Interview: 'Orange Is The New Black' Jackie Cruz on makeup and her character Flaca

Reta Lee
Editor-in-Chief, Lifestyle
Jackie Cruz (right) meets a fan at the launch of Kat Von D Beauty Go Big Or Go Home Mascara on April 19, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images for Kat Von D Beauty )

SINGAPORE — As we prepare to bid farewell to our favourite inmates in Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black (it’s the seventh and last final season) come July, Dominican American actress Jackie Cruz, who’s known for her character Flaca, is gearing up for new projects: she’s the face of beauty brand Kat Von D Beauty and she’ll be launching a singing career.

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Before her career took off, as a teen, Jackie had met with 10-year-old Melly, a wheelchair-bound brain surgery survivor, when she was recuperating from a terrible almost-fatal car accident. Melly gave her the inspiration to launch her previous single, ‘Melly16’. In her song, Jackie sang about overcoming adversity after the accident took away her confidence and hope. As a crash victim with multiple facial scars, Jackie turned to makeup to hide her wounds and gradually regained her confidence. Today, Jackie is the face of beauty brand Kat Von D Beauty and she’ll be busying herself by going on tour to promote her music.

Jackie shares with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore her thoughts on OITNB’s season finale, spilling on her character’s recognisable makeup, as well as her future projects.

Jackie Cruz in Kat Von D Beauty Go Big Or Go Home Mascara campaign. (PHOTO: Sephora)

How did makeup give you confidence after your accident?

After my accident, I didn’t really look the same. So makeup did play a big part when I was a teenager. I didn’t like looking at myself. My face was full of scars. I couldn’t really wear too much makeup, so hats became a big deal for me at that time. I think the J.Lo big fluffy brim hat was poppin’ and I remember wearing big hats. I tried to wear makeup, but on some of the parts I really couldn’t. Wearing the little makeup that I had, whether it was just a lip gloss, made me feel just a little more confident. Not because of what people saw, but just because of how it made me feel. It just made me feel like I was still the same. I wear makeup for myself because of the way it makes me feel, not for anyone else; after my accident was pretty much the first time I ever felt that.

How do you apply the phrase ‘Go Big Or Go Home’ in your life?

I live ‘Go Big Or Go Home’ every day. I moved from the Dominican Republic to the United States with my mum; she left her career as a doctor to pursue what could be for me, which is me wanting to be a singer and an actress. I fell in love with the movie The Bodyguard when I was a kid. It was all dubbed in Spanish, and Whitney sang, and on the walk home I told my mum, “That’s what I’m gonna do.” And she said, “Well, let’s see if you’re good.” So she put me in classes, and it turns out that I had something. Then, at the age of fifteen, she moved me to Hollywood. And now, it’s so dope to be a part of a campaign, a beauty campaign nonetheless, not because of your beauty but because of who you are and what you represent. Working with Kat Von D Beauty as the global face of Go Big Or Go Home Mascara, I mean, that’s so dope. The founder is a Latina, and it’s often hard to make it; so when one of us does make it, other Latinas feel like they can do it too. That’s the kind of artist I want to be – embodying this idea of “going big”. I want to prove to you that it can be done… coming from nothing, starting from nothing.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 31: (L-R) Diane Guerrero, Leona Lewis and Jackie Cruz attend the after party for the first-ever revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic CATS on Broadway on July 31, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for CATS)

How do you think the character Flaca has grown during the past six seasons? Is she more than just comic relief?

Flaca is definitely more than just comedic relief. What’s been great about Flaca is that she’s been able to show her vulnerable moments over the seasons: the time she was with her mum, her backstory, when she got arrested, and when she found out what was going on with Maritza. And Flaca is so much bigger than what we’ve seen of her! I’m just so grateful for what the writers did for my character, because she was so different and she knew what she wanted. And I grew so much by playing Flaca because she was so comfortable saying whatever was on her mind and wearing what she thought was cool: from her dark lipstick to her drawn-on tear-drop – she didn’t care what people thought.

Speaking of the drawn-on tear-drop, long before my campaign with Kat Von D Beauty, the makeup artists on the set of Orange Is The New Black were using Tattoo Liner to create that tear drop. That’s when I first fell in love with the brand!

What are your plans or projects after OITNB ends?

My plan is to release my album and go on tour. I’ve been working on my album for a while now. I’ve been very lucky to work with some really amazing Grammy-winning producers like Andre Harris (who worked with Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Usher and Justin Bieber) and Glen Kolotkin, who was a producer for the Ramones. My first love is music. But I feel like acting and music go hand-in-hand. When I create my music, I tell you my truth. When I create film, I tell you someone else’s truth. But they’re both truths and they’re both stories. I’m also working on some films, including one with Harvey Keitel that’s coming up, I believe, in August.

Kat Von D Beauty Go Big Or Go Home Mascara, S$33, is available on Sephora.sg, and in Sephora stores.

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