Netflix

'Orange is The New Black' Star Jackie Cruz’s message to Hollywood: “I hate labels, let me just be!”

'Orange is The New Black’ Flaca is cruzing in the no sh*ts given zone and we LOVE it.

26 Jul 2018

It’s rare to meet a celebrity like , where her sass is only matched by the positive energy that seeps from her every pore. Arriving for our interview sans publicist and real talk a-plenty, the American-Dominican actress is a unique actress in Hollywood’s sea of cardboard cut-out personalities.

We sit down on the eve of Trump’s infamous visit to London and Jackie is cruzing in the no filter zone from the offset, exclaiming, “its only my second time here, but I want to live here. Right now, I hate America – you know how that is going!”

Netflix

Aside from her game-changing role in Netflix’s flagship show, Jackie is on the verge of releasing her Spanglish single, 'La Hora Loca' and couldn’t resist the opportunity the night before to turn a pub trip into a promo tour. As she mischievously confides, “I went to a pub for the first time to get the experience and I 100 percent got the full experience! They didn’t know who I was. I ended up literally getting in a car with a stranger and played them my song. I got a fan!” Making that 1.4 million Instagram followers… and one, then!

As I sit with a full face of make-up from a spoof Flaca-esque beauty tutorial (more of that on ) as a gay man who grew up in a village of 150 people with no role model to speak of on television, it is incredible to think how Orange is The New Black has redefined representation in television. With fierce flagbearers like Jackie Cruz leading the way alongside the likes of Laverne Cox, a show about displaced characters has given a new generation a new breed of role model.

Getty Images

It’s a role Jackie was literally born to play, “Orange Is The New Black has opened my mind so much - the show has made me an activist – it’s given me a platform for my voice. I could be anywhere, I was even in a tiny town in Spain and a little girl came up to me saying how excited she was to meet me! It’s so cool that people feel that I am their homie!” And what a homie she is, trust me when I say you want to befriend this gal for life.

Here I meet a very rare and talented actress-come-singer who, “never put a timeline on her dream,” and it paid off…

A post shared by (@joshingtonhosts) on

Hollywood is still SO behind with representation...

Orange Is The New Black is slowly making all my dreams come true. It was a little crack in the door from Hollywood, enough for me to push it open. Now I get to audition for amazing things, not that I am booking all these things as Hollywood is still so behind in terms of representation!

It really shows all types of women. I have never seen a show with eight different types of Latinas in a global show before. Now I am seeing myself on TV – it literally is me – but it’s the first time I have seen a representation of who I am as a Latin woman. It’s cool to see the kids so excited about the character – you will go into Starbucks and someone will say, ‘I am just like Flaca’ I always want to be approachable. I always want people to know that I was once just like you and your dreams can come true, just like mine. I love Beyoncé, but I feel that she is a bit untouchable – it’s hard to get there but it really isn’t when you put all your focus into what you love to do.”

Netflix has been such a pioneer of diversity not just streaming and binging...

There is more representation for the LGBTQ community thanks to Orange. There are so many new diverse shows, too. There’s One Day At A Time which is about a Cuban family – almost like Full House and we never had that so that is dope. Diversity has been a huge factor in Netflix – we were at the beginning of a new era and it was about time. I want to continue what Orange did for me and open doors for people like me, the under-represented person and write stories for us! We were always there, we just weren’t represented. I am not alone, you are not alone, and I want people to see that!

Our show is starting conversations at the dinner table – we show that you are not alone...

I get letters from young people saying, ‘I watched the show with my Mum. I came out and she understands that I am not alone and why I am like this. She thinks its normal, too. I can be free!’ That is enough for me, for us to show that you are not alone. You get to see the humans in the show whereas before we would just judge them simply because they are in prison. It is a show about prison, but I don’t think about that any more, I think about the stories we are telling.

I hate the labels, let me just be!

Even with us using Latin X instead of Latino or Latina, it feels that labels are so ridiculous. They keep you in a box and I am so tired of being in the damn box. I am tired of being stereotyped. I look different and there is a reason I look different because I come from colonisation and rape. I am from the Dominican Republic. I am mixed with a bunch of things – not that we have ancestory.com! I am a native, I am European, I am African, I am Middle Eastern, I am Polynesian! I am a freaking cocktail!

Another actress stole my story and it lit a fire in my ass...

I started my own production company called Unspoken Film this month. I am currently working on my first short, The Dying Kind. The story, set in the 1900s, is about how a white male who rapes a Native American woman and the central character, Maggie is the offspring. The character is not accepted by her ‘own people’ (The Natives) or ‘the whites.’ On the surface it is a punch in the gut against the spiritual and mental genocide that Natives American’s were forced to endure. In the 19th Century, they had to send their children to boarding schools to be assimilated (tortured) into Christians because our American government believed they could, 'Kill the Indian, Save the Man.' Going deeper, America continues to fabricate this type of mental enslavement generation after generation towards most of all, minorities. The Dying Kind is about rebirth, not role reversal. The innocence that was originally taken from Maggie, is now backfiring on the white family which represents America as a whole. Maggie’s rageful reaction is representative of minorities today who are finally demanding respect and control over their own identities. I have been writing it with Carol Garlick who I am sure will write my Oscar movie one day! To be honest with you, I shared it with another actress – a famous white actress – and she stole my story and created it her own way. I got an audition for it, but she got the money for it. But instead of being angry and fighting it, I let it go. I wanted to create my own story as she changed it into a ‘white story’ because she didn’t have the time to do the right thing. She lit a fire in my ass.

Getty Images

I want people to understand that all the sh*t you go through means something – it is your journey...

Now that I f**king realised this I understand why I had my car accident, why that guy stole my money, why she stole my idea. It’s just meant to happen. If I went back to my old twenty-year-old self I would say, ‘stop worrying and stop worrying about your age.’ I used to think, ‘if I haven’t made it by this age, then it’s not going to happen.’ But no – don’t think that way – because that is allowing negativity to enter you. Let the universe do its thing – you don’t know when it is coming but it is coming. There is a desire in your heart and soul for a reason and I am telling you it’s exactly what you are meant to be doing. Maybe you want to be the CEO of whatever company and if you have that in your head you will be it. I don’t care if I am 90 years old and winning an Oscar – there is no timeline for my dream!

Be a hustler - don’t ever be trapped by your position...

I love talking about real sh*t. Even with my character. Look, she is ambitious and she finds the light in a dark place regardless. She always tries to make the best happen. She’s an authentic hustler like myself – we don’t try to cheat people, we just try to make something of ourselves, whatever the circumstances. She is in prison right now and if I have learnt anything from Flaca it is: don’t f**king be trapped in the place you are. Don’t let that hold you back from being bigger than that place.

Social media is changing the casting game...

Social media has also given un-talented people roles, for instance, the conversation is, ‘oh she has 20 million followers let’s give her a job or let’s make her a singer now!’ Hollywood needs to wake up and stop hiring the really famous people with no talent because when people want to watch TV, they want to feel something. I didn’t feel comfortable in Hollywood because everyone was fake, and people just kiss your ass or other people’s asses just to be in something. I am not that person.

If I don’t make it for my talent, it’s not for me. I don’t want to use my face, my boobs and my booty to get somewhere...

If I don’t make it for my talent, it’s not for me. I learnt that at a young age because when I had a car accident everything was stripped away from me, all the little beauty I had which was my long hair and my face was gone. My face was crooked, I was cross-eyed, and I thought, ‘wow I am never going to make it in Hollywood.’ I was suicidal but after I met this little girl who was in a wheelchair (who I am still friends with) and she said, ‘you are beautiful,’ I thought, ‘what is wrong with me? Why do I care so much about my face when what is important is inside!’ There are beautiful women who are so ugly inside – and that is very Hollywood. I have only just started feeling comfortable in my own skin. I tried so hard to be who you wanted me to be and that is why it didn’t work. The moment I started being myself everything fell into place. Confidence is key.

I changed my name, so my father couldn’t be part of my success...

I have spent seven years trying to find my sound musically. But it’s ok because I was growing up at the time. Now, I feel like an established human being and have an album I am so proud of, Hija de Chavez. It is a very personal title to me because my real name isn’t Cruz, it is actually Chavez. I met my father at 23 years old and he didn’t believe in what I was doing with my life. He said I wasn’t going to make it. So, I said, ‘I am going to make it and I am not going to use your last name.’ Boom! Now look at me, I signed myself, I get to do this on my own and now people are coming to me. It’s harder because other people have entire machines behind them and I have just me and my co-writer (and artist in his own right), Feefa. That would actually be my last piece of advice: stop chasing people! Work with the people who want to work with you and believe in you, whatever you dream of happening will happen!

'Orange is the New Black' season 6 is streaming on Netflix from 27th July