Hispanic Heritage Month: 'Orange is the New Black' star Jackie Cruz at RIT on Oct. 15

Program highlights star’s personal and professional journey through adversity

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Actress-singer Jackie Cruz, star of the popular Netflix hit series Orange is the New Black, will be the featured speaker during Hispanic Heritage Month at Rochester Institute of Technology. She will be discussing her personal and professional journey “Cruzing through Adversity” at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 15, in Ingle Auditorium.

The event is free and open to the general public. Guests are asked to bring a non-perishable food item as “admission” to the event. All items will be donated to a Rochester nonprofit organization, Ibero American Action League’s Emergency Services Food Pantry.

On the Orange is the New Black series, Cruz plays Marisol “Flaca” Gonzales and has been an integral part of the series since 2013. Born in New York City and raised by her mother and her aunts, she spent her childhood living in New York, Los Angeles, the Dominican Republic and Miami. As a teen, she survived a near fatal car accident that almost left her paralyzed, and for a short time, was homeless. She was a featured TED Talks speaker this past July sharing her message of overcoming adversity.

“I always believed that my next opportunity was it and gave it my all every time. I finally got my first ‘yes,’ and that ‘yes’ opened the door to a whole new world. My ‘yes’ was to play Flaca on Orange is the New Black! Perseverance and passion go hand in hand—never give up,” said Cruz, now a popular singer and songwriter, as well as an actress.

She is an avid world traveler, visiting exotic places that she uses as inspiration for her music. She was named one of the “Top Latino Powerhouses in Hollywood Under 40” by The Hollywood Reporter for her work in films and television, English and Spanish-language musical performances and advocacy.

“Jackie Cruz is a stellar example of the power of the Latino voice, presence and talent,” said Stephanie Paredes, manager of Multicultural Programs for RIT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion and Center for Campus Life. “Her journey is a prime illustration of greatness through difference. Her message of perseverance and pride in her culture is something that I hope all students can connect to. I hope students take away that while adversity in life may put some bumps in your road to success, it doesn’t mean you should stop moving forward.”

Orange is the New Black has reaped numerous awards for its view into prison life as told through the stories of incarcerated women. The show has become a cultural phenomenon for several factors from its predominantly female cast to its realistic portrayal of gender and orientation diversity. The story is based on the book by Piper Kerman who was convicted of drug charges and sentenced to 15-months in Connecticut’s Danbury Prison.

RIT’s Hispanic Heritage Month speaker event is sponsored by the Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the Center for Campus Life.