As the daughter of Latino superstar, El Puma, Génesis Rodríguez knows what fame is all about. And now, with a taste of Oscar glory in the Academy Award-Wining Animated Film, Big Hero 6, she’s searing her path to major stardom in her own right.
It's just a regular Hump Day. Well, it’s actually nail salon day, and Génesis Rodríguez hunches over to accommodate Japanese nail artist Miho Okawara, who also painted Lady Gaga’s nails for American Horror Story. For Rodríguez, Miho is creating nail art that highlights her loves. On her index finger, it’s hip-hop, by way of DJ Khaled’s round-faced likeness; on her other index finger, it’s the logo of her hometown’s Miami Heat. Rodríguez, 28, has been a Heat freak since long before LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, led them to the mountaintop, and then ran home to Cleveland. The only images missing from her nails are her father, José Luis “El Puma” Rodríguez, the legendary Venezuelan crooner, her mother, Cuban model Carolina Pérez, and a camera to rep her passion for acting. The talk is mostly about food, another passion. A few hours after the first bottle of nail polish was opened, she’s off to one of her favorite eateries in L.A.’s Koreatown, Dong II Jang, to treat herself to a sizzling plate of Kobe beef. Food has also been a sore point in her life. Now a slender 5-foot-7 beauty with striking, almond-shaped eyes, Rodríguez says she was overweight as a child, which made her feel painfully self-conscious. It’s something she still thinks about. “I remember that I was dating somebody, and one of his sayings after we ate would be, ‘Did you have enough to eat?’ And I took offense to that,” she says. “Being that chubby kid has affected me in relationships because I didn’t have that self-love. And I was El Puma’s daughter — that gave people a certain perception of me without ever meeting me.” In an oversized creamcolored sweater, black tights, and black-rimmed eyeglasses, Rodríguez definitely appears more rap nerd than Latina pop princess.
Today, she has finally escaped her father’s celebrity orbit and established herself in Hollywood with a diverse film career. “She’s an amazing actress and just a sweet kid,” says acclaimed director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy), who directed her in 2014’s Tusk, part one of his Canadian horror trilogy. “I’ve worked with a bunch of actors and actresses over the years, and I put her in my top five. I’d cast her a zillion times over.” Her latest project is Smith’s Yoga Hosers, with Johnny Depp, which headlined at the Sundance Film Festival and arrives in theaters later this year. And while #OscarsSoWhite is a trending hashtag created in response to the lack of diversity in the lead acting categories, Rodríguez managed her greatest triumph so far by voicing the feisty Honey Lemon in Big Hero 6, which grossed over $632 million worldwide and won the Oscar for Best Animated Film in 2015. Rodríguez is now considered one of the leaders of this generation’s wave of Latina actresses, an elite group that includes Gina Rodríguez, Natalie Martinez, and Dascha Polanco.
Unlike those contemporaries, however, Rodríguez spent seven years in the arduous telenovela world. By the end, she had had her fill of the spitefulness among actresses, the promiscuity some flaunted to land bigger roles, the insane 16–18 hour workdays. Nor does she miss sharing her dressing room with both men and women. (“Yo, you need to step on out, son!” she told the men. “Bye!”) Though she admits the experience toughened her for the inevitable craziness of Hollywood, by her third and final telenovela, Doña Bárbara, she knew that phase of her life was over. Especially when the grueling schedule robbed her of important life events. “I lost my grandfather, and I couldn’t bury him,” she says. “I couldn’t believe that the job was taking me away from burying my grandfather.” Still, her telenovela career wasn’t all backstabbing and tears. In addition to the experience and exposure Rodríguez gained, she says the fans are the best in the world. Another plus: While filming Doña Bárbara, she found her first true love in veteran lead actor Christian Meier, a man almost twice her age, who was divorced with three children. “Maybe I was mimicking my parents’ relationship because my dad is 23 years older than my mom,” she reasons. “I fell madly in love with Christian.” Her telenovela love ended around the same time she was getting an itch for Hollywood. She thought Meier feared losing her to her new scene.
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