Repeat after me: Diversity in beauty should not be a trend; it should be the norm. And stars like Jackie Cruz are doing all they can to get the message across. Cruz, who is best-known for playing Marisol “Flaca” Gonzales on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, has teamed up with Kat Von D Beauty to promote its latest innovation: the Go Big Or Go Home Mascara. But Cruz’s involvement with the cult-favorite brand is doing more than just spreading awareness for a new product; the duo is celebrating diversity and putting those who are often neglected by the beauty industry in the spotlight.
“They chose someone that represented a woman—an underrepresented woman,” Cruz tells COOLS of why being the face of the new mascara is monumental. “It’s just a beautiful thing, this whole campaign, that it has nothing to do with beauty; it has something to do with who you are. That’s what I love about the brand. I am beautiful, and Kat Von D is an example for other beauty brands. We need more diversity.”
Cruz confessed that her perceptions of beauty have always been slightly altered due to the media’s lack of representation of her race and culture. She was raised only seeing white actors on television while growing up in the Dominican Republic, which shaped the way she defined beauty and never made her dream of being an actress seem like a reality. “When I first started, all I saw were beautiful people on television. It was mostly white people, besides, like, Fresh Prince and Family Matters,” she recalls. “I didn’t really see a lot of Latino shows in Hollywood. There was no one that represented who I was as a kid. It felt impossible for me.”
But it wasn’t until a near-fatal car accident that Cruz’s attitudes towards beauty were really challenged. The actress was ejected 20 feet from the windshield when her friend lost control of the car during a street race when she was 17. She recently opened up about the traumatic experience with People, sharing that the doctors had to shave her hair right away to start assessing the damage and operating on her. “I had a kidney contusion, a collapsed lung, and two broken vertebrae. My eyes were crooked and my face was crooked, I couldn’t smile,” she told the magazine. Cruz said that the aftermath of the accident left her struggling to accept her new features, revealing that she thought her dreams of being in the entertainment industry had been taken away from her.
“I had that terrible accident that took all of the beauty that I thought I had,” she says. “My long hair and my face, it was all scraped away.”
Working on empowering projects like OINTB and Kat Von D Beauty have helped Cruz finally feel “seen” in the industry and be at peace with herself. Both career ventures are significant for Cruz because they helped her realize she not only had the beauty to make it in the ‘biz, but, more importantly, the talent. She was enough.
“You know how I got OITNB?” Cruz asks. “They hired me because of my talent, not my looks. I went in there with no makeup. Kat Von D hired me because of who I am as a person and because I’m an activist and I believe in women’s rights, not because I’m beautiful. I feel like this is the first time in my life where I feel comfortable in my own skin. It’s like they saw that in me before I did.”
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Today is the day! I get to finally share that I’m the face of @katvondbeauty’s new vegan mascara Go Big or Go Home available on 4/19 @Sephora @Debenhams #SephorainJCP There is power in the spoken word. I dreamed of this day and put it out there in the world, speaking it into existence. I’m so grateful for this new opportunity to show the world that, with dedication, hard work, and faith, anything is possible. #gbogh #kvdbmascara #veganmakeup
In fact, Cruz confesses that she feels more beautiful without makeup and prefers to go glam-free when she can. When she wants to do it up, Cruz tries her best to channel her inner Flaca and opt for a bold eye look using some false lashes. She did confess that the Go Big Or Go Home mascara is her new go-to these days. “To be honest with you, I don’t like wearing mascara very often. When I do events, I do the false lashes and then I just rip them off at the end,” Cruz says. “I hate the clumpiness of mascara. But not this one. You can rub your eye and there is no flakiness and it’s so soft; it’s like you’re not even wearing it.”
Despite her massive success on the small screen and in the beauty scene, Cruz still dedicates herself to empowering others and giving them a platform. She strives to instill the same confidence she has received in other Latinx women who are under-represented in the media. “It feels wonderful to be represented right now; to show my sister that anything is possible,” she says. “To show the little girl in the Dominican Republic who is so excited for me that she can be what I am today, you know, by seeing me, that feels really good.”