When 22-year-old immigration activist Dulce Valencia talks about strong women, she thinks of her mom, who gave up her life in a small Mexican town to move to the United States despite not speaking English, all so her family could prosper.
Now Valencia herself is being called a strong authentic woman, and her life experiences are being shared through a Lifetime digital content series called Her America: 50 Women, 50 States, which launched online Monday.
The show’s goal is to amplify the voices of women across the nation who represent every facet of the country. Through a digital road-trip experience, it tells the story of one woman from each state and emphasizes that it’s portraying the “real women” so often emphasized in politics. The subjects include a beauty pageant contestant, the first female Asian American senator and a young woman being raised by her grandparents. They span the political and economic gamut.
Valencia, who spent roughly seven years in the country undocumented before obtaining a visa, is an organizing director of civic engagement at the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, or PLAN.
A passionate advocate for immigrants’ rights, she has devoted herself to registering new voters and getting them to the polls to combat anti-immigrant and other policies she believes don’t embody the best of America.
“I have people who I register because I tell them my personal story of being an immigrant and not being able to vote, and they tell me, ‘I’m going to vote, and when I get to the polls I’ll think of you,'” she says.
Having moved to the U.S. in December 2007, Valencia is ineligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. To qualify, applicants must have lived continuously in the United States since June 15, 2007. The just-missed opportunity broke her heart, but in 2015, Valencia and her mother obtained U visas after her mother cooperated with police in the wake of a robbery.
The legal status was a gift, allowing her to pursue her dream of becoming an actress by enrolling as a theater major at UNLV. She was also able to obtain a work permit, Valencia says.
“It’s something I never thought I would be able to do because of my immigration status,” she says. “My future is in this country. I have a lot of dreams.”
It’s the dreams and experiences of women like Valencia that Lifetime said it hopes to explore in the new series.
Created by an all-female team, Her America originated in the “noise” of the 2016 presidential election, Lifetime Editor-in-Chief Lea Goldman said in a news release.
“There was so much talk about women—how little media and entertainment knew and understood so-called ‘real women,’ how many assumptions we made about them,” she said. “And we thought, there are so many stories, so many sides that haven’t been represented, that deserve to be told.”