All eyes were on Baby Driver star Eiza González when she stepped onto the Oscars red carpet in a bright yellow, formfitting, backless Ralph Lauren Collection gown. And the Mexican-born actress, 28, says that was the intent.
PEOPLE spoke to the star at the Veuve Clicquot Carnaval in Miami on Saturday, and asked if she expected such a head-turning response (landing her a spot on every best dressed list, no less). “Maybe we did” she said slyly.
González expanded on her show-stopping moment, saying, “Listen, that’s how I felt at the moment. I felt very full of life, and I felt that as soon as I wore that yellow, I felt very sure of being a woman. And I feel like that’s really helped me to get where I am – being very secure of myself, and carrying myself, and I knew it was going to be a pop of color in a sea of women and I did it also for myself – it was therapeutic.”
The star of the From Dusk Till Dawn reboot, who is rumored to be dating Fergie ex Josh Duhamel, says she wasn’t nervous about the fashion statement itself, but that, “I was just more nervous about being a Latina immigrant representing there.”
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The outspoken activist takes her responsibility as a Latina role model very seriously, saying, “Sometimes people can take it as aggressive but listen, it’s something I feel passionate about. Being in the industry, I’ve been taken in in a very nice way, but it’s been hard and it’s been a real journey and a real struggle, and it’s fighting typecasts and stereotypes every single day, and proving to people that we can be multidimensional and be very layered women and we are not just one thing.” She adds of her efforts, “For me, I have to do it, feels like a responsibility, and I love it and enjoy it and I’m passionate about it.”
González points to fellow Latina actresses like Salma Hayek and Rita Moreno as role models, saying, “They have opened and paved the way when it was really hard. Now, we have a lot of platforms, before we didn’t. So, now I gotta give it to them – they did the hard work for us. I’m just trying to honor what they did and keep changing the game.”
As for her experience at the actual Oscar ceremony (her first) and afterparties, the budding star, who filmed seven projects this year including the buzzed-about Steve Carrell movie, The Women of Marwen, says she went all out. “I ended up with my heels in my hand, walking down the street, with my Schiaparelli dress — just dragging it — I hope they don’t kill me. It was just so fun to see everyone – Guillermo , Gael , just drinking shots of tequila, just letting loose and letting all that nervousness out. Because, all of awards season is really hectic and stressful, and this was just unwinding – and we thrashed!”
But her favorite star she saw that night? The queen of all statement-making gestures herself, Madonna. “She was dancing…It was surreal!”