Dania Ramirez, one of the stars of the film "American Reunion," says that her experiences growing up poor in the Dominican Republic help her develop her characters in movies and on television.

"I've had a life of many adventures, a hard life but good at the same time, and all that helps me because to be honest I can identify with every character I play," said the actress, who plays Selena Vega in "American Reunion," in which characters from the successful comedy "American Pie" meet up again 10 years later.

Ramirez said that having had a hard life doesn't "make me cry," but rather "I use it to forge ahead."

The 32-year-old actress and model recalled, during an interview with Efe, that she grew up living with her grandmother in a poor household where they didn't even have television.

Like many Dominican emigrants, 6-month-old Dania's parents left her in the care of her grandma when they left for the United States and she was nearly 10 years old by the time she joined them in New York.

Ramirez told Efe that deep down inside she is still the little girl who in her own country dreamed of being an actress: "I think the best actors have had many experiences in life. I'm still that girl who loved climbing trees and running around with all the little boys. If it weren't for that little girl I wouldn't be the success I am today."

"I want to keep opening doors for Latinos in Hollywood," said the Dominican, who in 2009 was the model for Cover Girl cosmetics and who has appeared in television series such as "The Sopranos," "Entourage" and "Heroes." EFE