Ben Parker / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Stephanie Beatriz at Bailey Hall on Feb. 14, 2020. (Ben Parker/Sun Assistant Photography Editor)

February 16, 2020

Stephanie Beatriz Discusses Diversity, Imposter Syndrome in Hollywood

Print More

It’s Emily Goldfinch, the peppy, bright girl — I mean Rosa Diaz, the badass detective that we love and admire from the popular hit show Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Despite appearing intimidating and scary in her black leather coat on TV, Stephanie Beatriz brought choruses of laughter to Bailey Hall as she recounted moving stories of her life while sharing ingots of wisdom that she gained over the years working in the 99th precinct.

Even as an incredibly successful person, she too was once plagued with doubts about her ability as an actress. While discussing her role on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, she described how she felt like she wasn’t entirely present in the first few seasons, feeling undeserving of her spot and almost like an imposter. As high achieving Ivy League students, I felt that this was something many of us could resonate with. Weighed by the heavy burden of expectations from ourselves as well as our friends and family, many Cornellians often feel as if they don’t belong, as if they had only gotten admitted by luck or even by mistake. She advised audience members to have faith in themselves, revealing that she was “really thankful that I sort of allowed myself to grow into … really a presence at the end of season four.”

I particularly liked the moments when Beatriz described her childhood. When prompted about her process of figuring out her goals, she painted a vivid picture of a young girl hungry for stories. “I’d always like to go the library by myself and just spend hours and hours at the public library pulling things off shelves that I shouldn’t have been reading,” she said jokingly. “There was also this very strange thing that would happen to me when I was able to disappear into a story; it didn’t matter how much money my family had, it didn’t matter what color my skin was, it didn’t matter what people said about me, whether or not I was pretty. Suddenly, in a story, you really could just be and see and do everything, and the world became only as limited as that story,” she shared.

When asked by an audience member about the best tips for aspiring performers and artists, she once again stressed the importance of reading and writing. “Lately I’ve been trying to write a script based on a book of short stories,” she told us, “and I’d make myself get up at five a.m. and it fucking sucks, but I want this thing to happen so I have to put in the work.” Whether it’s for a course, a project team, a club or even a personal project, it’s all about hard work: “I’ve talked to so many people in the industry that are talented and nothing happens for them. And then I talk to people that are kinda talented but work really fucking hard, and they get shit made.”

She also talked about how she discovered her love of acting. “There was some kind of power in storytelling that I just became magnetized to,” she said with a smile. Despite this, she initially felt deterred from going into television, as she felt that “only beautiful people are on television, and really only white people are on television.” She told us that Brooklyn Nine-Nine, though fantastic, is a very rare case with such a diverse cast. “It’s a very rare example in that the Latinas on the show aren’t hypersexualized people.” In order to help promote the growth of deserving and good films directed and lead by people of color, Beatriz encouraged us to simply watch and react to them, particularly this year’s rendition of In the Heights, which she will star in.

Beatriz, who identifies as bisexual, highlighted the ways in which her act of coming out affected her life and career; for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, she was able to inspire others to have the same courage she had, with Rosa announcing her bisexuality as well in the fifth season. Although she doesn’t have any particular advice for members of the LGBTQ+ community, she told the audience that they didn’t have to conform to what the media had shown them, as it is a personal process, but rather come out in any way they want. In a touching moment, she revealed the difficulties and complexities of her own journey with her parents with tears in her eyes. As part of the Brooklyn Nine-Nine fan base, we simply want to let you know that regardless of whatever hardships you may face, we’ll always support and admire your courage.

Brian Lu is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at blu@cornellsun.