Growing Up Latina With ‘Orange Is The New Black’s Jackie Cruz

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Jackie CruzOrange is the New Black breakout star Marisol Gonzales—knew at the age of six she was destined for greatness. While living in the Dominican Republic, a single trip to the movie theater during a screening of The Bodyguard, starring Whitney Houston, would spark a vested interest in becoming Hollywood’s next ‘it’ girl.

“I fell in love with Whitney when I saw her on the big screen,” she tells us. “And on my walk back home from the movies, I told my mom I wanted to be a singer and an actress.”

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After surviving homelessness and, later, a coma from a nasty car accident, she turned to modeling while waitressing at a New York establishment before being cast as our beloved Flaca on the Netflix hit series. Today, not only is she making once-lofty dreams a tangible reality, she’s doing it with the industry’s crème de la crème to insure no vision is left unfulfilled. “Right now, I’m having Rémy Martin Circle of Centaurs partner with me because they believe in my voice—that’s just something that seemed impossible not too long ago.

As the newest mentor of Rémy Martin’s Circle of Centaurs, Cruz will serve as a personal mentor for someone who has demonstrated musical flair and a natural ability to explore his or her many inner talents.

Raised between Santo Domingo and Queens, New York, Flaca has plenty to be thankful for, lots of which she credits to growing up Latina…

To those who wanted a little spanish 💋 Ser @latina es una de las mayores bendiciones con las que fui premiada. Yo no elegí ser latina, pero que gran privilegio es poder serlo. Les invito a que miren a cualquier mujer latina y encontraras en ella gran resilencia, hermosas cicatrices de amar profundamente y sabiduría obtenida de las victorias conquistadas a raíz del trabajo arduo. Ser latina es haber nacido con amor puro y pasión, pasión por todo lo que hacemos. Ya sea cocinar, limpiar, cuidar a los niños, o llevar vida al arte. Todo lo que hacemos es con pasión, amamos con pasión, cualquier hombre o mujer lo suficientemente afortunado de tener nuestro corazón puede dar testimonio de ello. Nosotros luchamos por nuestros sueños, y nos elevamos por encima de aquellos que quieren hacernos sentir inferior y derribarnos, porque en nuestra sangre corre una larga línea de reinas que se han sacrificado para traernos a la tierra de las oportunidades. La historia de nuestra cultura es fuerte, nuestros colores son tan brillantes y nuestra hermosa e unificadora lengua hoy día es enseñada en casi todas las escuelas secundarias de la nación. Nuestra gastronomía esta presente en cualquier menú, nuestra calidez, el arte de seducción, y la determinación indomable nos convierte en parte de las mujeres más hermosas del mundo. No asimilamos la tierra donde estamos. La tierra no tiene más opción que hacer suficiente espacio para nosotras!! Ser latina es un regalo, y un privilegio. Como cualquier corona por supuesto, solo quien la lleva soporta el peso. Debemos preservar nuestra cultura y traspasarla a las próximas generaciones para que ellas también puedan reinar como nosotras. #soylatina 👑 🇩🇴 #DR #Santiago

A photo posted by Jackie Cruz (@msjackiecruz) on

Unforgettable childhood memory:
Besides every Tuesday eating Domino’s 2 for 1 pizza? [Laughs] It would definitely be seeing The Bodyguard in the Dominican Republican. That’s the reason why I wanted to become a singer and an actress.

Favorite home cooked dish:
I don’t like to cook that much, but when I come home to the DR—pastelón de plátano maduro. It has carne molida (ground beef) and cheese in the middle, with sweet plantains layers. That, or meatballs. Meatballs and lasagna! I’m also part Italian, you know. 

Craziest Hispanic proverb as told by mami or abuela:
El que quiere moño bonito, aguanta halones, or “whoever wants beautiful hair takes the pain.” Sounds better in Spanish. [Laughs]

Blue is the warmest color #Flaritza @dianeguerrero_ @oitnb @netflix #lovemylife #grateful

A photo posted by Jackie Cruz (@msjackiecruz) on

Che Guevara moment (or your greatest moment of rebellion):
When I pulled the fire alarm in night grade… To make friends. It was really like a movie. During lunch, everyone was like, ‘Jackie’s gonna pull the fire alarm.’ And I’m like, ‘no I’m not.’ Come on girl, we want to like cut class. Come on. And I didn’t have any friends because I was new. And I’m like, ‘no, I’m not gonna do it.’ And then everybody’s just like telling me to do it, right. And then it’s like this moment. I see the fire alarm, the bell rings, no one’s looking. I’m like, boom, I did it. When I walked out in the hallway, everyone’s high five-ing me. I was instantly the coolest kid. I was like, ‘Yeah! I did it! I did it!’ But then I went back to class, while everyone skipped class.

I went back to class because I was the good kid. School officials came at me and asking if I confess I won’t get suspended. And I’m like, ‘yes, it was me!’ [Laughs]

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But then I made a good friend, Patty with the helmet. I swear to god she was the nicest person in high school. Patty, thank you. High school was torture. I wanted to get out of there. I was nerd alert. Nerd alert. Even when I tried to be bad, it was awful. People were writing graffiti on walls and I wrote whore the wrong way. I wrote, ‘Jackie is a hore.’ And I wrote it the wrong way. And people were dying laughing at me. Yeah, it was f*cking hilarious. It never worked out for me.

I first saw myself as Latina when…
Dancing. Dancing was always a point of connection for me. I think because I noticed that not everybody could dance. I just felt it in my blood, though. I don’t know, you’re just born with it, right?

Chupacabra or el cuco? 
Los dos, pero el cuco. Definitely el cuco. La Chupacabra, definitely, I heard it a lot. But el cuco, like my family would scare the sh*t out of me with that story.

Poor man’s meal:
Ramen noodle. I ate that for a whole year in Miami. I was really skinny too back then.

Household cure-all/remedy:
Vivaporu! [Laughs] Vick’s VapoRub.

I had the honor of being at the unveiling of Selena @tussaudsla Yesterday! Selena was and continues to be, an idol for so many, especially for young girls who dreamt of being singers and entertainers. Myself included. Thank you for breaking all the barriers you did for Latinas, for women and for young girls in entertainment. Thank you for whole heartedly pursuing all your passions from designer to musician, because in that pursuit you tore down doors for many of us. Selena’s life was cut short but her impact, legacy and most importantly her music will never be forgotten. #selenaquintanilla #neverforgotten #mireina👑 thank you @nelsontavareznt for this custom Selena inspired design and @priscillaono for my make up 💋 and @yuichi0503 hair nails by @nails_byely 💅🏽 #dreamteam

A photo posted by Jackie Cruz (@msjackiecruz) on

Salsa, Bachata, or reggaeton?
Salsa for me. I know that’s not like a “Dominican” thing. But reggaeton is like when you’re with your girlfriends and you like to booty dance or show off with boys or whatever. But salsa is something that I guess—it’s an art to it. I love it.

Telenovela guilty pleasure:
Maria del Barrio from back in the day. Oh, and Dos Mujeres, Un Camino.

Historical hero or heroine?
Selena. I’ve watched every video documentary of her. I just feel like I know her. She’s just such a beautiful person. And she did so much at 23, and I feel like she broke barriers at such a young age, and made a little 7-year-old like me think she could do it, too. So that’s my hero.

Life mantra:
Don’t put a timeline on your dreams.

CREDIT: Marjua Estevez