Jane the Virgin's Jenna Ortega on Being a Child Star and Looking Up to Gina Rodriguez
Jenna Ortega —who stars in Jane the Virgin— talks to PEOPLE Chica about the pressures of being a Disney child star and why she looks up to Gina Rodriguez.
Jenna Ortega is not your typical 15-year-old. The American actress, of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, stars in two hit series —CW’s Jane the Virgin and Disney’s Stuck in the Middle— and the forthcoming movie Saving Flora, about a brave girl who saves an elephant. Ortega, who’s been acting since age nine, tells PEOPLE CHICA being a child star isn’t always as fun or glamorous as it may seem.
Being in the spotlight at such a young age comes with perks and pressures, she says. “I’ve dealt with a lot of pressure from social media. I discovered the world of fake people and it’s crazy and it’s kind of a lot.”
She also admits that working in adult-dominated environments accelerated her maturing process, which is not necessarily a bad thing. “I feel like I grew up quick,” she says, “but it’s cool because I understand so much of the film world now. The director on set will tell me: ‘Jenna you are going to take our jobs,’ which is the goal!” she jokes. “I hope to be a director one day.”
Her social circle and home life provide her with the stability and support she needs to endure the harder aspects of her job. “I love that I can home to the Coachella Valley and see my family and friends who have been with me from day one. It’s nice to have them by my side always.”
Ortega adds that her clan doesn’t allow her to shirk her household responsibilities. “I get home from the set and they do not forget to tell me that there are dishes in the sink waiting for me,” she says. “They keep my feet on the ground.”
Ortega looks up to other Disney child stars who have managed to stay centered and mature into megastars. “I love Selena Gomez and I love Zendaya,” she confesses. “The messages that they put out are incredible. They are amazing.” She also sees a positive role model in fellow Jane the Virgin cast member, Gina Rodriguez. “I always get to see her on set and she is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. I love her so much. Every time I see her she gives me some life lesson.”
Fame may be overwhelming at times, but it hasn’t completely robbed her of the everyday joys of being a teenager. “I love swimming, hanging out with my friends, having sleepovers, and watching movies with my family,” she says.