OITNB’s Selenis Leyva to Transgender Sister: ‘What I Saw in You Was Not Just Being Gay’
Watch Orange Is the New Black's Selenis Leyva and her transgender sister Marizol discuss the ways they sacrificed who they really were for the greater good of their families — and how they eventually found themselves.
The Latina Love Project profiles the lives of women — mothers, daughters, sisters — who often sacrifice their self-care in their struggle to balance and care for family, friends, and work. In this series sponsored by Ford, we spotlight their struggles and triumphs and learn how they create time for their themselves.
In the latest episode of the Latina Love Project series, Orange Is the New Black‘s Selenis Leyva and her transgender sister Marizol talk about the pain they endured to protect one another from hard truths in their childhoods and the sacrifices they made for the greater good of their family.
Their parents, who hail from Cuba and the Dominican Republic, didn’t speak English fluently, which made Selenis, their oldest child, the go-to kid to navigate American culture, as well as doctor’s appointments and parent-teacher conferences, which was taxing: “I wanted to just be a kid,” she said, “I wanted to not have to be older than I was. Mami and Papi depended on me so much. It was exhausting,” the actress admitted. She also confessed that it was painful witnessing Marizol struggle “in the wrong body.” As early as two or three years old, Selenis told her sister, “I would see a little girl in your movements, in your essence.”
For Marizol, the burden of not being allowed to be her authentic self was nearly unbearable: “I felt robbed because I didn’t get to live what a girl goes through growing up….” she said. To get through the misery of “having to portray someone [she] wasn’t,” she said, “I would lock myself in the room and play dress up.”
The sisters also share their self-care regimes and why Gina Rodriguez is one of their heroes: “She is thinking about the [Latino] community at large,” Selenis said, “saying it’s time for us to be seen and heard.”