"I feel so proud, so powerful," says the actress, who plays Gabriela on the long-running soap opera.

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Camila Banus has come a long way since her early days in Miami, where she grew up in a neighborhood behind the Versailles Restaurant on 8th Street. She's now standing out in Hollywood thanks to her role as Gabriela on the soap opera Days of Our Lives, where she proudly represents Latino culture.

In a conversation with People CHICA, Banus revealed that she and her sister are the first generation of her family to be born in the United States and talked about how she loved living in a "melting pot" like Miami, where she learned the importance of respecting and celebrating different cultures.

The actress recently celebrated a decade of playing Gabriela Josefina Hernández on the show, but said that not everything has been easy. Though she's had to overcome discrimination because of her origin, she clarified that all the obstacles she's faced have helped her realize how strong she can be.

"It makes me feel so powerful and so strong that [Days] accepts me," she says. "I'm the only Latina [on the show] and to be taken seriously, for them to understand me and pressure me to want more, that's what makes me feel like I'm very lucky and blessed to represent Latina women." Here, the actress talks about her time on the beloved soap and explains why she loves playing Gaby.

How was your childhood in Florida?

The upbringing I had was very diverse and I was fortunate to be able to grow up with so many different types of culture and Latinos, being exposed not only to the customs and traditions of my country, Cuba, but also to others such as Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Peru. I had so many friends who were Nicaraguan, Honduran, and it was beautiful. Miami is a melting pot of Latinos, and not just Latinos but people from all over the world.

Have you ever felt discriminated against at school or in any other setting?

I am fortunate to have a very strong personality. Sometimes there are people who will discriminate on different levels — some people will show it to your face and others will hide it. I definitely grew up with that and it opened my eyes to how even among Latinos there is discrimination, and we have differences that can cause problems. When I left Miami was when I saw more of that. It can be very difficult if you don't have a tough personality, if you can't take the blows. Protect yourself and speak for yourself. I've had to do that not just for myself but for my family.

You've especially been part of a very competitive world, working in acting.

Yes, I have been very lucky that they chose me to be in an American soap opera, because all my life I knew about Latin soap operas. They are a three-month program, but Days of Our Lives has been running for 55 years. It is not normal! For me to be taken into consideration to represent a Latina character for so long, I have to give credit to the people who put me there and said, "This girl with her accent and wherever she came from is worth it."

Camila Banus
Credit: Courtesy

You recently celebrated 10 years of being a part of that cast.

We celebrated my 10th anniversary in September. Ten years of Gabriela Josefina Hernández! She has had such a beautiful trip and I am very proud of her — the way she is not only as a woman, a mother, and even the things that she does that I do not agree with. She sticks to her convictions.

What do you like most about your character?

For Gaby, you see an evolution in her mind on camera. You saw her as a naive person, she was pure and always like, "I have to protect my family." That is very part of our Latino culture. Then of course she had her tribulations, she went to jail, and that's when she realized that not everything is good in this world. People are going to look down on you, but what matters is how you get back up. When she had that evolution, that's part of my favorite thing about Gaby — she was strong enough to be her true self, because she's still this naive girl who wants the best in the world, but now she's strong enough to move on in her life.