Orange Is the New Black star Jackie Cruz has faced a lot of racism and rejection since entering Hollywood. But the most surprising part? Learning that she doesn’t look like the stereotypical Latina that Hollywood expects.
Speaking with Refinery29, she recalled that when she first went to see agents, they didn’t have any idea what to do with her.
“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.”
But when she went out for her OITNB role of Flaca, she knew she had hit the jackpot.
“I kind of gave up on acting and focused on music, which was what brought me to New York. But I missed acting so much that I decided to try for a random audition, which was for the role of Flaca on Orange Is The New Black, a Latina chick who listens to The Smiths. I’m first-generation American. There are a lot of people like me and Flaca who speak both perfect English and perfect Spanish.”
Despite everything OITNB has done for representation on TV, there are still so few roles for Latinas that she even finds herself competing against her castmates for the few roles there are.
“I’ll literally see my entire Latina cast from OITNB auditioning for one role, and that gets to me. Like, why, can’t we have more than one Latin girl, one Black girl, one white girl? I try not to feel competitive, but of course, I’m human. With [OITNB co-star and friend] Diane [Guerrero], we always find ourselves going out for the same role; it’s happened to us more than a few times. So we have an automatic understanding that’s like ‘Call me if you get the part because I really wanted it,’ you know? It’s sad, but you just don’t see eight different Latinas in one show. I just want to shake Hollywood and say hey, anyone can play anyone; there’s no reason they have to fit into a stereotype.”
Cruz doesn’t despair though. She said,
“You know what? That just means that I need to break some barriers, which is why I want to create my own production company. If you’re not going to hire me, I’m going to hire myself, and I’m going to write for myself. I’m going to show you that I can do it.”