Michelle Rodriguez reveals she was bullied as a child: ‘People were just really mean in Jersey City’

Actress Michelle Rodriguez attends the 2015 Harper's BAZAAR ICONS Event at The Plaza Hotel on September 16, 2015 in New York City. Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

The name Michelle Rodriguez conjures up images of an action movie badass in films like Girlfight and the Fast & Furious franchise. So, when the actress and DJ opened up about being severely tormented by her own bullies growing up, we were surprised to hear it. While promoting her role as a school teacher who helps boost the confidence of a young bullied boy in the film adaptation of Eckhart Tolle‘s Milton’s Secret, the 38-year-old revealed why the movie hit so close to home.

“I was bullied as a kid, but I dealt with it a lot differently because I was at a different level growing up in Jersey City,” Michelle told The Hollywood Reporter. “If you didn’t adapt, you die, or parts of your soul would be crushed. People were just really mean in Jersey City. I had to learn to fight really early.”

The actress moved around quite a bit during her childhood. She was born in Texas, later moving to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Michelle and her family finally settled down in the largest city in Hudson County for her teenage years, which is also when the tormenting began.

After experiencing the negativity first-hand, she refuses to tolerate it happening to anyone else.

“I’m more sensitive now because I’ve always been very tomboyish…I just never gave a f*** about words,” Michelle told Entertainment Tonight. “Now I understand that I have to respect words, words are powerful, they are dangerous and they hurt people.”

Milton’s Secret is currently playing in select theaters.