OITNB Jackie Cruz: LATINA POWER

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JACKIE CRUZ: LATINA POWER

Featured in BELLO mag issue #155

by Christian Stan

Activism is Jackie Cruz’s main trait, the actress who uses the popularity she gained with her role as Flaca in Orange Is the New Black, to fight for the social causes she believes in. Through her own production company, Unspoken Films, Jackie aims to bring in the limelight taboo stories, which many prefer to ignore and about which nobody dares to speak out.

Bold and genuine, Jackie Cruz does not hesitate to tell it like it is , and she always finds new ways to explore her creativity. Music was her first love and nowadays she is also flirting with photography, but it was her acting that made her famous with her role of Flaca in OITNB. Her boyfriend Fernando (a painter who is preparing for his first show in New York) has introduced Jackie in the fascinanting world of conteporary art. We had a phone conversion on a Saturdau afternoon, right after Bastille Day, which Jackie spent in Paris at the invitation of some friends. Just like her character, Jackie is optimistic and cheerful, and she always sees the glass half full. Her fame did not get to her head and she did not lose touch with reality. On the contrary, she takes advantage of this platform to make her voice heard, in order to leave her mark in this world. She dreams of a tolerant world, a world without prejudices and racial hatred, where people respect eachother and it does not matter what you belive in, where you were born or who you love, as long as you are a good person.

I think we should all follow her example and make her message heard, so as to slowly change the way future generations will think!

Jackie, thank you for doing this interview while in vacation. Tell me, how do you unwind when you have some free time?

I come from the Dominican Republic, and honestly I like everything that has to do with the beach. I also love being with my family and surrounded by my people and my closest friends. I’ve never tried spending my vacation in the mountains. I’ve been thinking to go snowboarding or skiing, as there are some really cool mountain resorts near New York, but I’ve never got the chance. For now, beach and sea, please.

Your summer escapade in Europe started in Rome. You’ve also been to the Ischia Film Festival and now you are in Paris.  I know that you’re mixing fun with work.

Yes, I am in Paris right now with Remy Martin Cognac. I have partnered with them last year for the Circle of Centaurus mentorship program, that recognizes and celebrates individuals’ many talents.

This is the first company that actually believed in my music and hired me not because I am an actress, but because I have other talents besides wanting to act. Music has always been my first love and it’s amazing that I had the opportunity to mentor someone else. I did a few performances for Remy Martin in New York, Miami and one of the girls that I chose to mentor was a singer from Miami. She is a Latina, from the Dominican Republic. It was very nice that I got the chance to meet all these people. I am not yet successful in the music area, but hopefully I’ll get to do more music soon.

You like to keep busy and you recently launched your own production company. What’s “Unspoken Films” about?

I want to break barriers for diverse women, for women like me, who aren’t represented enough on screen. Through this company I want to show the stories that are not really seen as often or not talked about at all. My first short film will be done this summer and it’s about a woman who was raped in the military. This is a true story. These women have only 60 to 65 days to report the rape or else it doesn’t count. It’s like it never existed. This film focuses about what’s happening in the military and I really hope that something can change. I am just trying to raise awareness on the rapes and violence againts the women in the military system.

You have also narrated a documentary, “The Naked Truth: Undocumented on Campus”, which focuses on immigration…

The documentary tells this heartbreaking story of a student whose mother has to go back home in Mexico. She feared every day after the election that she was going to be deported. She didn’t have the right papers to work and live in the US and they were separated without even saying goodbye. He had to stay in the US to continue his studies. If he had gone back to Mexico to see her, he couldn’t have come back… I was asked by the producers to narrate it and I was very honored to do so because I want people in similar situations to know that we are watching, we want to change things and we want to bring awareness about what’s happening to them.

 I love that there is so much more about you than acting and music. You have a calling for supporting social causes…

I am here for a reason, and Orange Is the New Black gave me this amazing platform to talk, to create and to use my voice for what I believe in. We have only one life and I think it’s important to follow all of your passions, to be heard and I am so thankful for that.

You are also an activist for LGBTQ rights and you have been marching at gay prides this year with your fellow actresses from OITNB…

It’s all about raising awareness and making people feel confortable in their own skin. I want to support people, humans and I don’t want anybody to be left out. Highschool can be a difficult time for many of us.. you don’t really know who you are yet..  marching and everything I am doing is for people people to feel that they are not alone and that we are here to support them. Bringing a voice to the LGBTQ community means showing the world that they are not alone, teaching the world to be more open and flexible. I get so many e-mails from women and men who have finally come out to their families, thanks to the show that I’m involved in. They are watching it on television, they feel represented and they feel like it’s OK. They learn to accept who they and to be proud of who they are.

 

What would you say to a religious person that opposes to gay marriage?

I really think that God loves of all us, no matter what our choices are. If you are a good person I don’t understand why who you believe in and who you love should matter.

The last season of Orange Is the New Black was so intense with the riot that was going on. Flaca, your character, saw all this mess as the perfect opportunity to become a YouTube sensation…

Flaca and Maritza handled this situation very different. Flaca has never been a Follower, she has always been a Leader. At first I thought that Flaca is doing again doing silly things, but after I saw the whole season I understood how important it was to have both Flaca and Mariza doing the Video Blog. This is their way of showing the world what’s going on inside the prison and to creat some funny moments in all that drama. This season I had a lot of fun with my best friend, Dianne, and I just never wanted to end.

The end of the season showed Mariza and Flaca parting ways, as they are taken to different prisons. What’s going to happen to your character in the next season?

I don’t know, and I am so excited to see what they’ll write for season 6. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen. I just got a phone call and the producers told me that I am going to be in Season 6. This is very exciting news for me, and I can’t wait to step out in the unknown territory.

Have you ever thought about Vlogging in your real life?

To have a platform like OITNB has made me feel like I do. I do a lots of Instagram Stories and yes, it kind of feels like I am vlogging. You also told me that you watched all the stories I did yesterday.:)

This last season of the show showcased some cruel violence with the feud between Red and Piscatella? Do you think this is something common in real life?

Definitely there is lot of violence going on in the prison system. We wanted to show the world that the people in prisons should be treated with respect. They are not animals. Not everyone that is in prison is a murderer, a rapist or has done awful things. A lot of people are there because of money, they were just trapped in the system. A lot of innocent people are also in prison. A show like OITNB is important, and I think that we are making a difference and people no longer judge the one behind bars like they used to do. People need to be treated with respect, they need better food and better living conditions. Everything you see in our show is reality and I am very proud that we can show all this and make a difference…

You are also a business woman and you’ve recently opened a Spa called Chillhouse in New York…

Look, NY is hectic. Cyndi (Ramirez, my partner) and I just wanted to create a place for girls to come, to hang out, to have coffee and a glass of champagne while getting their nails done or getting a massage.

Things are going great in NY and we want to expand also to Miami and L.A. soon.

Let’s talk now abiut your personal life. You are now living a beautiful love story with an artist, a painter. How did Ferando Garcia change you?

We have both grown a lot. We are both artists and we help each other become the artists we are meant to be. I didn’t know much about art until I met him and I am curious to discover new things each and every day. He is going to his first show very soon. It’s happening on August 23rd in New York.

You will be 31 on the 8th of August. You share the same birthday as my favorite characters from Sense8. How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

That’s so cool. Did not know that the Sensates were born on the same day. How would I describe myself… Give me a few seconds…. I am determined, ambitious and real. I can’t hide who I am and I am definitely real.

About The Author

Aleksandar Tomovic
Editor in Chief

French photographer (of Serbian Origins) lives and works in Los Angeles. Known for his celebrity fashion editorials and recognized around the world for his european esthetics and american efficiency.

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