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EXCLUSIVE: OITNB's Jessica Pimentel Talks Discrimination in Hollywood

Erm, we did not know she was also in a metal band?!

Jessica Pimentel, best known for her role as Maria Ruiz on the Netflix original series Orange Is The New Black, returns to Season 5 of the show. Fun fact: before landing her OITNB gig,Pimentel was about to quit the industry and was working for Microsoft. Oh hi, tech kween!

The Brooklyn-born actress is the daughter of Dominican immigrants, and she counts Taino Indian and African in her heritage, too.  Another thing you didn’t know about this Latina star? She’s the front-woman for a metal band and she’s a trained classical violinist. Talk about multi-talented! But that doesn’t mean making it in Hollywood hasn’t been hard. Pimentel is, after all, part of a minority group that’s long been discriminated against in the world of acting. Read on to find out how Pimentel made it – and the challenges she’s faced along the way.

What’s your experience of Hollywood as a Latina female?

Being an actress is already a very difficult choice in life. The cards are stacked against you: there are more actors than there are roles; that’s a simple fact. Of those roles, there are fewer roles for women, and even less for women of colour – and then even less for Latinas, so we have to fight extra hard! But I’m finding that Hollywood has been embracing us more and more thanks to shows like OITNB, which showcases a variety of looks and talent. Hopefully, we’ll get to a point where we’ll no longer be seen as Latina actresses but as actresses who can play many roles from many places.

What’s your favourite thing about being on OITNB?

The writing is so creative and smart! Every episode that lands in my hands… I can’t help but wonder what could possibly happen next. The twists and turns and character developments have left me on the edge of my seat for five years now! I’m constantly amazed with what our brilliant creator, Jenji Kohan, and our staff of writers can come up with.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Trust your gut. Follow your heart. Be fearless and keep going. The possibilities are limitless.

Watch the full interview below between Athena Laz and Jessica Pimentel:

Jessica Pimentel’s photographs taken by David Williams

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