Jane the Virgin fans may recognize the Merrell twins as Jane’s bratty half-sisters, but there’s a lot more to Vanessa and Veronica Merrell than their acting resumé.
Here are five things to know about the 19-year-old identical twins.
“Ever since we were little, we’ve wanted to entertain. I remember being 4 or 5 and wanting a Barbie camera to film little movies on,” Vanessa tells PEOPLE. “But it was really hard to go after our dream back in Missouri.”
So their video producer father and school secretary mother moved the family to the Los Angeles area to give the twins a chance at Hollywood.
“We moved out to California about three years ago to pursue acting,” Vanessa says of making the move with their parents during their sophomore year of high school. “It was tough moving across the country and diving into a business where there is a lot of rejection. It’s a lot of waiting but we’re so happy with where we’ve already gotten in our careers.”
2. Bullying almost kept them from achieving their dreams.
“We finally got a good camera when we were in sixth grade. The first thing we made was a scary movie. It was pretty awful,” says Vanessa. “We wanted to post things on YouTube but we were bullied a lot for wanting to act and that kept us from doing a lot of things. We thought people would say we looked stupid.”
“And people would say we were dumb for wanting to go out to Hollywood and be actors,” adds Veronica. “But we weren’t going to let anything stop us from going after what we wanted.”
3. They almost forgot about their YouTube channel.
“We started our channel in 2009 but we never really did anything with it. Our dad helped us make our first video, ‘What It’s Like to Be a Twin’ and we uploaded it but then we forgot about it,” says Vanessa. “It wasn’t until about two years later that we looked back and we’d gained 2,000 subscribers from it and that video had 10,000 views. We couldn’t believe it.”
The sisters now have over 600,000 followers, a partnership with the streaming site YouNow and are the creative directors for We Heart It, an app that aims to inspire creativity and positivity.
“It’s been so crazy. We never thought opportunities would come out of doing a “YouTube channel,” says Veronica. “We just wanted a place to showcase our talents and what we love to do.”
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4. They were invited to The White House by First Lady Michelle Obama.
“We went to the freaking White House to meet Michelle Obama and be part of her Better Make Room campaign, which is to inspire students to pursue higher education,” says Veronica, who is a freshman screenwriting major. “We are pursuing college because we thing education is important.”
“We feel like Hannah Montana, leading a double life,” Vanessa, a television production major, says of going unrecognized in class. “But then someone will run up and tell us they’re a fan and our classmates will look at us like, ‘What?!’ ”
5. They couldn’t be more in love with Gina Rodriguez.
“The entire cast is just incredible,” Veronica says of the Jane the Virgin actors. “It was insane that they are so down to earth.”
“It was the first thing we really did in Hollywood and I was expecting to go in all the actors to be demanding and fake, but it couldn’t have been more opposite,”continues Veronica, who can also be seen with her sister in the upcoming film Standoff. “Gina is so nice and so genuine. she wasn’t just talking to her costars. She talked to all the crew and the background actors. She’s so deserving of all the success she’s found.”