By Maria Pasquini
January 10, 2019 12:47 PM

Gina Rodriguez’s life changed irrevocably once she booked Jane the Virgin — but not always for the better.

In the February edition of Cosmopolitan, the actress, 34, revealed that she had her first panic attack a couple years after landing the leading role.

“The anxiety stated coming, like, two years into Jane,” Rodriguez tells Cosmopolitan for the magazine’s February issue, explaining that she “had my first panic attack at a sushi restaurant.”

“All of a sudden, I thought I was going to die, and people are taking pictures. It was horrendous,” she said.

Rodriguez explained that there are many negative aspects of fame that people don’t usually think of before experiencing it firsthand.

“There are a lot things in the manual of living out your dreams that you don’t know about,” she shared. “Like you don’t have any more friends. You never go out to eat. You never see your family, your boyfriend, girlfriend, or whatever you have.”

Gina Rodriguez Jason Kim
Gina Rodriguez Jason Kim

“It’s interesting. As a performer, you have to quite literally bury your life,” she remarked,adding that despite the hardships, “every day on-set I’m like, How the hell did I get this lucky?”

“To live out your dreams is a really surreal experience,” she said.

Gina Rodriguez. Jason Kim
Gina Rodriguez. Jason Kim

Speaking about a cause close to her heart, Rodriguez, who has been a very vocal advocate about the need to change Hollywood’s lack of representation, said seeing characters who look like you on screen is a key part to developing self-esteem.

“I felt very alone growing up,” she said. “I didn’t feel represented. I didn’t feel a part of the conversation. And if you see yourself projected, you believe you are worthy, valuable.”

Now, the actress has finally learned to “love my body.”

“I let go of the anxiety and the fear of not looking beautiful. Because it’s not about the picture. It’s about the fact that I stand on this cover with every Latina who wished she saw herself reflected. Because it’s not my face —it’s the 55-million-plus girls who are like, ‘Holy s—! We belong,’ ” she shared.

The actress also opened up about how her relationship with fiancé Joe LoCiecero.

“Dating Joe was a new experience for me because I put myself first. For so long, I put every man in front of me,” she said. “As a successful woman, it is so hard because of our cultural norms that, like, the man has to be the breadwinner! And the man has to be the more powerful one. It was so difficult for me to find a man who didn’t want me to dim my light for his ego.”

Joe Locicero and Gina Rodriguez. Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Joe Locicero and Gina Rodriguez. Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Rumors of the couple’s engagement began circulating around Rodriguez’s 34th birthday when she posted several photos of her and LoCicero cozied up with a huge ring on that special finger.

Confirming her engagement to PEOPLE in August, the actress gushed, “He’s the best. He’s the f—- best. We’ve been engaged for like a month — I’ve kept it a secret for a while.”

Rodriguez and LoCicero met in 2016 when he played a stripper on Jane the Virgin, and they started dating soon after.

They first revealed their blossoming romance with pictures from their Thailand vacation over Christmas 2016.

But Rodriguez is still careful not to reveal too much about their relationship, explaining why she was hesitant to talk about their engagement.

“I don’t even really want to say it’s happening,” she previously told PEOPLE. “I just want to live! I think there’s a huge blessing in the fact that people care. That’s a beautiful thing, so that feels really good. But another part of me wants to keep a little something that’s just mine, ’cause there’s not too many things I have like that anymore.”

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