‘Cruz’ing through adversity
By: Carley Milligan, Arts and Life Editor
Many young people who dream of becoming a professional actor or musician often become discouraged in the face of statistics and rejection and lose their ambition to keep pursuing it as they grow older.
This was not the case, however, for “Orange is the New Black” actress and musician Jackie Cruz.
“I just want people to follow their own intuition, their dream, what they feel in their soul they are meant to do, what they are good at, because why not? Life is too short,” Cruz said.
On Thursday, Feb. 19 she traveled to Towson University to share with students the personal journey she has taken in order to become a professional actress, a dream she had held since she was six years old. In her lecture, entitled The Harmony of Life, Cruz spoke about how both the good and bad parts of her life worked together to help her get to where she is today.
“Life can be harmony and it can also be a nightmare sometimes, but life is worth living,” Cruz said. “Even if you are having the worst day of your life or something awful happened to you I feel like it makes you strong and it forms you into who you are going to become.”
As an aspiring musician, senior Luis Alvarado who attended the event was especially moved by Cruz’s speech.
“Jackie mentioned sometimes we have that fear of not following our dreams, and although I am going to graduate with a double major from Towson University, I do plan to continue on a different track with music,” Alvarado said. “Hopefully Jackie’s words will remain in my mind and will serve as inspiration for the upcoming years.”
Alvarado, who is both Costa Rican and Spanish, said that it was also rewarding for him to see a successful Latina actress and musician like Cruz, who was raised in the Dominican Republic. He appreciates her songs performed in Spanish like “Mi Amor Es Natural” which translates roughly to “my love is organic.”
He asked Cruz to sing him a section of the song during the question and answer portion of the event as a five-month anniversary gift for his girlfriend. When she agreed, Alvarado was “simply amazed.”
“It demonstrates that she really is that person that started off from zero and now although she might be a celebrity and consider herself a professional actress, she does not leave her background and that is something I admire most sincerely about her,” Alvarado said.
Cruz also spoke about her recent growing fame due to her role as Flaca on OITNB.
“I just feel like ‘Orange is the New Black’ is making history besides it being on Netflix, it just has so many different kinds of ethnicities that have never been seen before on the mainstream … I am so happy to be a part of that,” Cruz said.
Campus Activities Board (CAB) programming chair Brianne Wade, who coordinated the event, said that Cruz’s message was perfect for college students.
“I think that even in college we are discouraged a lot of the time because we have such a heavy workload and stuff,” Wade said. “But then you hear about how she got into an awful car accident and she overcame that and became really successful … and I think that it is just inspirational for students to hear that amongst all the classes and schoolwork and jobs that they have to juggle.”
After her speech, Cruz stayed to take part in a meet and greet where students could speak with her, ask for autographs and take selfies with her.
Tiana Pluck, a junior and CAB programming chair, said that Cruz was easy to relate to as she is only 23 and spoke about many of the struggles college students deal with in everyday life.
“I think bringing someone who is personable and seeing them actually chasing their dreams inspires us that we can do the same,” Pluck said. “I think that she gave an amazing speech and was able to talk and laugh with the crowd and I know she really enjoyed herself as well.”
Cruz reminded students that because she stuck to her dream and believed in herself she is now making a living doing what she loves.
“Just keep dreaming and chasing and dreaming and chasing, I swear one day you will catch it and it will be so amazing,” Cruz said. “Right now I am here with you guys and seeing everybody be happy to meet me is kind of crazy and humbling and I just feel really honored, this is my dream.”