‘Orange Is The New Black’ star Jackie Cruz speaks on following dreams


Jackie Cruz, Flaca in the Netflix original series, “Orange is the New Black,” speaks at Kent State on October 22, 2014. “The purpose of her coming is to show Kent State Latinos and Hispanics – and really all of the student body – that there are Hispanics out there who are doing great things for themselves,” said Kelsey Leyva, the public relations specialist for SALSA.

Arbrion Chambliss

“I hope to bring belief that you too can make your dreams happen,” Jackie Cruz, guest star on the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black,” told an audience of Kent community members during a lecture Wednesday evening in the Michael Schwartz auditorium.

Cruz, a Dominican actress and musician, is known for her guest starring role as Flaca on the Netflix series.

A crowd of more than 50 members of the Kent State community gathered to listen to the lecture, sponsored by The Spanish and Latino Student Association.

Cruz shared both the high and low points of her career as an actress and as a musician, including a near death experience: a car accident that left her in a coma for 72 hours.

Cruz said she was first inspired to be an entertainer at the age of 6, after seeing Whitney Houston in “The Body Guard.”

“We all have that moment, the moment when you see or hear or experience or feel intuitively, and you just know in your soul that that is what you’re meant to do,” Cruz said.

Cruz’s mother moved her from The Dominican Republic to Hollywood at age 15 to open up more opportunities, she said.

While Cruz was living in Los Angeles, she was riding with a friend who lost control of her car. It flipped three times, throwing her from the vehicle, she said. She underwent emergency brain surgery, was in a coma and was not expected to make it.

“I believe that we are all born with a purpose and have to go through unique circumstances during the battle,” Cruz said. “However, our destinies are so special that it can’t be just handed to us.”

Soon after her recovery, Cruz returned to Los Angeles to pursue her career, with the encouragement of her mother, she said

 “I was a miracle and if God put this desire in my heart, I needed to follow it,” she said.

Cruz said she eventually moved to New York where she first auditioned for the role on “Orange is the New Black.”

“I worked ten years to get my big break and there it was. I felt I had gone through so much to become Flaca,” Cruz said.

Cruz said Flaca originally was only supposed to have three lines but the writers expanded the role as her character grew.

During the question and answer session, an audience member vocally praised her for having the courage to be a positive media representation of the Latin-American community.

Natalia Roman, SALSA vice president and sophomore organizational communications major, said that she believes Cruz is very relatable and encouraging.

“Personally, I feel that seeing her overcome all the obstacles that she did could make someone else believe that they can overcome anything that can be in their way as well,” Roman said.

Roderic Swiner freshmen entrepreneurship major said he admired that Cruz never strayed from the goals she set for herself as a six years old.

“You can see how passionate she is about what she does and how serious she is about perfecting her craft,” Swiner said.

Cruz said she is currently working on season three of “Orange Is The New Black,” her music and a film that will take place in the Dominican Republic.

 “Don’t think about what people will say or how realistic your dream is, just declare what you want,” Cruz said. “I can say I am one of those fortunate individuals who are living their dream.”

Contact Arbrion Chambliss at [email protected].