Jackie Cruz Can Do It All

Jackie Cruz Can Do It All

V caught up with the activist, actress, and artist about her upcoming projects and her fresh perspective on the entertainment industry.

V caught up with the activist, actress, and artist about her upcoming projects and her fresh perspective on the entertainment industry.

Text: Gretty Garcia

2013 was a great year for all of us: Beyoncé headlined the Superbowl and reunited Destiny's Child, Kanye West pulled off an unforgettable wedding proposal complete with an orchestra and fireworks, and "Orange is the New Black" premiered as the third original series from Netflix. The cultural gravitas of the show was unprecedented, and, moreover, solidified the importance of a complex story arc, commitment to a diverse cast, and the star power of actress Jackie Cruz.

With her natural affinity for comedic slate and awareness of cultural milieu with regards to the roles that she plays both on and off the screen, the starlet is just as unconventional and multi-dimensional as they come. Though the world is very familiar with Marisol Gonzales, better known as Flaca, on "Orange is the New Black", the time is long overdue for the person behind the character to get some much deserved spotlight attention.

V got the chance to speak to Cruz about her role on the show as a platform to pursue her love of music, her memory of being a "4-year-old feminist" who told her grandfather to get his own coffee, and exciting projects she is looking forward to.

Thanks so much for speaking to me. Well, firstly, how are you?

Jackie Cruz: I’m doing well!

Good, good. I guess I just want to start on a more selfish note. I was reading up on your biography and a lot of parts of it are scarily familiar. I’m Dominican and my dad is from Santiago de los Caballeros as well, so I was like ‘oh my gosh.’

JC: Shut the hell up! [Laughs]

I was like shoot we might be cousins

JC: [Laughs] Oh my God. What’s your last name?

Garcia.

JC: Garcia? That’s in my family, too. On my dad’s side. That’s amazing!

Yes, and my dad is the Dominican one. On another note, though, I was really interested in you taking me through the beginning parts of filming "Orange is the New Black," and, in particular, I was curious to see how your Latinidad plays into your acting. Do you feel empowered by it? Do you feel like sometimes you’re relegated to a lot of the stereotypes that many Latinos face especially in this political climate? Is it a little bit of both?

JC: I feel like Flaca is probably the first character in media that isn’t just a stereotype. Yes, she might look like it, but when you watch the show and you get to know her, she’s definitely a unique type of Latina, you know? Well, not unique, but she’s just like one of us, you know? Like you listen to all kinds of music and she’s a first generation. I think it’s really important to have a character like Flaca. She’s just like us. I connect with her so much through music, you know? And my mother is from the Dominican Republic and we speak Spanish at home and English in school. Her backstory was very similar to mine. I just feel like the first time I found myself represented on screen was when I played Flaca to be honest with you. I’ve never connected with anyone growing up. Like, for me, being an actress felt really impossible. Being from the Dominican Republic, and, you know, when I lived here when I was 15 years old I wasn’t getting any roles because I didn’t look like the type that Hollywood is used to watching on screen.

Right. And then I guess taking that to the music that you’re doing now, which seems like it’s always been a pretty big part of your life. You were in a lot of different groups, you did a lot of Selena covers, you dropped an EP, so how has your music changed and manifested over time?

JC: Yeah, it’s been sort of an evolution, you know? Its changed so much. I’ve been looking for my sound my whole life, really, and, right now I feel like I’ve been working with someone. His name is Feefa and he’s an artist and I feel like he has helped me find my sound and exactly what I’ve been trying to do in the music world, which was combine Spanish with English because that’s pretty much how I am, you know? I mean, we talk both languages at the same time. We just switch it up randomly, and he just released his album, which was bilingual. So, he really knew what I wanted and its been like crazy chemistry ever since. We started working together, and back then I was still finding myself through music and, you know, writing music has pretty much saved my life from when I was a little girl to now. So, it makes sense that I’ll never give it up, you know? Orange is the New Black was just the door for me to actually take my music to the next level.

Right. Where do you draw your inspirations from with regards to music?

JC: So many things! Really, my co-writer asked me what kind of music I listened to growing up, so a lot of it is like blues-ey type as well like Dorothy Moore, Etta James, Tracy Chapman, Elvis Costello, I love the Doors like it’s a bunch of mixture, so my music has a little bit of everything. And also, Spanish music. I grew up listening to, you know, Juan Luis Guerra and Celia Cruz, so it’s like a mixture of all of that into my album pretty much. All of the songs sound somewhat different, but there’s something in there that blends it together, which is my voice I believe.

Yeah, definitely. I was listening to “La Hora Loca” and I was like ‘oh my gosh’ my mom would love this

JC: [Laughs]

- because she’s really been getting into these Spanish and English fusions.

JC: Yeah

And that’s really kind of how we talk. My mom came pretty late here to the states, and so she does things like she doesn’t’ say ‘but,’ she says ‘pero’ and so it’s like we have this weird bond through songs like that. So we love songs like ‘Despacito’ or ‘I Like It’ with Cardi B. She loves Cardi and any of those kinds of fusions.

JC: Yeah! So for me it’s like I pull a lot of inspiration, but I don’t want to say I'm like any certain artist. I’m just trying to make my own lane and go with that, but I write about my personal life, you know? My album is called ‘Hija de Chavez,’ which is ‘Daughter of Chavez,’ which is my father’s last name that I never used. So, I have a song about that, I have a song about my car accident called ‘Sweet 16,’ so it’s a very personal album, and it’s going to make you want to dance. It’s not like I’m singing ballads, you know? It’s like personal shit that makes me want to boogie [Laughs].

I totally get that. I feel like in many ways - just to go back to “La Hora Loca” and if you could possibly expand on how that song - it turns a lot of archetypal notions of modern day dating on its head.

JC: Yes! You got it.

So it’s kind of like if you want me you gotta sweat for me, and even to go further than that when you say ‘I’ll add value to your rent’ I was like ‘oh my gosh I’m jotting that down.’

JC: Yes, honey. That’s exactly it - you got it! Yes. The beginning is ‘Melba, tráime el café’ because my abuelo, you know, after my grandma worked all day and he worked all day, still asked her for coffee when he can get up and get it himself.

[Laughs]

JC: But, it’s pretty much like I remember I was a 4-year-old feminist [Laughs] and I was like ‘abuelito, why can’t you get your coffee,’ you know?

Absolutely.

JC: But like that was something that stuck in my head and then this song is pretty much - I don’t want to say like last relationship, but pretty much all my life I have always paid the bills when it comes to certain men, so my last relationship was just like ‘I give up.’ Like, yo, if you want to be with me, you’re going to have to work. I just can’t do it all, you know what I mean? Some people take advantage of the fact, but I am an independent woman and I can pay for my bills, but, like, you’re still going to have to put in some work to be with me.

Right. Yeah, so when you think of women who inspire you, who would you say those people are - those role models and people who you look up to? Or is it mostly just kind of from your life experience like a combination of stuff you’ve gone through?

JC: Well, I was raised by 5 women, so definitely my mom and my tías - Tía Madeline, Tía Millie, Tía Lucy, like I got to name them all [Laughs]. And my mother and my godmother who is Italian, Diana. So, yeah. Pretty much them, you know what I mean? Women have always been the strong part in my family. They’re the bosses, so I’ve always known that I had to work hard because that’s all I saw.

Right, right. One of my favorite things my mom says actually is ‘your dad thinks things just happen, but they don’t just happen. Women make them happen.’

JC: [Laughs] yeah, exactly.

It’s definitely something I think about.

JC: Yeah, I mean I want to be in a relationship where it’s a partnership - where you can help me lift the other side of the couch, you know? Instead of me dragging it myself.

I feel that! Is there anything else that you are excited about that you wanted to tell us about? Any cool collaborations?

JC: Yeah, I mean pretty much my music is the big thing. But, I just filmed a movie called ‘All the World is Sleeping’ and I asked the director if I could write a song for the movie and he was like ‘alright, yeah, you can write this song.’ And then he came over the other day and he heard it and he approved my song for it to be in the movie at the end in the credits.

Wow, that’s great!

JC: So, I’m excited about that!

It’s like the perfect mixture of your acting and your singing - they’re literally coming together.

JC: Yeah, and then, you know, season 6 is coming out July 27, which I’m so excited about. It’s everything new, so it’s going to be great. I can’t really tell you much about it, but we’ll see. I want to one day sing for ‘Orange,’ so I have to put it out there.

Put it out in the universe for sure.

JC: Yeah.

Okay, well thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. It’s been great!

JC: Thank you so much! Well, is it so cool we’re probably related [Laughs].

We probably are! [Laughs] I’m definitely going to tell everyone. Have a good day! 

JC: You, too! Bye.

Photographed by LELUND THOMPSON
Credits: Cover Image Photographed By LELUND THOMPSON

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