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‘Barbie’ star stunned by Oscar nod, power of words

It was just another Tuesday. She made breakfast for the kids, grabbed a cup of coffee and climbed back into bed.

“I snuggled under the covers with my iPhone and thought, ‘Let me just take this news lying down,’ ” recalls America Ferrera, who was home alone after her husband took the kids to school.

The little girl who used to watch the Oscars in her family’s living room and dream that she was Halle Berry or Julia Roberts heard news that left her stunned.

The nominees for best supporting actress … well, they included someone who was in her PJs with the covers pulled way up.

“I gasped and then I was totally silent,” the 39-year-old says of the recognition for playing Mattel employee Gloria in the blockbuster hit “Barbie.”

How does it feel when your lifelong dream comes true?

“Waves of emotion. Disbelief. Joy,” the star of “Ugly Betty” and “Superstore” says.

The flip side was the disappointment that her co-star Margot Robbie and director Gretta Gerwig were left out.

“These women made history for their beautiful artistry,” Ferrera says. “That part is bittersweet.”

Aside from the Oscars ceremony on March 10, Ferrera looks forward to making her directorial debut this year with “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” an adaptation of Erika L. Sanchez’s bestselling novel.

Ferrera lives in New York with her husband, actor-director Ryan Piers Williams, and their daughter and son.

Her good life tips:

The power of words

In one of the standout moments in “Barbie,” Ferrera delivers a memorable speech about how women are pulled in every direction. The fallout? “I have young girls who come up to me now saying that they used that monologue to audition for their school plays. Eleven-year-old girls resonate with that monologue and already feel like they know what it’s saying. I actually took my 3-year-old daughter with me to see ‘Barbie.’ She sat on my lap the whole time. I was sure she was going to fall asleep, but she didn’t. … It’s really wonderful to see the words land with people.”

Mentors matter

The role model says that she even met her role model. “Even Tom Hanks came up to me at the Governors Awards and said the most wonderful thing,” Ferrera shares. “I was shaking on the inside and thought I might cry.”

Be proud of your past

Growing up in Woodland Hills, California, with Honduran immigrant parents, America, who is named after her mother, lived a rough American dream. “I grew up with a mother who worked as the director of a housekeeping department. I know the world of immigrant women. I know the struggles they have to just put food on the table.” The youngest of six children, Ferrera often couldn’t afford lunch at school. “I think my early life was shaped by having to get through the school day hungry,” she says. “I felt like I was different. But I still believed deeply in the American dream.”

Fight the battle

“I remember getting to college and feeling devastated at how unprepared I felt to be there. I felt like I was so behind, didn’t get the right education to keep up with the other kids, that I didn’t belong there. I felt like I wasn’t capable,” Ferrera says. “What gets me through moments where I don’t think I’m capable is I try to imagine all the people who came before me, who had to be the only one in the room or the first one banging down that door. They had to go it alone so our generation can have a little more opportunity. If you don’t fight the battle, then you’re not doing right by the generation that comes after.”

Represent

Breaking into acting wasn’t easy. She was told, “Actresses don’t look like you. You’re brown, short, chubby and too ethnic-looking.” Ferrera’s big break was the 2002 film “Real Women Have Curves,” followed by a starring TV role as Betty Suarez in “Ugly Betty” from 2006 to 2010. “The biggest success for the Latino community was that Betty transcended the label of being Latino. There were a lot of things she was, and Latino was just one of them,” Ferrera says.

Leap, then look

When she was younger, Ferrera admits, “I didn’t have an exact, obvious clear path of what I wanted to be and do with my life, but that was OK. Even now, I think it’s totally OK to be in a position where you’re not supposed to know every clear step. Life is a learning process. You shouldn’t be worried about exactly where every step is going to take you. Just move forward.”

Find your community

“Find your tribe to re-energize and to take care of yourself and not feel so alone,” Ferrera says. “My advice is to reach out and build a community. If it doesn’t exist, start it. Knock on doors, ask around, put up flyers, invite people to a coffee shop. Sit around and just be in community with people.”

Love the adventure

Ferrera met her husband when they were undergrads at the University of Southern California. He cast her in his short film “Muertas” and they began dating, marrying in 2011. The secret of a lasting relationship? “Adventuring, growing and building a life together,” she says.

Live to laugh

Ferrera says that a few good laughs a day are necessary. “I enjoy anything that makes me laugh out loud,” she says. “Humor is what alleviates our most outrageous fears.”

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