An Evening with Diane Guerrero

Students experience a night of laughter, inspiration and a call for activism

By Kaila-Marie Hardaway  Managing Editor

Diane Guerrero during her Q&A speech at "An Evening with..."

On Feb. 6, LBSU students filled the USU Ballrooms for author, activist and actress Diane Guerrero as part of “An Evening with…,” a recurring event presented by Beach Pride Events.

Guerrero, best known for her roles in “Orange is the New Black” and “Jane the Virgin,” gave guests insight on her journey to becoming the well-known actress she is today. Through a Q&A-style speech, Guerrero began with her story as a first-generation American whose family was taken away from her.

“It’s been 16 years since it happened,” Guerrero said. “I’ve been going through all of my experiences on my own without being able to share my low and high moments with my family. It has been really hard on me.”

When Guerrero was 14, her family was deported to their home country of Colombia. As an American-born citizen, Guerrero was left to continue living a normal life without her family.

“It’s been 16 years since it happened,” Guerrero said. “I’ve been going through all of my experiences on my own without being able to share my low and high moments with my family. It has been really hard on me.”

Guerrero kept the incident a secret out of fear of being the “immigrant girl.” It was only until 2014 that she shared her story in an op-ed for the “Los Angeles Times.” After receiving an overwhelmingly supportive response from the public, Guerrero continued sharing her story in her 2016 memoir, “In the Country We Love: My Family Divided.”

“When I came out with my story I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, everyone is going to hate me and no one is gonna give me a job.’` But what I saw was the opposite,” Guerrero said. “Reaching out to my community has been the best decision of my life.”

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Despite the night’s serious start, Guerrero lifted student’s spirits by making jokes, telling stories from her childhood, impersonating her characters and sharing her love for pineapple-pepperoni pizza. Guerrero also shared high and low points in her career, and the impact it has made on her life.

“I never imagined all of this,” Guerrero said. “All I did was say yes to certain things I wanted to pursue and here I am. [My roles] allow me to grow and make each job, adventure and project better. And now I have the ability to help others, which is humbling.”

As Guerrero continues her career, she hopes to continue using her platform to inspire others, influence change, push for immigration reform and support Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) students.

“With the negative rhetoric surrounding [the Latino] community and the injustice that DACA students are facing, my focus is to continue sharing my story and experience and have discussions around the country with those who want to hear it and those who desperately need it,” Guerrero said. “I won’t stop telling my story, defending my parents, their lifestyles, and their life's work. I won’t stop defending myself.”

Guerrero urged all students, no matter their background, to get involved as best they can to create change in anything they believe in.

“This is the time when your voice matters the most. This is the time to create the country you want,” Guerrero said. “Do what’s in your power, whether it is to vote or participate in discussion, and stay diligent.”