Luisa Madrigal is Encanto’s big, buff breakout character with killer dance moves and a deep voice as strong as her muscles. She’s the lesbian internet’s current crush, and her voice actor — newcomer Jessica Darrow — is becoming just as big an icon!
It all started with “some random audition” that Darrow had, but soon, she was becoming aware of how big and meaningful Encanto was going to be. It’s when she first saw the design for Luisa that it hit her how people would be able to see themselves in the character. But even that didn’t prepare her for the reaction she’s gotten from fans.
“I’m just honored to be here for the ride,” Darrow tells Out. “I really was not expecting all of this to go as crazy as it has...It’s something that also resonates with me deeply, and is now resonating with so many other people, which is insane!”
Photo: Iris Torres-Gatherer
One of the main ways Darrow relates to Luisa is as a queer Latina who doesn’t always feel comfortable talking about her feelings, especially with family. “I think what feels most relatable is, honestly, the softness that Luisa has, and the fact that she doesn't talk about herself, about her romantic life, or anything else for that matter. And I feel like a lot of women, and especially queer women, were actually relating with that story specifically.”
“It’s like you don’t necessarily have room to even think about that aspect of your life,” she continues. “So I think she spoke up for a lot of soft-spoken, queer Latina women and just children in general who have always needed to be the strong one [in the family].”
While Darrow’s own family isn’t the huge one all under one roof in Encanto, she does have a sister, who she says is the real Disney nerd in the family, and “grew up with a lot of food, a lot of colors, a lot of music, and a lot of different characters in my family for sure.”
Photo: Iris Torres-Gatherer
Darrow is charming and hilarious. Her husky voice gives her a great laugh, and she’s quick to joke around, tossing in the word “bro” every other sentence like we're old friends. When I ask her if she was a Madrigal, what gift would she want, she can’t decide. She ends up picking shape-shifting, talking to animals, and flight.
That wonderfully charming, husky voice is one of the things that fans are most latching onto, making her character’s song “Surface Pressure” the number ten song on this week’s Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“When I was younger doing a lot of musical theater, the shows that I was doing, I tried to sound ingenue-y and put my voice through a lot of trauma, actually. I'm currently trying to unlearn these patterns that I have taught myself,” she says. “Now I'm able to do this part that actually allowed me to sing a song that brought out every single texture in my voice, and relied on that part of me, the authentic part of me, that I always tried to suppress. So singing this song, every time I hear it, it's like, I'm not going to lie, it's a little bit of a reminder to little me saying, ‘It's actually okay. That stuff that you think sounds ugly, or whatever, is actually f*cking gorgeous to some eight year old, and feels like them.’”
Darrow is aware of the inspiration she and Luisa have been, but she’s also aware of the other reaction fans are having: one of unbridled sapphic adoration. When a fan on TikTok asked if she likes girls, she simply replied, “Y’all are funny. You see this haircut?” And the sapphic fans reacted by asking her out on dates and even proposing marriage.
“Y’all! Thanks for shooting your shot,” she laughs. “Listen, I'm just a bashful little queen. I’m pretty shy about my love life, so I’ve never gotten marriage proposals on the internet before. Getting it for the first time feels really crazy. And to be honest, y'all just got my rosacea acting up, is all that I can say, okay? So I really appreciate it, but yeah, whatever the haircut makes you feel, I allow you to feel that, man.”
She also relates, remembering the first times she had crushes on cartoon characters. She says it was a character in Disney's An Extremely Goofy Movie known as Beret Girl who gave her her first “tingly feeling” she felt for an animated character. But it was Aladdin and Jasmine she really latched onto.
“I had this obsession with Jasmine, another version where it's like, ‘Huh, am I obsessed with you or do I want to be with you?’ And I kind of liked her vibe and the fact that she has Rajah, the pet,” she says. “That's my dream girl type of situation. Pull up on a magic carpet and save my girl, and we're going to fly away with our big ass cat. And to be honest, I loved Aladdin, too because he had long hair and was always walking around without a shirt. And I was like, that's my vibe.”
Now, she gets to be that person for others, and she loves it.
“Receiving all of the love has been amazing, but it’s mostly been humbling that I’m the person that is now allowing this opportunity for all these different forms of identification and relatability,” she says. “And if Luisa is who you’re thinking about before you go to sleep, I’m happy that I’m the voice to do that. Maybe I’ll do a Luisa guided mediation and we can put that out there.”
Photo: Iris Torres-Gatherer
She wants her fans to know that she’s working on an EP of her music, and that she’s “of course” open to an Encanto sequel or spinoff.
“I’m like, bro, I’m the one! Let’s do it,” she says. “I feel like Luisa deserves a spinoff, we’ve got to see what’s in her room, we’ve got to delve into her love life. We’ve got to delve into all these things. I’m so for it.”
“Luisa is, to be frank, the most beloved character for a reason,” she continues. “No one’s seen anything like her before. She deserves to have her whole story to be told. I want to do that.”
Encanto is now streaming on Disney+.