As a minority, finding self-representations on TV or film can be a difficult. While the entertainment industry has made efforts to depict a wider range of ethnicities, colors, sizes, and sexual orientations, it still felt like a momentous event when ABC’s Once Upon a Time announced that the new Cinderella for season 7, played by Dania Ramirez, would not be the classic white damsel in distress, but rather a fierce sword-fighting Latina warrior.
Now famous for her roles on Devious Maids and Entourage, Ramirez always knew she wanted to be an actress, but her early life would make future stardom seem unlikely. In the Dominican Republic, she grew up without water or electricity and was raised by her grandmother after her parents immigrated to the United States when she was 6-months-old. (She would eventually join them in New York City when she was 10.)
She was discovered by a modeling scout first, and went on to study at New York’s Actor’s Workshop before moving to Los Angeles to dedicate herself to acting. In 1998, she got her first major gig in Jay Z’s music video for “Streets is Watching.”
But it wasn’t until 2013, when she landed a starring role on Eva Longoria’s Devious Maids, that she reached breakout stardom.