Just an example of how much I like Rosario Dawson: when searching her name on Mother Jones I typed in “Rosario Awesome”—which is such a complimentary Freudian slip.
Rosario has the kind of life story that validates the American dream.
Born to a seventeen year old mother and raised in relative poverty, she grew up in a tenement squat in New York City. It was on the steps of this building that the writer and director of Kids saw her and asked her to be in his movie—to which she responded, “Okay.”
She was fifteen and had no acting experience.
Alright, pause and think about that for a moment. Imagine yourself in her shoes: you’re sitting on your porch in New York when a stranger approaches and says: “Excuse me dear, do you want to be in my movie?”
I don’t know about you but that conversation would’ve ended with me saying, “Uh, yeah, let me go ask my mom.” Then me running inside, dead-bolting the door and peering out from the window curtains until the man left.
I would have a hard time believing that I was one of those people who would get to have that story. You know, the unbelievable, this-will-be-a-great-story-to-tell-someday story. However, I would have a very easy time believing that some creep wanted me to star in his questionable “movie.”
One summer, while visiting my aunt and uncle, I was taking a stroll around their block in the late afternoon. They lived right around the corner from a historic neighborhood and I loved passing by these ivy covered semi-mansions and imagining the people that had passed there before me. One day as I was walking, this truck pulled up beside me and the man driving asked if I wanted a ride home.
I lived an hour away, so this seemed pretty unreasonable.
I said no and continued my walk, stealing glances out of my periphery as he drove at a glacial pace beside me. After a few minutes of this agony, he said: “It’s fine, I know your dad.”
At that moment I knew, more than before, to be worried. My dad had just finished his MS in Aeronautics, we had moved and he hadn’t even had time to meet the neighbors let alone this dude who lived an hour away from us.
I turned into the nearest yard, silently praying that there was no attack dog or anything to signify that I did not live there and calmly walked up the front steps. I turned and the man was still ambling along, so I opened the screen door and extended my hand to open the front door when at that exact moment, another car came speeding down the street and basically bum-rushed the man away. I watched him as he turned in the opposite direction of where I was headed then sprinted out of the yard, down a side alley and into the backdoor of my aunt and uncle’s house.
Guess who never told her mother that story! And guess who took that Kindergarten Cop “Stranger, Danger” warning very seriously (and kind of still does).
Even though that happened long before I was fifteen, I would not have turned some anonymous director/writer down because I didn’t know him, I would’ve turned that him down because I didn’t know myself. SLAM DUNK. Bet you didn’t see that one coming! I am so anti-entitlement that I would’ve been all “Who am I to have that role? Walk a couple more paces and I’m sure you’ll find someone who deserves this more than me.” That’s a pretty lame way to think.
Sixteen years after that fateful porch meeting, Rosario has added over forty films to her resume—including the film version of the musical RENT, something which she was certainly not qualified for on paper, but a role that she totally owned. There were only two non-original cast member and she was one of them. With the army of Rent-heads out there that takes some major guts. That’s like walking into the Red Sox clubhouse wearing navy blue and white.
Rosario’s work ethic is unparalleled. She’s been working since she was cast in Kids—she even had to go through rounds and rounds of auditions for that, there was no “just” being chosen despite that porch meeting. She continues to challenge herself (Zookeeper notwithstanding) while also endorsing causes that benefit the community she came from. In 2004 she founded Voto Latino, a non-profit civic engagement organization that encourages young Hispanics to participate in the voting process. In 2008 she attended both the Republican and Democratic National Convention and regularly attends the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, where she’s met the President of the United States.
A story like Rosario’s is worth telling over and over again. Added bonus, she always looks amazing on the red carpet.