BY: Kayla Reyes
Edited By: Tai Perkins
PHOTOS BY: Rasheed Ingram
"It will take maybe 10 years, but I feel like they’re giving opportunities
to people who actually make their own work. I'm making my own work.”
Walking into the room with a bright smile, burst of energy and bomb makeup is the talented Jackie Cruz. Jackie Cruz is a Dominican actress, singer and former model who is known for her role as Marisol or “Flaca” -- a young, spicy, outspoken latina -- on Netflix's Orange Is the New Black. Jackie touches upon her accident as a teenager, what it's like being a latina in the industry and even tells us about her upcoming projects!
Next Jeneration: What inspired you to be an actress?
Jackie Cruz: Well since I was little, I saw The Bodyguard and I was in the Dominican Republic because I was raised there and it was all in Spanish but wendy sang in english. That's how I got inspired by acting and music. I was like mom ‘I want to be like her’ Then I saw Pretty Woman, I know that I shouldn’t be imitating Pretty Woman at a young age but I used to do that.
Next Jeneration: That's what got you here now?
Jackie Cruz: Yeah and my mom thought I was funny and she put me in classes at a young age. I was the youngest little actress in the DR.
Next Jeneration: That’s great. You’re representing Dominican woman! What would you say is your biggest accomplishment now?
Jackie Cruz: My music. Besides, seven years of Orange. My music because I’ve been working my entire life for my music, so now the album is exactly how I always dreamed it would be. I would have to say my music, but I wouldn’t have gotten there without Orange.
Next Jeneration: What would you say to the people or explain how Melly 16 came about for those who don’t know?
Jackie Cruz: I had an accident at a young age. I moved out when I was 16 and I was this little rebel chick working in a club. At an underage club, gogo dancing. I was the coat check girl who gogo danced. I’ve been a hustler since a kid. I got my first job at 15. I couldn’t get Macy's. They didn’t hire me, I failed the test.
Next Jeneration: I didn’t know there was a test for Macy's!
Jackie Cruz: There's a test for Bed Bath and Beyond, failed. Test for Macy's, failed. So I got my first job at Baja Fresh at the Beverly connection making burritos in a Korean town where I learned a little Korean.
Next Jeneration: So, we recently had a question on our Next Jeneration instagram and I am interested to hear your answer. By the way, Next Jeneration is a film and production company. I wanted to ask you the same question we asked our instagram followers which is where do you see the film and tv industry in the next 5 to 10 years? Do you see any changes?
Jackie Cruz: Because of networks like Netflix, now everyone is piggy backing that Amazon, Apple even Disney. Disney is coming
out with something streaming, I am auditioning
for things like that. I feel like now it will be more
diverse. It will. It will take maybe 10 years, but I
feel like they’re giving opportunities to people
who actually make their own work. I'm making
my own work. I do feel I will eventually land
something on Netflix, well I’m hoping
because I know them *laughs*
They’re actually doing a Selena show on
Next Jeneration: Yes! I saw tweets and
everyone is saying you should play her
in the show!
Jackie Cruz: I know, but I have to talk to
Ted about that *laughs* My agency is
working on getting me seen. It is through
the family, so I know my name is
somewhere there whether it’s for Selena
Next Jeneration: Yes, put it out into the
universe! That would be dope.
Jackie Cruz: *laughs* Yeah, but I do think the industry will change because everyone is in their lane and believing in themselves. Youtube even, you can make it on your own these days and in 10 years it's going to get better.
Next Jeneration: I definitely agree! Do you feel as a Dominican woman in the film and tv industry that you have more struggles than others?
Jackie Cruz: Hell yeah! Are you kidding me?! I didn’t even get a role to play as a Dominican because they thought I didn’t look like it because they don’t know what it looks like and we all look different, so you really can’t tell me I don’t look it. It's a struggle. The struggle is real because Hollywood still has a stereotype of a Latina and its Mexico and they need to change that. I don’t want Mexicans to feel that I am bashing them because Flaca is Mexican. I need you to understand that I am saying Latinos are all over and we need to represent all kinds not just one. That is what needs to change in Hollywood right now. All of us on the show that are five Dominicans are like “what the hell, whats next” we are trying to fight for a role that people are telling us that we don't look like. Even like Selenis, you would never know where she’s from. She’s Cuban and Dominican and people are like “we didn't even know she's Cuban”
Next Jeneration: Latinos don’t all look the same and you’re right the stereotype does need to change.
Jackie Cruz: Yes, we don’t. I don’t know but I feel like that’s what we need to show. I’m working on it, don’t worry I got you!
Next Jeneration: *laughs* Right, she was trying to get her money.
Jackie Cruz: Yeah, even when she tried working with her boyfriend she was like “No I want my own business, I don’t want you to give me money. I want to make my own money.” I feel like I am just like her. I never had anyone pay for anything of mine. Everything I’ve done is on my own. My mother moved here when I was 15 and she was a doctor in my country and she became a nobody for me here. I’m not saying she’s a nobody, but in America when you’re a doctor at another country it is really hard to become one here. That is ridiculous. She passed all the exams and they still didn’t want to accept her which is crazy.
Next Jeneration: Wow I didn’t know that. That is crazy. How do you prepare for your role? Is there anything you do specifically or you just go in and wing it?
Jackie Cruz: Well, I have a friend Karina who I imitate. She worked with me at Lavo. She doesn’t drink anymore, but when she did she was hilarious. I would imitate her in front of her and she was like “Oh my god Jackie do me.” I was like “Don’t mess with my three M’s my mama, my man and my money. You f*cking with my money tonight b*tch”
Next Jeneration: That is so funny!
Jackie Cruz: I would just imitate her and talk to her. Now, she has a baby, she graduated college. She’s like Flaca’s future *laughs* I’m proud of her. She started her own company, she’s ambitious, she’s a motivator. I think that I made her feel insecure about her accent which broke my heart! She started to get a speech coach, but she still talks like that but I love it! It may be a little more refined, but I don’t care I want her to be herself all the time. But, I did tell her “I am going to play you on TV one day.”
Next Jeneration: And it came true!
Jackie Cruz: Yes, and my audition was Flaca and then I imitated her.
Next Jeneration: That is great. Did she appreciate that?
Jackie Cruz: F*ck yeah! She is so happy! She doesn’t drink anymore, but when she did it was the funniest thing. She’s the best.
Next Jeneration: How is it working with the cast on Orange Is The New Black?
Jackie Cruz: It’s dope. We’ve grown a family. In the middle, we had our own little thing going but when it ended we started to unite again. I can always call upon them, so that’s what feels good. We still work with each other which is cool.
Next Jeneration: Right, you guys are family now. You also have a passion for music, tell us about your album? Tell us if you had to work with anyone who would it be?
Jackie Cruz: Oh that’s a tough question! I love Bruno Mars.
Next Jeneration: I could see that!
Jackie Cruz: Right! Kehlani. She was Flaca for Halloween, so for sure I have to figure that out. I do want to do something with Cardi B just because we’re Dominican and we look different too. It's cool to show what we look like. I have African features, but maybe I am more light skin. It’s just different and I feel like we need to show more of that and more support of one another. So Cardi Hi!
Next Jeneration: If you had to choose between acting and singing, which would you choose?
Jackie Cruz: You know what its hard because they both come together. They both intertwin and they help each other because you can always do a musical. I write my music for my film too, so it's hard to pick. I feel like acting is natural for me, but singing its natural but I have my own tone. It's not like I’m Whitney Houston. I’m just singing the way I sing for me. That’s another thing I became confident a lot throughout the years. Because I was trying to maybe sound like someone else and now I just know this is my voice. I sound like this because this is who I am. Its really cool. I would have to say music then because you can act in your videos too. My videos are very much like films. If you watch Melly16 then you’ll understand.
Next Jeneration: That is definitely true! Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Jackie Cruz: Yes, I have my album. I have two movies that I shot last year that are coming out. One is called A Nice Girl Like You that I did with Lucy Hale. I have a cute little Afro going on. I play the cello, a fake cello I don’t know how to play. It’s about a book called a Pornology and she found her boyfriend masturbating to porn. I’m like “That's normal” She doesn’t understand that, so she tries to come out of her shell. So, she’s going to strip clubs and things like that. I am part of the group, so its funny watching her do this. I get to work with Mindy Cohn who was in The Facts of Life. We’re best friends in the movie which is dope. I did play a heroin addict, but she is really cute. It’s just telling stories about women who are recovering from rehabilitation. I got to play the friend who tries to bring you into that world and not let you out. I did that with Melissa Barrera and she’s the star of the show Vida. We connected right away and we had this beautiful film to show. We didn’t get paid a lot of money. I like to do film that I’m interested in.
Next Jeneration: Right, it's not about money all the time.
Jackie Cruz: Right, it's not about that. So, this film was done by the women who were recovering from rehab. They have an organization and found the funds to create this movie.
Next Jeneration: Wow that’s inspiring!
Jackie Cruz: It is inspiring. I got to meet the woman that I play. I don’t know how to smoke all these things. She didn’t show me because its hard for her but she would tell me what to do.
Next Jeneration: That must have been a very different and touching experience.
Jackie Cruz: Yeah, very different. My character is Mexican, from New Mexico and she comes from money. Its showing the world, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor that is a disease. It was really cool to see latinas from all walks of life -- people with money, people without money and the struggle. She’s funny. She scams people. At the beginning, you fall in love with my character like “Oh poor thing.”
Next Jeneration: That’s how she uses people and gets what she wants *laughs*
Jackie Cruz: *laughs* Yes exactly! Its really funny. I bring a little color into something really really sad because her story is really sad. I wrote the song for the finale of the film.
Next Jeneration: Wow! That’s great! You get to do both, act and sing!
Jackie Cruz: Yes I do! And the song is called Never Walk Alone. The director who directed that movie, directed my short The Dying Kind. I was like “Oh my god, look what you did with this small amount of money and you created this beautiful world. Can you help me create my world?” And he did! That is the director of my short The Dying Kind. I star in it as well and produced it.
Next Jeneration: Do you want to do anything behind the scenes?
Jackie Cruz: Oh yeah! I am directing. My next short, I am going to direct, star and produce. It’s about a girl who gets raped in the military. I actually didn’t have the courage to do it. Four years I been wanting to direct this. I’ve been taking classes, shooting guns in the range because she is a sharp shooter, so I’m ready. I’m ready now. I feel confident, I could do this. I told someone about this and they want to pay for it.
Next Jeneration: That is amazing and very impressive! You’re inspiring and doing great things! Do you have any advice for any actresses or musicians that want to get in the industry?
Jackie Cruz: Just get out there and do it! Stop chasing the people who don’t want to help you and chase the people who do want to help you! People say things and they don’t come through. It’s funny, Hollywood is a place of imagination and there’s no vision. If you don’t show them, they won’t see it. So show them!
Jackie Cruz is not afraid to push herself and follow her dreams! As a young successful woman, Jackie inspires and represents latina women in the film and tv industry. She reminds everyone to put yourself out there, be fearless, do what you love and most importantly -- be you.
Next Jeneration will continue to keep up with all the amazing projects Jackie Cruz creates.