Gina Rodriguez has always known she wanted to be a performer – even if she didn’t always look the part.
“I was a huge tomboy,” the Jane the Virgin star tells PEOPLE about growing up in Chicago as the youngest of three daughters born to native Puerto Rican parents.
“I remember being 6 years old – I was probably wearing joggers and an oversized T-shirt – and I saw these little girls in sequins outfits smiling and dancing at the Puerto Rican Day parade. I was like, ‘I want to be in those little sequin dresses.’ ”
Rodriguez, now 30, joined a dance troupe and continued to perform through high school, but it wasn’t long before she set her sights on acting as well.
When she was only 13, she ventured across town on her own to audition for a commercial against her parents’ wishes.
“I got the parent next to me to sign my parental consent form so they didn’t know that I didn’t have a parent with me,” Rodriguez says. “I ended up booking the commercial, so they called my parents. I thought I was going to get in so much trouble. But I was going to get paid for the commercial so they said, ‘Fine. You can do it if you put the money towards college.’ I said, ‘Done deal, baby seal. Let’s do this.’ ”