Thursday, February 2, 2023

'The Sex Lives of College Girls' star Ilia Isorelys Paulino talks sex, women empowerment in the media

December 2, 2022
<p>Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. </p>

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Photo by Courtesy Photo | The State News

When actress Ilia Isorelys Paulino read the script for "The Sex Lives of College Girls," on HBOMax, she knew she had to play Lila – the confident and witty barista that works with Kimberly at the campus coffee shop. 

She wanted to be part of a series that was funny, smart and depicted women at the forefront of the show. 

Paulino sat down with The State News in a press junket over Zoom to discuss her career leading up to this point. 

Recently graduated from the graduate program at Yale University’s School of Drama, Paulino could relate to making dumb mistakes and learning from them on a regular basis like the students in the show. She wanted to be a self-assured role model, showing that these decisions are not bad ideas, but opportunities to grow. 

While she was more of a supporting character in season one, fans of Lila are excited to see her have more screen time in season two. 

Paulino believes that love for her character stems from young women wanting to emulate Lila's unapologetic nature, in which she loves herself out loud. 

“More women look like me than they look like Gigi (Hadid) … so to see someone that looks like me and say, ‘She can just be herself,’ I think, gives them permission to be for them to be themselves,” Paulino said. 

Paulino said people walk through the world needing permission to feel good about themselves because society conditions people to act that way. The show is about giving yourself that permission to feel good and explore your sexuality, she said. 

Paulino said now that more shows depict women's issues in love and sex, society can do away with the shame around female sexuality that is ingrained into girls when they are young. 

“There are a few things that really connect us no matter where you are in the world, for better or for worse," Paulino said. "I think that there's this running theme with women and sexuality all around the world."

Throughout time, Paulino said, women have been bonded with the idea that they can only talk about sex in hushed rooms, repressed to only speak of it in secrecy while men are empowered for it. She said her show is exploring the positive effects of leaning into your sexuality while growing up, rather than shying away from it.

“I don't think this show is setting out to solve any problems," Paulino said. "I think it's just providing a safe place for women to live and to explore without shame. To be able to be a part of a show that does this so that other young women can … explore something in a way that makes them feel safe, I think is amazing.”

Paulino's dad is a pastor. This, combined with the societal norm for women, means she is still figuring out the ins and outs of her own sexuality, and she wants viewers to have the same continuous inner monologue with themselves, she said.

Overall, she wants female solidarity and friendship to be the theme of importance to women tuning in to the show. 

“I think that's the crux of the whole show," Paulino said. "I think if we don't have the women friendships, we won't have a show.”

Paulino said that a high percentage of women are happier when they have more fulfilling female friendships, rather than male relationships, painting the picture of what "The Sex Lives of College Girls" wants to depict underneath the hilarious sexual experiences the characters go through.

To find these themes outside her own show, Paulino said she wants Hollywood to approach all their shows, especially around women, love and sex, to come from a place of vulnerability and honesty – as women have bonded over the emotions that come with love for centuries.

“It's such a unique experience to go through this world as a woman," Paulino said. "Trauma is a horrible thing, of course, but trauma does bond. To be able to talk and have these tough conversations to someone that I don't have to necessarily explain the ins and outs of everything to because I know you know what I'm talking about (is important).”

Paulino closed with a summary of what she wants women to take away from "The Sex Lives of College Girls." 

“Go to the club. Shake that a--. Come home. Eat that ice cream,” she said. 

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