Michaela Jaé Rodriguez on Celebrating 'All the Pieces of Me' During Hispanic Heritage Month

"I definitely do think it's changing the narrative," Rodriguez tells PEOPLE of celebrating intersectionality during Hispanic Heritage Month

Mj Rodriguez
Mj Rodriguez. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty

Michaela Jaé Rodriguez has become a beacon of representation for the Black, Latinx and transgender communities in recent years.

The Emmy Award nominee, 30, tells PEOPLE she celebrates "all the pieces of me" during Hispanic Heritage Month, following her conversation with actress, model and activist Jillian Mercado for Adobe's Create Change series.

"I'm speaking to a multitude of people, and the reason why I say that is because I'm at the intersectionality of African American, Black and Latina. So I definitely do think it's changing the narrative. I do think it's opening the scope a little bit more, even in the Hispanic and Latina community, because so many people only focus on just those sides of being Latina, Hispanic, and not understanding that there is a deep heritage and a deep-rootedness," Rodriguez says. "So I like speaking on all the pieces of me."

She says it was a "blessing" to get to speak with Mercado, 34, with whom she goes back several years after meeting during a protest. Mercado, a fellow Latinx member of the LGBTQ community, was diagnosed with spastic muscular dystrophy as a child and has been using a wheelchair ever since.

"Not only is she someone who is Latina, but she's also someone who speaks for the disabled community, and not a lot of light is shined on disabled individuals around the world," Rodriguez says.

Mercado has modeled for Diesel, Nordstrom and CR Fashion Book and in 2019 made her onscreen debut as Maribel Sanchez in the Showtime reboot The L Word: Generation Q.

"She's making it happen," Rodriguez raves. "And she's breaking that down for people who just don't understand. She's helping them understand by just simply doing the work. And I think that's a huge thing."

RELATED VIDEO: Pose Star Michaela Jaé Rodriguez Gets Candid About Nurturing a Character for LGBTQ+ Youth to Look Up To

During their chat, they discuss breaking barriers in their respective careers, including Rodriguez's starring run on the hit series Pose, her recent debut single "Something to Say" and her historic Emmy nomination, the first for a transgender performer in a lead acting category.

Rodriguez ultimately lost the award for outstanding lead actress in a drama series (to The Crown's Olivia Colman), but she was able to bask in the moment with her red carpet date, her mother. "I really cherish that woman a lot," she says.

"She is the epitome of what motherhood looks like and how I want to be when I have my children, and how I want to raise my children, and also how proud I want to be when I see my children succeed," Rodriguez says. "That was the highlight of my life — having her there, her seeing that her daughter is Emmy nominated, is making history and is going to continue to keep making history. She instilled that in me."

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