Why Actress and Activist Diane Guerrero Sees Herself as An ‘Intersectional Mujerista’

Photo: Getty Images/Well+Good Creative
Since 2013, actress and activist Diane Guerrero, 35, has graced screens as Maritza Ramos on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, Lina in Jane the Virgin, and most recently as Isabela Madrigal, the eldest, flower-producing daughter in Disney’s Encanto. The role Guerrero is most comfortable playing, however, is who she is IRL, a self-proclaimed intersectional mujerista.

What does that mean? Well, intersectionality is a term coined by pioneering scholar of critical race theory Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to describe the layered effect of discrimination that Black women experience. The term has now evolved to include the different identities that one person may hold simultaneously.

Intersectionality is so important because we're intersecting at all times,” says Guerrero. “We have to really consider where we all meet, where we all differ, where we are in our status and our privilege, and how we grew up if we're really talking about justice and equality.”

And as far as mujerista goes? That’s a word ideated by late theologian Ada María Isasi-Díaz, PhD, who was the chief theorist behind mujerista theology. Spanish for “womanist,” the term aims to delineate the special identity shared by poor, Hispanic, Catholic women. Some people, like Guerrero, have come to see it as a way of advancing the rights of all Latinx women. An intersectional mujerista, then, combines both of those ideologies to mean a multi-dimensional Latinx women (a demographic so often portrayed as one-dimensional), which Guerrero clearly embodies, as evidenced by the wide-ranging interview we had with her.

Well+Good sat down with Guerrero to discuss her activism, surprising-yet-handy beauty practices, and Encanto takeaways (pero, like, duh!).

Diane Guerrero’s activism

Natalie Arroyo Camacho: As of this interview, your Instagram bio has two capitalized words: Intersectional Mujerista. How do you conceptualize and practice that?

Diane Guerrero: You know, sometimes I feel like taking that down because it requires so much of you. People will be like, “I thought you were an intersectional mujerista.” And I’m, like, “Yeah, I'm in this world. I'm here. I'm an intersectional mujer.” There's no way to get around it.

“Intersectional mujerista means, to me, that I'm here to learn, to grow.” —actress and activist Diane Guerrero

It’s just the simple act of me doing my very best every day. And when I need to take a break, I take a break. When something is going on in the world, I do my best to educate myself on it—instead of going off the handle and just speaking out of turn or when I don't know that experience. “Intersectional mujerista” means, to me, that I'm here to learn, to grow, to partner with folks who want to do good—whatever that is.

Everybody makes mistakes, and I'm going to [maybe unintentionally] continue making mistakes. But, in the meantime, I'm going to try my hardest to do the right thing…Sometimes there are things along the way that you find out, and they make you go, “Oh, shoot—I messed up.” It's hard to do everything right. But I think that if the intention is there—if you're doing everything that you're doing out of love for you, others, and the community—that's the most important thing.

Diane Guerrero’s beauty practices

NAC: Walk me through your beauty practices. Is there anything someone might find surprising yet helpful? 

DG: Certainly now that my mental health is better, the treatment toward my body has been a lot better. That's the one thing that I've noticed that has been so good and so amazing. I'm not saying, ‘Hey, self care is just taking a bath or a shower….’ Generally, I kind of just stay clean. And I try to remember everything that I have, like stuff that makes me feel better.

I start off with meditation and a shower in the morning. I make sure [all my products are] out so that I can put them on. I don't use that much stuff on my face right now, because I'm dealing with middle-aged acne or something. These past few weeks have…been really hard, but this partnership [with Love Beauty and Planet] has come at the right moment for me, I think.

NAC: How do you see this initiative with Love Beauty and Planet factoring into your beauty practices?

DG: It's nice to be representing companies, but it really has to be the right thing that aligns with your values. And when this line came along, I was like, “Wait, this actually really does speak to me….” I'm really interested in seeing where that's going to take me spiritually and creatively, knowing that I'm being good to the planet.

“There’s this myth that having to be healthy and caring about the planet costs more money.” —actress and activist Diane Guerrero

And there’s this myth that having to be healthy and caring about the planet costs more money. That is such a lie, because this product right here is a testament to how affordable it can be…I also think it's great that Love Beauty and Planet is promoting this towards the Latino community, because very few companies do—even though there's a huge market there for us.

And I'm really happy that Love Beauty and Planet is donating $50,000 to Mujeres De La Tierra [Spanish for women of the earth], who are promoting educational opportunities and environmental education. [Editor’s note: The donation will go towards Mujeres De La Tierra’s upcoming Vamos a la Playa program. The program is designed to teach community members about public access to the Southern California coastline and give them the opportunity to learn about marine life and environmental responsibility.]

Encanto takeaways

Natalie Arroyo Camacho: Girrrrl, it's about that time—let’s talk about Encanto. What were your key takeaways? I didn’t even know you could sing!

Diane Guerrero: Singing was my first passion! I mean, just being a performer has been my lifelong dream. When I was a kid, music was so influential to me, and it continues to be. I went to a performance arts high school and was in the vocal department, because that's what I wanted to do…I wanted, more than anything, to voice a character on Disney. When that dream came true, I couldn't even believe it.

My dad got to see me as a McDonald's toy! He got to see me on billboards, and he would tell [everyone] I was in that movie, in Encanto. For me, what that movie’s meant to families everywhere—and what it’s meant to my father and me—that will be with me forever.

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