10 Questions for Selenis Leyva

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on February 23, 2017
From the WebMD Archives

1. Season five of Orange Is the New Black premieres June 9. Can you give us a preview?

I think you’ll definitely see what happens when people feel injustice. Do we stick together? Do we continue fighting the powers-that-be segregated, or do we unite?

2. What has working on this show been like for you?

It really has been life changing. I’ve been an actress for 20-plus years and ... I never in a million years thought that I would be part of something like this.

3. Has working in an image-dominated industry ever affected your self-esteem?

When I went to a performing arts high school, I was made to feel that there was something wrong with me for having curves. That brought up a lot of insecurities.

4. You have a 14-year-old daughter. What kind of self-image message do you try to get across to her?

I try to make sure that my daughter gets that beauty is not just when you look at yourself in the mirror and think, “Wow! I have great cheekbones.” No, beauty comes from within and we should nurture that.

5. How has motherhood changed you?

This industry is all about waiting for the next gig, being told you’re not good enough, being rejected. So when you have a different outlet, for me it’s the best thing that could have happened.

6. Your sister is transgender. What was it like to watch her go through the transition?

I saw her at such an early age -- at 17, 18 -- begin her transition, when that was not something that was talked about. And when I saw that she, even with all those obstacles, said, “I am who I am. I’m going to step out of the house today as who I was born to be” -- that to me was so courageous.

7. What kinds of advocacy work have you done for the transgender community?

I work with the Stonewall Community Foundation. I’ve been working with The Anti-Violence Project. I’m going to set up a tour where I’m going to visit a lot of facilities that cater to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth community.

8. You star in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which comes out this summer. What was it like to act in a superhero movie?

To be part of the Marvel world is incredible. I play Ms. Warren. She’s the physics teacher. In the comic books she’s Mr. Warren. I love the fact that they made her a woman and gave it to a Latina actress.

9. What is your personal health philosophy?

Everything in moderation makes me happy. I make sure I exercise just enough, I eat just enough, and if I need to have a drink every once in a while, I do so.

10. What makes you happiest?

When my daughter climbs into bed and the cat and the dog do the same. And they’re all just there. I look around and I think, “I’m really lucky.”

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD Magazine."