How I met Jackie Cruz (“Flaca” OITNB)

So a few weeks ago I got to meet Jackie Cruz!

For those of you who don’t know her, Jackie plays the role of “Flaca” on the uber popular Netflix series, Orange is the New Black.

She was invited to speak by the Spanish and Latino Student Association here at Kent State. The event was FREE and we even got pictures afterwards! (keep reading to see mine ^__^.) Despite the show’s popularity, I haven’t seen even one episode, but there was no way I was going to pass up meeting a celebrity. How many chances am I gonna get to do that? For free? Simple logic.

Surprisingly, the auditorium was nowhere near full, maybe a good 60 people came to see her. I was kind of embarrassed. A university with a student population of 20,000 and we can’t fill a 400-seat auditorium?

Jackie didn’t mind at all, she introduced herself and explained how grateful she was that SHE was able to talk to US – clue #1 about how cool she is.  After she told her story it was basically an open Q&A about whatever we wanted to ask her.

Brief summary about her:

  • Born in Queens, NY to a 15-year-old mother. She has lived in LA, Miami, and the Dominican Republic
  • Saw “The Bodyguard” when she was six and told her mom, “I wanna be that lady on the screen”- in reference to Whitney Houston, and that’s when she discovered her passion for singing and acting.
  • At 17 she was involved in a nearly fatal car accident. She said it was the only day she didn’t wear her seatbelt and was thrown 20 feet from the car. “I basically left my forehead on the asphalt.” After being in a coma for 72 hours she spent the next year in recovery; being released from rehab on her 18th
  • After the accident she felt that she was given a second chance at life and really threw herself into her career. She moved to Miami to work with a producer who told her she needed ten grand to put out an E.P. Her mother took a loan out for her. Shortly after, the producer’s company folded and he ran off with the money.
  • She moved to New York where she continued to audition and bar tend part-time – eventually, she landed the role on OITNB.
  • She was still bartending when the first season was released on Netflix, before the show took off.

BONUS, we even got her to sing a little bit!

A few lessons I took away:

  • “Saying it, is the first step to making it a reality” – which is so true. There’s nothing too big or too insignificant if it’s what you truly want to do in life. Free yourself and don’t hold back. Go for it, the world is yours.
  • “Sometimes you just have to focus on yourself, and that doesn’t make you selfish” – this is something we all should understand. If you’re completely consumed by following your heart and chasing your dreams then so be it. The people who truly love you will understand, and those who don’t…maybe they didn’t deserve a spot your life in the first place.
  • “I worked 10 years for my big break’ – success will not happen overnight for any of us. Don’t give up, if it’s meant to be then it will be. One week, one month, even a few years – it’ll happen.
  • “Persevere” – again, don’t give up. Failure is a part of learning, and there is no growth without setbacks.

Bottom line, nothing comes without hard work and even more important than that is to be true to who you are.

At the end of the talk we got a chance to take pictures with her. When it was my turn I said “Hi, what’s your favorite Beyoncé song?” She didn’t even pause to think, she completely rolled with it and told me her favs were “If I Were a Boy” and “Halo.” She even retweeted our picture together! She actually retweeted every tweet I mentioned her in on Twitter that night. I almost dropped out of college right then, the fame went straight to my head.

It was such a great experience, I’m so glad to have had it.

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