To continue the conversation around the issue, Netflix launched the #FirstTimeISawMe campaign. Actors, directors, and other talented people of color in the field talk about their experience with (and without) representation in the media — and what they have to say is a reminder that we're taking steps in the right direction, but there's so much more that needs to be done.
"Orange Is the New Black" actor Jackie Cruz was one of the people asked to voice her opinion about Hollywood's stereotyping — and she didn't sugarcoat anything.
"It was very hard for me to get roles because they put us in a box. I'm tired of being in a box. Latinas are all different colors, sizes, and it's time to make that change."
Unfortunately, what Cruz highlighted is something a lot of prominent Latinxs can relate to.
Recently, America Ferrera talked about Latinx representation at The Hollywood Reporter's annual Comedy Actress Roundtable. She recognized the leverage she had in being able to work outside of the Latina typecast and admitted that she felt "lucky" to land jobs that don't put her in a Latina-only box.
Latinxs make up an estimated 18% of the nation's total population, but only less than half (5.8%) of Latinxs are represented in TV and film. And the Latinxs that we do see on the screen are roles that pander to Latinx stereotypes: nannies, maids, and drug dealers.
So it makes sense that Cruz didn't see herself reflected in any characters growing up.
"The first time I saw myself represented on television was… I can't remember. There wasn't a Latina that I saw that kind of represented who I was. I think it's really important to have a representation of yourself," the Latina explained.
"OITNB" has allowed Cruz to be a Latinx character who often isn't visible in the entertainment space.
"It's really, really cool to be that character and to be part of a show which is so diverse and it's kind of changing Hollywood, and we need more shows like this. We need shows that represent who we are as people," Cruz said.
And she has already encountered people who have been impacted by the slow-but-significant progress that's been made. She added, "There was one girl in particular, she came up to me and she was crying. She was just like, 'I want to be an actress, too, and looking at you and at "Orange Is the New Black," I feel like it's possible.' That was beautiful, and it made me cry because this dream is already hard."
We're happy Cruz is one of the many unapologetic actors putting Hollywood in its place — and that she's taking steps to break the mold.
We can't wait to see what role she takes on next!