [In] my mind, that’s what you have to be.” In one of the chapters in Navedo’s book, she even details how she hated reading as a child, so much so that she viewed being forced to read as punishment. Coming from that experience to being a published author is quite the accomplishment, “As I got older you know, I had a lot of different life experiences that I felt like I’ve always been able to pull away and kind of observe my life and see things as playing out almost like a movie.” 

The first thing that impressed me about Andrea’s book was the title. Our Otherness Is Our Strength: Wisdom from the Boogie Down Bronx was such a telling and powerful choice. I wanted to find out where the “Otherness” in the title came from, and why she choose to include her hometown of The Bronx in it. “I had gotten invited to give the commencement speech at my high school Alma mater, DeWitt Clinton in the Bronx. Here I was 30 years later coming back to talk to these kids you know sitting in the very same seats I had been sitting in. I tried to imagine what I would have wanted to hear when I was sitting in those seats. And I remember feeling like the other. The other meaning I wasn’t part of the mainstream, I didn’t feel accepted. I felt less than or undervalued because I had grown up in The Bronx, because I was Latina. And I imagine that these kids that I was going to be speaking to felt the same way. And so what I wanted to do was kind of highlight the fact that growing up in The Bronx, as challenging as it was, was something that strengthened me and it fortified me and it gave me a backbone to help me get through a very challenging career. I wanted them to see that what they might think were strikes against them actually could be their superpower.” 

“The Bronx is my foundation.” Andrea Navedo, Instagram

One of my favorite chapters from Andrea’s book is titled “Discover Your Roots”. It tells the story of the time Andrea was 11 and was invited to spend a summer in Puerto Rico. As a fellow Puerto Rican who grew up in the United States, I resonated with the chapter. I wanted to know what that time spent in PR did for her and Andrea was more than willing to share, “When you sit in school and they teach history, they don’t really teach so much about these other cultures that have influenced the American culture. And so I felt like, you know, invisible basically. So, getting the opportunity to go to Puerto Rico was just so eye-opening and invigorating for me and it did give me a sense of belonging. I mean, I’ll be honest. I didn’t feel like I fit 100% because I didn’t speak Spanish and that could have been another chapter. In fact, I think I wrote that, but you know it didn’t end up in the book…It was just so awesome to be exposed to the food and the music and the language and just seeing what a beautiful place it was or is.” 

Andrea shared with me another story that didn’t quite make it in the book, “One of the great experiences I had, which is not in the chapter was we went [to], I think it was Luquillo Beach. Everyone camps out there. They just pitched tents on the beach, and you just stay there. You could stay there for days. And I stayed there. I was in the water most of the time. I didn’t want to get out of the water. I was playing with other kids. I didn’t speak Spanish. They didn’t speak English and somehow we played and we had so much fun. We lived on the beach for like an entire weekend and it was [a] wonderful experience.”

As I sat there, talking to a fully glammed Andrea Navedo, I was struck by just how approachable she was. Even though she looked like a movie star, she spoke to me as if I was an old friend. As if we’d been having conversations for years. This, I learned, had actually been a point of contention at one moment in her life, “There was one person who gave me this advice. It was a publicist that I had hired. We would go to these different events, just make public appearances and stuff. And people would come up to me and I would give them my time. I would be open, I would talk with them. I think I’m accessible. So at one point, he pulled me aside and he said, Andrea, you know, you really have to make yourself less accessible. You can’t be so available to these people. You have to create an air of mystery to make them want more. And I was like,” Andrea pauses jokingly, “Please.” 

I couldn’t help but audibly laugh as she added, “I don’t give a crap, honestly, I don’t give a crap about that stuff. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but that’s just not who I am, and I am not going to change. And I never followed that advice.” When it came to advice though, her new book is chock-full of it, but I wanted to know what advice she would give to specifically young Latinas who were interested in becoming actresses or authors, “I think the most important thing is taking care of yourself and especially those negative voices, right? I talk about the negative voices when I first started acting, and let me tell you something. They have not stopped. They’ve gotten better, and I work on myself. So I would say that you know, it’s important for them to love themselves and to continue to strive to get past [the] negative chatter in their minds. And to study writing or to study acting and to just keep producing work, even as an actor. Like for me, I was in acting class for years and years and years, even after I graduated a theater program.” 

Andrea Navedo as a child, Instagram

I was really surprised by her additional advice specifically to any aspiring actresses out there, “If you want to be an actor, I think you’re going to have to focus on writing your own material and producing your own work as well. [Like] Issa Rae…she couldn’t get an audition. And she went and was like, well, I’m not waiting. I’m going to create my own. And she did. Then look at her now. You know what I mean? Even if no one is knocking on your door, you’ve got to figure out a way to create your own work and keep your mind in the game…It’s so nice to have written a book because I’ve created work for myself and it’s nice to be kind of in the driver’s seat when you’re an actor…I would encourage young aspiring actors to create their own work, writing, directing, producing, and acting.”

And of course, I couldn’t talk to Andrea Navedo without mentioning Jane The Virgin. A show I grew up loving, and watching with my mother in our tiny apartment in New York City. Jane The Virgin was the first time I truly saw myself in a character, in a TV show, and felt represented. Being able to share this with Andrea felt like the privilege it was, and I know getting the role of Xiomara Villanueva felt the same way for her, “It was what I needed when I was growing up. And it still was what I needed as an adult. Having the privilege to play Xiomara, a single mom who’s pursuing an entertainment career, something I can completely relate to. I was raised by my mom and here I am a mom pursuing my dream of being an actress in the entertainment world. How refreshing it was. And it was therapeutic for me to play. And I had so much pride in that. And the fact that my family could see me representing them, it was just like, it just did so much for me. There’s still a little girl inside of me who still needs to be loved and validated and seen and heard, all of those things. That’s what Jane the Virgin did for me.” 

Andrea was 27 years into her acting journey before she booked Jane The Virgin and the path hadn’t always been easy, “So, going through my career and then having been cast as the Latina girlfriend of a gang leader, that really did a number on my psyche. And I struggled with that. But I did persevere.” The role in question, as Linda Sotos in 1995’s Soap Opera One Life To Live, had been a bit of a rough decision for Andrea. As she recounts in her book, though the writers wanted her to play a more stereotyped version of the character, Andrea refused. Playing the character just as she was, and in that way offering a more dynamic take on what could have been a very one-dimensional role. Even still, it took years before the culture in Hollywood advanced enough for a character like Xiomara to come around. 

Like the hard-hitting journalist I am, I had no choice but to ask Andrea Navedo the toughest Jane The Virgin question of all: Team Rafael or Team Michael? Let me tell you, I was stunned by her response, “Oh, easily Team Michael.” Jaw-dropping, awe-shaking, Earth-shattering. How could it be? “Okay, I’m going to get down and dirty now. I hope that’s okay.” I nodded, as of course I would want nothing less, “So like, okay. Rafael is fine. He is hot. He is handsome, he’s gorgeous, he’s all those things. As Xiomara, or you know it even Andrea. If that weren’t her son-in-law, she’d be like, hey” Andrea says suggestively as I absolutely cackle, “You know? And it would be great for like a few times. After that, like, [but] as a mom, I wanted my daughter to have someone who was tried and true and, you know, there through thick and thin, supporting her and all of that. Not some rich playboy who’s off doing what he’s doing.” 

While I, an avid Rafael-stan, understand her perspective, I couldn’t help but defend him, “But he had a heart of gold!” 

The entire cast and crew of Jane The Virgin S5, Instagram

“He did, he did. But I didn’t know that. I wanted Michael for her because he was rock solid.” Without giving too much away, I had to ask if Andrea was then devastated reading the assumed ending of Michael’s character, “Oh my God, all of us as the actors really were down because we love [Brett]. We all started together. There was 7 of us. Did the pilot together, and you know we were all on this wonderful ride called Jane the Virgin Golden Globe nominated Peabody, like all the, you know, the awards. It was incredible. And we were on this journey together and we were a tight-knit group, we were friends. Great chemistry from day one. And so it was like we lost a family member.” 

Talking to Andrea Navedo about Jane The Virgin felt like a dream come true. Andrea herself was the embodiment of everything everyone loved about Xiomara. Magnetizing, kind-hearted, so generous with her time, and always down to share a story or a laugh. Toward the end of our conversation, I asked Andrea what she hopes people get out of her book, “I hope that they see a path for themselves in their dreams. I hope they see a possibility that there is a possibility for them. And I hope that they’re inspired to be the captains of their ship.” 

You can read my review of Andrea Navedo’s Our Otherness Is Our Strength: Wisdom from the Boogie Down Bronx right here

Andrea Navedo’s book is available for preorder right now and officially releases July 18th. For more updates, you can follow Andrea Navedo on Instagram



  • Camila Dejesus

    Magazine & Media Editor, Camila Dejesus has been writing since she was a child and enjoys all forms from creative writing down to narrative analysis. She graduated from Brooklyn College with a bachelor's in Television and Radio Production and works full-time at Latinitas Magazine. In her free time, she loves writing stories, water coloring, or playing songs on her Baritone Ukulele. Now, her greatest passion is finding new topics that will engage and inspire Latinx youth.

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