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March 01, 2017 05:43 PM

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Jackie Cruz is undoubtedly a well-rounded artist — she can do it all. In acting, many met Jackie through her breakthrough performance as La Flaca in Orange Is The New Black. In singing, we fell in love with her quintessential cover of Selena’s classic, “Como La Flor”. Beyond her art, Jackie Cruz has used her voice and platform to mobilize communities. Previously, she joined her BFF and OITNB co-star, Diane Guerrero, to support the GOTV efforts of 2016 presidential elections.

Now Jackie has a list of remarkable accomplishments under her belt. However, at the beginning of her career, she experienced discrimination and was familiar with the wrongfully assumed universal identity of latinx. In a recent interview with Refinery 29, she explained the roadblocks she encountered while auditioning:

“Hollywood was only used to seeing Mexican-Americans, and here I was, this Dominican girl with curly long hair and brown skin. So I would try to work with agents, and they would say, ‘I don’t know where to place you, you don’t look the type.’ I was like, ‘What do you mean the type? They asked for a Latina, and I am Latina!”

“We come in all different colors and sizes; in the Dominican Republic, we all look different!’ But they wouldn’t take me on as a client because they just didn’t know what to do with me or what kind of roles to put me up for.”

Born in New York, the Dominican-American actress lived in between Los Angeles and Santiago, Dominican Republic. Her experience exposed her to a hybrid culture, becoming aware of two worlds, as well as fluent in Spanish and English.

Just like alt-rock lover La Flaca, Jackie Cruz is an example of the multifaceted latinx community amid the stereotypes that latinx is a one-size-fits-all identity.

“Flaca has reminded me that a character can be a chick who listens to punk rock music and also just so happens to be Latina. I don’t have to only be limited to roles where I have to pretend to have an accent or cross the border,” explained Jackie.

Netflix / Jojo Whilden

Jackie Cruz told Teen Vogue’s Ella Ceron:

“Recently someone was like ‘Oh, I wanna represent you. You’re Latina, that’s hot right now.’ And I was like, excuse me, I’ve always been Latina, I’m sorry that it’s hot right now. No, people are finally listening to us. We also need respect. We were born here but we’re just like you. We still have our culture — trust me, I still eat my mangu, my platano, my arroz con habichuela with my family, but I’m American and I listen to rock n’ roll.”

It’s real, there are lack of opportunities for latinx in Hollywood, from stories to voices. However, Jackie wants to change the landscape:

“I have another friend who’s Latina and tall like me — she’s from Cuba, and because there are so few roles for Latinas in Hollywood, we always find ourselves auditioning for the same thing. The other night on the phone she said, ‘You know what? We just need to get that white girl role.’ And I’m like ‘Yeah, that’s what we need to get, that white girl role!’ It sounds funny, but it’s like, the fact is that the white girl is always the lead, right? So the goal is to get that gig.”

Getty Images /Dan MacMedan

We are thrilled to know that Jackie Cruz is working towards the diversity and inclusion of latinx in Hollywood. We need more characters like La Flaca and diverse representation of women in movies and television. And Jackie will further the conversation of latinx representation in the industry.

“I just want to shake Hollywood and say hey, anyone can play anyone; there’s no reason they have to fit into a stereotype.”

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