Whether it’s the iconic early-aughts film Love Don’t Cost a Thing or her 2021 Netflix hit Resort to Love, Christina Milian has solidified herself in the world of rom-coms.
A romantic in real life, who has had her personal share of love and heartbreak, Milian relates to the journeys these characters experience on the screen. Whether the women she portrays are pulling themselves out of difficult situations or finding what they’ve been searching for (from romance to self-love), the Cuban-American singer-actor has been there. And knowing the good, the bad, and the scary of dating and intimacy, telling these stories through fictionalized characters comforts her — and millions of viewers. It’s why she loves acting in rom-coms, and why we love watching her in them.
“In most rom-coms, it's a situation where you're probably in your darkest time, whether you're going through a breakup or your job's not working out, and then you just find a light in your life. And I think everybody is looking for that,” Milian tells Refinery29 Somos.
Milian appeared in her first rom-com in 1999, playing a nameless party-goer in the coming-of-age classic The Wood. In just three years, the New Jersey native worked her way to the leading lady of the 2003 cult fave Love Don't Cost a Thing. Opposite Nick Cannon, Milian played Paris Morgan, a popular cheerleader who gives geeky Alvin Johnson (Cannon) a makeover and pretends to date him to return a favor, and, of course, ends up really falling for him.
"In most rom-coms, it's a situation where you're probably in your darkest time, whether you're going through a breakup or your job's not working out, and then you just find a light in your life. And I think everybody is looking for that."
To this day, it remains one of Milian’s favorite rom-coms. “Love Don't Cost a Thing set the foundation at that time," the 41-year-old actor says. "It was my first big film that I got to star in. And it's still a classic to this day. I could watch it completely over and over again every year. And to me, it's become like a cult classic within my generation."
Two of Milian’s other faves: Falling Inn Love and Snowglobe. The first is a rom-com released by Netflix in 2019 that tells the story of Gabriela Diaz, a San Francisco designer who wins a deteriorating inn in New Zealand. There, she gets over a non-committed ex-boyfriend by restoring the inn and falling for the man who helps her, the bereaved Jake Taylor (Adam Demos). “I liked that because it was just so goofy and had these really funny moments," she says. "The director (Roger Kumble) was so much fun to work with. He just kind of let me be out there and do goofy, comedic things. I liked that I got to come out of my shell.”
In Snowglobe, a 2007 TV film produced by ABC Family, Milian stars as Angela Moreno, a Christmas-obsessed woman who magically finds herself inside a snow globe, in a world where it's Christmas every day and where she meets her beau. “It’s a classic Christmas film. I watch it every year, and I think for me it's the imagination that goes with that one. It's got a sense of magic to it,” she says.
"Leading roles in rom-coms that center Latine stories are often given to white and lighter-skinned Latinas; when Afro-Latinas are cast, their culture and ethnicity are largely removed."
But what Milian most appreciates about Snowglobe is that it’s the first rom-com where she was able to play a character that resembles herself: an Afro-Latina. “I felt like that one had great representation, too. My character had culture baked in her. And she was cute and adorable and she loved Christmas,” she says.
While we are seeing more Black Latina actors being cast in films and TV series, many portray non-Latine characters. Take Milian’s own role as Paris in Love Don’t Cost a Thing, for instance. Leading roles in rom-coms that center Latine stories are often given to white and lighter-skinned Latinas; when Afro-Latinas are cast, their culture and ethnicity are largely removed.
“That's something I've always talked about, the fact that [the entertainment industry] always tries to either categorize you in one thing and not the other or something," Milian says. "We're such a mixed variation of each country and place that the more the representation, the more the understanding, the more doors that are open for other girls that are just like me that are looking up to what I do. And that's my dream, because I didn't have a lot of that growing up.”
On her younger days: While Milian cites Jennifer Lopez’s Maid in Manhattan and Drew Barrymore’s 50 First Dates as her favorite rom-coms, she says it was in watching Rosie Perez in the ‘90s and 2000s that she actually felt seen. “She was so damn cool. And I felt like that. ... That was a representation of me, and it was so inspiring,” she says. “So to me, I’m like, I [would] love [for] more people to know our culture, to know that I'm proud of my colour. I'm proud of who I am.”
"I [would] love [for] more people to know our culture, to know that I'm proud of my colour. I'm proud of who I am.”
In films like Falling Inn Love and Snowglobe, Milian has been able to bring her culture to the projects. Additionally, the mother of three has been able to pull from other aspects of her life as well. “I definitely look at my life and look into the feelings and the emotions that I've experienced before and grow those characters with those kind of same feelings as they grow in the movies,” she says.
Five years ago, the actor lived out her own rom-com when she met her now-husband, French singer Matt Pokora. “I met my husband in France. It was 2017. I was just in the summer of my life, having the best time ever, a single mom," she says, remembering fondly. "Part of me was praying that I would meet somebody because I got tired of the dating rounds and tired of the guys that I was meeting. I also opened up. I had a type and I was like, ‘Let's stop doing this and try something new.’ Be open to trying anything, because you just don't know where love is.” The two wed in 2020.
“I think there's a light at the end of the tunnel. And I think when people are patient, and when you're not expecting something, [it] just kind of hits you like, wham. That's what I love about [making rom-coms].”
It’s this experience, along with her past, that has allowed Milian to dive deep into herself for roles. “I think there's a light at the end of the tunnel. And I think when people are patient, and when you're not expecting something, [it] just kind of hits you like, wham," she says. "That's what I love about [making rom-coms], and I feel true life kind of emulates the same thing.”
And we love watching Milian in rom-coms. Luckily for us, there’s more to come. Milian promises to give the fans what they’ve been asking for: “We're going to go rom-com Christmas, that's my next project,” she says, excitedly. “I can't say the name just yet, but it’ll be out next holiday.” We can’t wait.