PARENTS

Paula Gárces Opens Up About Teen Pregnancy While 'On Food Stamps And Welfare' (PHOTOS) (VIDEO)

10/01/2013 05:42 pm 17:42:31

HALESITE, N.Y. -- With her cobalt floor-length dress gently outlining the curve of her belly, Paula Gárces seemed to float between tables at her sailor-themed baby shower here on Sunday.

Boats lined the sunlit shore outside Long Island's Harbor Club at Prime, where the 39-year-old Colombian-born actress took an open seat at a table decorated with a flower arrangement of periwinkle and yellow calla lilies. Music played by a Cuban trio filled the dining area as Gárces, the star of the television show “Devious Maids,” spoke candidly with HuffPost Latino Voices about her struggles to succeed after she became pregnant with her first child, a daughter, at age 17 -- and how different the experience has been as she prepares to welcome her first son.

Gárces -- known for her role as Flora Hernandez on Marc Cherry’s Lifetime drama -- recalled when she found out she was expecting her daughter Skye, who is now 21.

“When I was pregnant with Skye I was 17. I hid the pregnancy from my parents, my agents, my teachers -- everybody -- and I felt horrible,” Gárces said. “It was like everything I was not supposed to be, [everything] that was stereotypical about a Latina growing up in Spanish Harlem I was embodying and living. I felt like I disappointed everybody, but at the same time I had a very deep connection with my baby and I knew that I wanted to keep my baby.”

While some considered the decision to have her daughter a “mistake,” Gárces said others in her life made a decision to help her.

“They’re the people that believed in me when I was walking around Spanish Harlem saying that I was going to be a Hollywood actress. They were like, ‘Yea, you could do it,’ and there were other people that said, ‘That girl is crazy! That doesn’t happen!’" she said, laughing. "And I understand those people because I was saying that with a belly. I was in Spanish Harlem on food stamps [and] on welfare."

Skye is now in college and Gárces has been with her husband, Tony Hernandez, for over 10 years. Those factors, along with the economic stability of her growing career on TV, mean her pregnancy this time around is quite different.

“I want to make sure that teenage girls know that if you decide to keep your child you have to get an education,” she said. “You have to have a plan A, B and C. Make sure you have a good support system. If all those things are not in place, it’s going to be very, very hard -- very, very lonely. Because I had all of those things in place and it was still very hard and really lonely.”

Gárces suffered two miscarriages in the past, and she often says this pregnancy is a "miracle." As she awaits the arrival of her first son, she knows she wants him to learn to respect himself and women, as well as the value of his culture.

“I want to teach him that education is everything and that having both cultures is going to be an advantage because he might be the next Obama, except it might be the next Hernandez,” she said with a laugh.

Gárces stays busy behind the scenes, working on bringing diversity to the gaming world with her Latina heroine, Aluna. And she hopes to continue to work on “Devious Maids," even though her character Flora's murder was resolved at the end of the first season.

“I’ve heard a lot of rumors, I whispered a lot into Marc Cherry’s ear telling him to give me some twin action -- maybe a cousin that looks a lot like Flora,” Gárces said. "But I don't know."

"You know who has the power?" she continued. "The fans. If the fans keep asking for Flora -- which they have been, so I want to say thank you -- the network, Lifetime, Marc Cherry, they will listen.”

Check out pictures of Paula Gárces' baby shower below. A video of actress Adrienne Bailon singing “Como La Flor” at the event is above.

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Paula Gárces' Baby Shower
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