Institute Speaker/Panelist Bio

Jackie Cruz

Actor, musician, activist and feminist Jackie Cruz stars as “Marisol ‘Flaca’ Gonzales” on Netflix’s critically-acclaimed series, Orange Is the New Black. The original series, created by Jenji Kohan returned for its sixth season on July 27, 2018.

Cruz, a three-time SAG Award winner, was named one of the “Top Latino Powerhouses under 40” by The Hollywood Reporter in 2013, joining such distinguished names as Eva Longoria, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. Cruz was also included on Latina Magazine’s 30 Under 30 List in 2015.

Born in New York City, Cruz spent her childhood shuttling between New York, Los Angeles, the Dominican Republic and Miami, and often says that she carries a little piece of each city with her. Raised by her mother and her aunts, Cruz draws from the strength that allowed her to survive a near fatal car accident that almost left her paralyzed. Cruz overcame brain surgery, a coma and collapsed lung, but remained resolute in her determination not to let anything stand in the way of her dream to become a musician. Jackie has inspired college students around the country with her story and delivered her first TED Talk in the summer of 2015.

Through her voice, Jackie is paving the way for the Latina community (specifically women) in the entertainment industry. Jackie strongly promotes the inclusion of not just Latina women, but all women. She does this by breaking down gender driven barriers to create/produce her own opportunities, including her own production company. Jackie has discovered the importance of inclusion and uses her platform to send a message that more Latinas need recognition and opportunities in Hollywood.

Now a popular singer and songwriter, her music career continues to evolve and she is currently working on new material in both English and Spanish. Jackie recently debuted the music video for her single “La Hora Loca” (The Crazy Hour) which encourages women who are and will become strong and independent to never settle for less than what they deserve. She hopes that through her music and acting she can continue to create better pathways within the entertainment industry for people of Hispanic background.

Jackie currently resides in New York City.