Jackie Cruz, who plays Flaca on the award-winning Netflix series Orange is the New Black was at Rock Valley College, Wednesday, February 3 where she addressed students on the topic of overcoming obstacles.
In her talk, “Cruzing Through Adversity,” Cruz relayed her life story, from her early days in the Dominican Republic to moving to Los Angeles with her mother as a teenager to pursue her dreams in music and acting, to a near fatal car accident that caused her to spend months in physical therapy and rehab. While rehabbing from her injuries, Cruz met a young girl who was also recovering from brain surgery. Jackie says watching that little girl approach her rehabilitation with such a positive spirit inspired her to change her attitude and in turn, set her on a better career course.
Her first acting break came in 2007 when she was cast as Graciela in an episode of The Shield. Coincidentally, The Shield was created and written by Rockford native, and Rock Valley College alum, Shawn Ryan.
Cruz was cast as Flaca in the first season of Orange is the New Black, and joked that she couldn’t even watch it because she didn’t yet have a Netflix account. She appeared in several episodes that first season and is now a series regular.
Jackie continues to pursue a music career in both English and Spanish as well as working as an actress.
She concluded her talk by taking 20 minutes of questions from RVC students, one of whom even convinced her to do some impromptu a capella singing:
Cruz’s appearance at RVC was sponsored by Rock Valley College Student Life.