Jackie Cruz and Spotify are using music to highlight the need for more diversity in Hollywood. The ‘Orange Is The New Black’ actor and singer has teamed up with the music streaming company to bring attention to this issue. As someone who grew up without representation in media, Cruz understands the importance of getting more people in front and behind the camera to tell stories that will resonate with diverse audiences. That’s why she is advocating for more inclusivity in Hollywood and even started to create her own production company to achieve that goal.
Jackie Cruz wants to bring attention to the lack of true inclusion and diversity in Hollywood, and Spotify is helping her with that cause.
Cruz says that what Hollywood lacks most is opportunities for people with brown skin because right now it’s “very black and white.” Cruz believes that it is important for Hollywood to start thinking outside the box in terms of representation and search out stories encompassing Latinx, Middle Eastern and Asian stories.
“There are all types of people in the world and we don’t all look the same, so we all deserve representation,” Cruz says.
“I felt like the first time I was represented was Flaca,” Cruz says about her OITNB character.
The Netflix show “Master of None,” created and starring Indian-American comedian/actor Aziz Ansari, also gave Cruz a chance to see her own experience mirrored. Particularly when the show delved into the immigration story of the Ansari’s character’s parents.
“I felt represented recently when watching ‘Master Of None,'” Cruz says. “He’s a first generation American just like me but his parents have an accent. They’re not from here and they still have their culture, just like me being Dominican.”
The lack of opportunities for brown-skinned people is what Cruz credits for the division amongst Latinx people in Hollywood.
“Everyone wants that one Latino role that all of us audition for and only one of us gets,” Cruz explains. “Instead of complaining about it, do something about it.”
Cruz encourages people to use their own platforms to create content that resonates with other brown people.
“You have a platform and you have a power to create your own work and your own content. That’s what I’m doing,” Cruz says. “I’m not just going to sit and complain about Hollywood. I’m just going to continue to give myself opportunities and the people around me opportunities that are just like me.”
One way Cruz is taking her fight to increase diversity in media to the next level is by creating her own production company called Unspoken Film.
The mission of Unspoken Film is simple: Pushing for equality and giving opportunities to women in Hollywood.
“It’s not about just acting. It’s the people behind it – the writers – who it all comes from,” says Cruz. “That’s why I’m looking for incredible women writers to get in a room to create some powerful stuff, break barriers, and to, honestly, create opportunities so there’s no more division and we’re all unified.”
Inclusion, and an excited audience, are why Cruz says OITNB has been so successful.
“‘Orange Is The New Black’ is popular because of our audience,” Cruz says. “We’re popular because people are connecting with us because they are seeing themselves on television, whether it’s for the first time or not. That’s why we’re popular. We need more shows like ‘Orange Is The New Black.'”
“I’m working really hard and I’m feeling like I have more power than I even know,” Cruz says.
Cruz wants people to understand that they have the power to create the kind of content they want to see. You don’t have to wait for the opportunity to come around when you can create it yourself.
“That’s the future goal: to just create content and work with my fellow actors who are willing to trust me in my vision,” Cruz says. “But it’s not about me. The whole thing is about opening doors for others that are more diverse.”
More representation, according to Cruz, will inspire future generations by giving them an example of what they can be.
Having grown up without seeing representation on screen, Cruz felt like she could never achieve her dreams. After all, it’s difficult to see yourself succeeding in your dream if you’ve never seen someone like you fulfilling that role. Whether they want to act or be a doctor, representation is vital for youth.
“That’s what’s going to inspire our youth to be the best they can be and to know that they can be whatever they want to be because they’re watching it,” Cruz says. “They’re visualizing it because we’re showing them. I wish I had that. I didn’t have that but I want to create a lane where there is that.”
Now that she is an actor and role model to Latina girls, Cruz wants to use her platform to encourage them to be themselves.
After recently posting a video online, one of her followers commented “You inspire me to be myself.” That left a huge impression on Cruz, who herself struggled to embrace herself. However, the moment she did, “everything changed.” Now she wants others to feel that sense of empowerment.
“That’s what I want to tell the audience; be yourself,” Cruz adds. “It’s important to be unique and be yourself. I’m not going to sit here and say I wasn’t a follower because I was in high school. But the moment I started being myself, that’s when it started happening for me.”