Jackie Cruz insists, while clutching some sort of charcoal-infused juice in Shoreditch's Hoi Polloi, that a number of twenty-something revellers she met clubbing last night had no idea who she was. This seems doubtful.
With a central role in Orange Is The New Black (plus and counting), the Dominican-American actress is quickly becoming a household name. She was working as a waitress in New York, before being cast as Marisol 'Flaca' Gonzales, a whip-smart, but attention-seeking prisoner in the OG Netflix hit.
Now? Well, she's recognised all over the world: 'its kinda dope going to any country in the world, even little, little towns in Spain and they’re like “Oh my God!".'
'It feels good to be recognised and feel validated because you’re a good actress, you know? Not because you’re cute or anything.’
Still, she is pretty 'cute', standing at 5ft 9 with the kind of face that can expertly pull off a hairdo. She's also the new face of Kat von D’s mascara campaign, and is currently beaming at the crowd below, from no less than six billboards in central Hollywood. A fact that has made her feel 'seen', something that has not always been the case for the Dominican star.
Hollywood’s chronic issues with racism and sexism are well-documented at this point, but Cruz is ready to lift the lid on the specific prejudice she has experienced as a Dominican woman. LouisvuittonShop UK sat down with the star to discuss further.
Do you think you being Dominican hinders your ability to get work?
[Hollywood] is not about acting. Orange is the New Black was. But now, it’s mostly about what you look like.
I got an email from a director who said ‘Jackie, we really wanted you, but it’s a Mexican family and you don’t look like anyone’.
I’m like ‘yeah’, 'cause I’m not Mexican.
Maybe America’s afraid of [Dominicans] because this is what they're going to become - a mixture of ethnicities.
Are there Dominican roles out there?
Lately, it's been better. Well, the roles are still a little white-washed, but they’re better. It’s what a white person would think of a Latina. A white person writing for a Latina. For example, they don’t know that Dominicans don’t eat Chimichangas.
What about good ones?
I auditioned for this amazing movie and it was my fifth time in the room, but this was finally with the director and all the producers and I was nervous and I didn’t do a good job.
I didn’t get the part.
They saw all my tapes, though, and instead of making me feel comfortable, they made me feel uncomfortable. It's like they think they're better than you. It’s just a mind f*** all the time.
But I’m [still] really excited about the film because it’s about Dominicans. Even when you don’t get [the role], you’ve got to go in there and support your people, because that’s what I think the Latinx community doesn’t have enough of: the support.
There’s a lot of jealousy because we don’t have enough opportunities. Everyone feels as though they are fighting for the same role.
Have you tried to change yourself to fit into Hollywood's idea of you?
I changed my name five times. I was Jacqueline Rose. I was Jackie Travis once. Just because it sounded more Mexican, I was like: ‘maybe that’ll help’. A lot of Latinas change their last name, just so they can fit into the mould.
Hollywood is a place of no imagination; with no vision and that sh*t f**king pisses me off.
What would you want Trump to know about you (and Dominicans, and Latinas)?
I want [Trump] to see that we’re more than what you see on TV. More than gangsters, hookers, prisoners, your maid and the people who make your tacos.
What can heal the rift that Trump represents?
It’s just crazy what film can do. I feel like it can connect people and that’s why we have to continue to make films showing that connection. You know, Latinos and African Americans joining hands with white people. We need to see more of that diversity, because if we don’t, that’s what the government wants: to separate us.
Rejection for anyone is tough, how do you deal with that?
Mental health problems run deep in my family and I'm personally struggling. My cousin just committed suicide, which is terrible. That’s why we need to talk more and not be ashamed. You hear things like: ‘Oh people are just being over dramatic'. No. We're not.
It’s just important to be there for people. We can’t do this alone. We just can’t. That’s why I want to be open about my mental health struggles.
For all of Me Too's success, there are criticisms of the movement for its inherent privilege. Do you agree?
They’re A-listers right? We’re Latinas, who are on a prison show. You’re telling me I’m going to complain? The one who’s paid the least? The one they didn’t even want to give the job to anyways?
Have you encountered particular abuses of power and sexist behaviour?
This producer said he wanted to work with me. I’m sorry, because he’s a good guy, but some people drink too much and things are misunderstood. He grabbed me. Then he grabbed me again and I said 'No' and slapped his hand. He wrote me a letter of apology the next day.
Another time, a [different] producer said to me: ‘You can’t really do or say anything anymore [these days]’.
This guy has done 103 films, and he’s well known in the industry. He’s that white man, that bachelor who thinks he's untouchable, the worst kind. He didn’t understand Me Too at all and he’s still out there.
[One time] he started complaining to me like: ‘Ugh, now we’ve got to hire women’.
What do I say to that? I’ll be honest with you, I just said: ‘Uh huh’. Because again, it’s like, you’re this girl... you don’t have enough opportunities, so you’re trying to go in the back door.
But I could talk smack about Hollywood all day...
And it's clear that Jackie Cruz does indeed still have plenty more to say on the subject of Hollywood prejudice, but that's where we have to leave it for now. The charcoal smoothies are done and lunch is steadily creeping into afternoon tea. It's time to let her go and get ready for her party this evening.