Empowerment Series: CW’s “Jane the Virgin” and ABC’s “A Million Little Things,” Actress, Andrea Navedo Shares her Book, “Our Otherness is Our Strength: Wisdom from the Boogie Down Bronx”
I grew up in Upper Manhattan. The 1980s in New York City were some of the toughest times that residents had ever seen in its history. While Wall Street was having a boom, the rest of the city was in shambles. Reportedly, over 1800 homicides were committed, and the introduction of crack cocaine unleashed a tidal wave of violence and addiction. It was the time NYC nearly went bankrupt. If you were a city kid living in the midst of all this chaos, imagining anything different was impossible on most days.
Actress, Andrea Navedo dreamed more for herself and said that “Our otherness is not an obstacle to overcome. Our otherness is a strength.”
The Latina from the Bronx, New York has a long list of acting credits including CBS’s “The Good Fight” (opposite, Christine Baranski) and Amazon’s “Leverage.” For five seasons, she played the beloved Xiomara Villanueva on the Golden Globe-nominated television series “Jane the Virgin.”
Most recently, she stole our hearts as Valerie Sandoval in the ABC hit drama “A Million Little Things.” You can also see her in Netflix’s BRIGHT opposite Will Smith, Hulu’s MIGUEL WANTS TO FIGHT, and HBO Max’s B-Loved.
The newest role is of an Author. Her book “Our Otherness is Our Strength: Wisdom from the Boogie Down Bronx” was released in July and we are here for it!
I read Andrea’s book. I had all kinds of feelings after reading it. As someone raised during the same era in an underrepresented, immigrant community, this story was relatable and made me nostalgic. She was vulnerable and honest, as she shared her story. I’m sure that millions of readers will connect with her, as well.
In 2022, AW sat down with the Latina actress to discuss her journey to self-love. This time around the conversation was just as easy and genuine, making this interview feel like catching up with an old friend.
“Our Otherness is Our Strength: Wisdom from the Boogie Down Bronx“ is more personal than I thought it would be. Why did you want to write this book? I know how difficult it is to go back and write from a place of pain. Being of service was the ultimate goal. I realized while on “Jane the Virgin” that acting was not just for me. It was much bigger than me, I understood that I had a platform. I wanted to demystify celebrities, who actors are, and who I am then use my life experience to help others, if I could. At the very least, share my experiences. Hopefully, someone else might see themselves in me and be inspired in their own life.
I uncovered some generational traumas while writing my book. You wrote a lot about your mom’s journey. I noticed some of her patterns began to manifest in your own life, as a young woman. Generational curses are a real thing but your actions broke the cycle. During the writing process, did you have any a-ha moments? Honestly, I already knew about it and wanted to show some of that since I learned of it through therapy and my own healing.
This book was inspired by a speech I gave at my alma mater, Dewitt Clinton High School. Thirty years after graduating, I was invited back to speak at their commencement ceremony. I had to talk to a room full of kids but did not know what to say to them. They were going to see me at this podium, as a “successful” person but not be able to connect with me. I tried to remember what it was like to be one of the brown kids sitting in that audience. Think back to my life experiences and what they could relate to, and paint a picture to show, what they thought were strikes against them, “their otherness” is really a strength which is where the title comes from.
I always felt like I was the “other.” Not something mainstream media thought was valuable. As I realized later on, the things I thought were strikes against me, being Latina raised in the Bronx, growing up with substance abuse and welfare, and experiencing physical trauma made me bad and not worthy. However, all the challenges I went through growing up in the Bronx were actually good things because they strengthened me. They gave me the power to go the long haul in a very difficult career such as acting.
There were many stories that resonated with me in the book. One of the events that took place stood out much more than the others. I imagine it was a wake-up call for you. I definitely experienced a few of them in my time. It was the story with Zara. Your boyfriend at the time, Marco, had two pit bulls and trained one of them to fight. You had a death-defying encounter with Zara while alone in his apartment. You described feeling a “flutter” in your stomach. Would you say that moment was a wake-up call? Truthfully, I think the wake-up call happened after the dog moment. In that instance, I was in survival mode. It was after that I realized, I could have died and no one would be there to save me – that was the wake-up call. As far as the flutter is concerned, I feel that we all have instincts. Having the experience with Zara, the pitbull, she had never been vicious towards me but I did not trust her. Here I was in this apartment alone with her, going against my instincts which are important to highlight. It is dangerous when you go against your gut.
I believe wisdom and intuition are a powerful combination. Do you feel these have been helpful tools in your life? I think it is one of the tools the Bronx gave me, growing up with all the difficult challenges. The flutter is having an awareness of what is going on around me. Being raised in the inner city, you need to have your antennas up. Be on the lookout for the temperature of the atmosphere (and I’m not referring to weather!). We need to pay attention to our surroundings and people. The flutter was definitely one of those superpowers!
You are a mom, yourself. What is a piece of advice you shared with your daughter that can help any one of us? I talk to my kids about my things, and I’ve shared many of my stories with them. Stories are a good way to teach but you also lead by example. My parents led by example. They made mistakes and did plenty of good things. My mom left a toxic abusive marriage. My father showed me about college by attending. I show my kids how I take care of myself, go to therapy, book an acting job, write a book, and share the good and bad. I lead by example.
In the book’s title and throughout you refer to “our otherness” and how it can be a superpower. I loved it! Can you talk a bit about what it means and how leaning into it can be a strength? What is that superpower for you, the one that makes you fire and feel like a superwoman? I have really learned how to tap into my anger. For example, as I mentioned in the bullying story. You get mistreated then you hit that bottom. I tapped into my anger. I believe in justice, doing what is right, and treating people fairly. I wasn’t being treated right and reached a point where I couldn’t take it, anymore. I stood up for myself for the first time, the anger gave me the strength to protect myself and not allow someone to mistreat me. The anger has come in handy at certain times of my life.
AW likes to end interviews with a piece of advice, quote, or mantra. Your return to your old high school, Dewitt-Clinton High School, and giving the commencement speech must have been a full-circle moment. What is something you hoped students left with on that day after hearing your address? Embrace who they are and where they come from, accept themselves, and believe they can do whatever they want to do.
We need a certain level of vulnerability to share our story and Andrea has done a beautiful job of telling hers to the world. Her story reminds us of what is possible when we make the choice to own our story. Celebrate the things that make you, unique, and don’t be afraid to use your experiences to help others.
Our inner critic is deceitful. It is the voice of dislike, disappointment, and judgment and will coax anyone into thinking that being different is a weakness. The good news is that you have all the power. You can start using it by changing the story you tell yourself.
Learn more about the Bronx native by visiting www.andreanavedo.com or find her on Instagram and Twitter @andreanavedo. “Our Otherness is Our Strength: Wisdom from the Boogie Down Bronx” can be ordered through barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.