photographer / Jena Cumbo
story / Tiffany Diane Tso
stylist / eLeana Kanellou
hair / Gloria Espinoza
make up / Rosa Fortuna
Fresh-faced actress Diane Guerrero is carving out her unique place in the acting community. She recently met President Obama after penning a heart-wrenching article on her family’s deportation for the L.A. Times. Guerrero, who portrays Martiza Ramos, a sassy member of the Latina crew in Orange is the New Black, has been quickly garnering roles in films and television since her breakthrough in 2013.
Now a recurring character in Jane The Virgin, and with films like Emoticon 😉 under her belt, you might be wondering from where this young talent with a gorgeous face emerged. Diane did not take the typical actress career path. In an industry where most talents are ‘discovered’ at a young age or are simply born into the role, she took a route less traveled.
Growing up, Diane attended the Boston Arts Academy and was always involved in the arts. “I was always interested in performance arts. I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to do it, but of course I always felt discouraged,” she recalled. “I didn’t know how that could be a reality for me.”
However, the OITNB actress took a more practical route post-high school. After studying political science and communications in college, she had her sights set on non-profit, possibly working with immigration – a subject that hits home for Diane. Instead, she studied to be a paralegal and began working in a law office.
“I got a little older and kept seeing my friends reach out for their dreams,” Guerrero told us. “I really wanted to be a part of that.” A child of Colombian immigrants, Guerrero came home one day to find out her parents had been deported along with her brother. Diane was only 14. She was throttled into learning how to to pull herself up by the bootstraps and forge ahead solo, but not without the support of her community.
“I had no direction, absolutely none.” In her early 20s, Diane decided to take a basic acting class to see if there was anything in her she could work with and went on to work with one of the three casting houses in Boston. To push herself even further, she began traveling to New York for classes and auditions. She felt like she had a “late start,” deciding to move to NYC to really pursue acting at age 24. Diane found an agent who really believed in her, which brings us to today.
It doesn’t surprise us that Guerrero got her start on the Netflix original series. OITNB casted a number of unknown faces along with seasoned stars. The has garnered mixed reviews for its controversial subject matter, covering subjects from sexuality and transgenderism to drugs and abuse of power. However, one inarguably positive impact the show has made culturally is its three-dimensional characterization of the women portrayed in the penitentiary.
With each character getting their personal dramas and histories illustrated in each episode, we wondered if supporting character Maritza would get her turn at telling her own story. The actress couldn’t provide us with any answers, but Diane has been able to tell her own traumatic tale. Guerrero was given the opportunity to pen an op-ed piece for the L.A. Times about her family’s deportation.
“Not a single person at any level of government took any note of me,” she wrote. “No one checked to see if I had a place to live or food to eat, and at 14, I found myself basically on my own.” Left without the direction of her parents, Diane had every chance of ending up like the character she portrays. However, she was able to create opportunities for herself, rather than waiting for them to be presented to her, and went on to graduate from high school, college and built a career for herself in one of the most cutthroat industries.
While Diane said she relates with Maritza, not coming from a privileged background, she felt like she took the right steps. Hardworking and ambitious, the now 28-year-old actress said she feels like she could survive prison by staying positive and focusing on self-betterment in the isolated environment. “Because I am such an adaptable person. I’m a person who has always dealt with instability and turmoil, and I’ve always had to kind of adjust. I feel like I would find my way and make the situation better.”
Diane Guerrero has indeed turned her own life around. From the challenge of having her family torn from her at a young age, to getting a “late start” in the acting game, she has proven that she is as resilient as she is talented. Besides working regularly in television, Guerrero has just finished filming Peter and John, a period piece in which she plays a Cuban Confederate spy and volunteers with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a nonprofit group for the advancement of immigrants’ rights.
The end isn’t anywhere in sight for Diane, and we are looking forward to watching her pave her own path to stardom.
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