Why Young Girls Need Shows Like 'Jane The Virgin'

When it premiered in 2014, Jane the Virgin immediately received praise from critics and fans alike. The CW series even won a Peabody Award during its inaugural year for being a "sensitive and thoughtful family drama, one that touches on such subjects as religion, class and immigration reform in deft and intelligent ways." With Season 3 premiering on Oct. 17 at 9 p.m., the series has continued to be successful in large part because of how it seamlessly mixes telenovela-like melodrama with heartfelt, relatable portrayals of Latina women. With these realistic, compassionate, and strong female characters at its center, it should come as no surprise that Andrea Navedo, who plays Xiomara on Jane the Virgin, wishes she had a show like it to watch when she was younger.

"I think it's really created an opening for the public that watches the show and even the powers that be in Hollywood to see that there are stories to be told — that there is more than one story to be told — and that there's an audience that really desires and craves these different perspectives that we really haven't seen that much in Latina women," Navedo tells Bustle of the series' impact.

Navedo can relate directly to this idea of audiences craving diversity on TV since when she was growing up, she didn't have anything resembling The CW series to look up to. "For me as an actress, and a Latina, I am so grateful for all of these characters and I wish that I had had a show like Jane the Virgin when I was growing up," she says. "It would have given me confirmation that I was OK, that I had potential, that I could do a number of things like, choose to be a virgin if I want. Or choose to be more outgoing. Or choose to go for a singing career. Or be a creative person and take risks."

Positive portrayals of minorities were hard to find on TV and in movies when Navedo was child in the U.S., as she recalls, "You know, I hardly ever saw people of color and when I did, a lot of times they were stereotypes. And so I felt like that was all that I was good for — on some subliminal way. I mean, I didn't realize it at the time, but now as an adult, I can look back and see where my head was." If something similar to Jane the Virgin had existed at the time to tell the story of Latina women, Navedo says, "I would have felt like I was included. I would have felt like I existed, that I wasn't invisible, because I did feel that way when I was growing up watching television and film."

Navedo thinks the entertainment industry as a whole should have more female characters that are worth emulating and cites the important work that the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is doing and its mission to create more positive images of females in media. She quotes the organization's phrase, "If she can see it, she can be it" and how Jane the Virgin epitomizes this idea of providing girls with characters who can inspire them to achieve in ways they may have never imagined before.

"To me ... what Jane the Virgin exemplifies, for women in general, but also women of color, [is] if they see themselves on the show through us, then they can believe too that they can get ahead and do other things other than what their current reality is," Navedo says.

Besides the actors on the show who bring these well-rounded characters to life, there's another woman Navedo credits with the success of Jane the Virgin and its impact. "Hats off to Jennie Urman, the creator of the show," Navedo says. "She works her ass off and has no life basically because she wants the quality of the show, and especially the tone of the show ... she wants to maintain all of that at a high level," Navedo says. "I'm so grateful to her."

Hopefully, Urman and the cast's hard work and ensuing success will prove to the entertainment industry that there is a large audience seeking out these feminist, inclusive stories so that no one has to experience that feeling of isolation from the media that Navedo did. "I needed a show like Jane the Virgin when I was growing up," she says, and thankfully, the world has Jane now.

Images: Diana Ragland; Eddy Chen, Mike Yarish/The CW