I Developed At A Young Age, But America Ferrera’s Character Was The Only One Who Really Helped Me Channel My Confidence

credit: america-ferrera-fan.tumblr.com/ Araceli Cruz

When we hear “representation matters” today, we often mean that audiences want to see themselves in pop culture. Back in the day, there was hardly any accountability for that. So, when a little film about the Latino experience was released on the big screen, it was as if the movie gods were answering my prayers.

On Oct. 18, 2002, a film directed by Patricia Cardoso was released titled “Real Women Have Curves” and she didn’t mean big boobs-and-a-size-24-waist kind of curves.

She meant real women. Average women who, like many of us, aren’t a size 24. The trailer alone blew me away.

I cherish other Latino films such as “La Bamba,” “Stand and Deliver,” and “Selena.” But these films were biopics about extraordinary people in particular situations. “Real Women Have Curves” featured someone just like me, and parents just like mine.

While the indie film went on to win numerous awards and has been credited for exploring the struggles of so many women — especially Latina women — but there was more than just physical issues that were addressed.

I had never seen a movie in which the lead was a curvy Latina —and not like Sofia Vergara or Jennifer Lopez — but curvy just like me.


No offense to Vergara and Lopez, but seeing America Ferrera dancing in her underwear flaunting it all made me feel so empowered.

“Real Women Have Curves” not only reflected my life and aspirations, but the more I looked at Ana, the more I thought we looked alike.

CREDIT: america-ferrera-fan.tumblr.com/ Araceli Cruz

Crazy, right?

America Ferrera as Ana spoke to me on so many levels. Particularly her body type. At the time I felt so uncomfortable with my curves — mainly my breasts. I developed way too early as a pre-teen and wasn’t ready to deal with all of the confusion and harassment that came along with this. There were so many times I just wanted to hide from the world.

Seeing Ana own her body and be so open with who she was, made me want to be like that too. It took me a few years to catch up to her confidence, but she let me know it was possible.

One of those most hilarious and touching aspects of this movie was Ana’s relationship with her mother.


Ana’s mom was incredibly overbearing and dramatic. She criticized Ana for her looks, for the foods she ate, and generally about the kind of woman she was becoming. Ironically, even though Ana’s mom (played by Lupe Ontiveros) was so outspoken and in-your-face, she clashed a lot with her daughter because she too was outspoken and never compromised who she was.

My mother was (and still is) domineering about so many aspects of my life and everyone else’s.

CREDIT: america-ferrera-fan.tumblr.com/ Araceli Cruz

And she also looks a lot like Ontiveros.

People always tell my mom how much she looks like Lupe Ontiveros — and she hates when people tell her that because she doesn’t want to be compared to a character that is a controlling and, let’s face it, a little nutty. But tbh, she is totally like that, and it’s why I love her so much. It’s my mom’s strong persona that inspires me to be demanding about what I want and need in my life. I have so much respect for women like my mother.

Ana’s supportive and loving dad also reminded me of my dad very much.

CREDIT: america-ferrera-fan.tumblr.com/ Araceli Cruz

It was really amazing to see the dynamic between Ana and her father because I related to that in many ways. Through her close relationship with her dad, Ana came to realize how tirelessly how father worked, and that work ethic that made her strive harder for her dreams. As did I.

The movie also showed what it is like being the youngest in the family with older sisters that didn’t have the same advantages as I did.

Estela resented the fact that Ana had a little more freedom that she did. That’s a struggle that many siblings can relate too. I know I felt that resentment.

Yes, it was easier to be the youngest one. I recognize that I didn’t have to work as hard as they did. I was also the only one in my family to move to another state.

CREDIT: Me and my sisters.

There are many advantages to being the youngest, but biggest is probably the fact that my parents were less strict with me. I traveled a lot more than my sisters and even moved out of state.


The main highlight for me was seeing an adventurous Latina move to New York City to live out her dreams.


Some might not see moving to New York City as a big deal. But when you’re a Latina, with all of your family in California, moving away is a HUGE deal and it’s something I feel years after moved away. It’s very difficult for Latino parents to let their kids go… and they make sure you know it.

Just like Ana was guilt-tripped about going away to college in New York City, I also felt that many times, and mostly by my mother. But we both did it anyway. I have friends that wanted to move away from their family and weren’t able to because their parents prohibited it, so it’s not something that I take for granted.

Seeing a Latina who’s from California and lives in New York City depicted in a film resonated with me for many, many years.

CREDIT: Araceli Cruz

While this film was groundbreaking in so many ways, it’s a story that remains special to me personally. The film really elevates the idea that a Latina can do anything she wants. She doesn’t have to look like a model, or be a singer or an athlete — she can just be a woman who lives out a life that’s all her own.

I wish they could make more movies like “Real Women Have Curves,” but until then I will continue to watch this movie and never forget how much it changed my view of myself at an important point of my life.


READ: It’s Time Movies And TV Show Us That Female Latina Friendships Are As Important As Our Romantic Relationships